Unlocking New Cell Phones After Tomorrow Will Be Illegal

Unlocking any new phones without your carrier’s permission will be illegal after tomorrow. The ruling came from the Librarian of Congress on October 28, 2012: 

Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable a wireless telephone handset originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, if the operator of the wireless communications network to which the handset is locked has failed to unlock it within a reasonable period of time following a request by the owner of the wireless telephone handset, and when circumvention is initiated by the owner, an individual consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of the computer program in such wireless telephone handset, solely in order to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, and such access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.

Carriers like Verizon offers iPhones already unlocked and AT&T unlocks smart phones at the end of a contract. The decision would most likely hinder companies like T-Mobile whose promotions include “bring in your own device.” Obviously this new law has plenty of opponents, there’s already a White House petition with thousands of signatures.

The same decision also makes it illegal for you to jailbreak your iPad, but not your iPhone. Confused yet? These “exemptions” are all under the Library of Congress’s authority per the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) passed in 2008. Since then, the Library has been “granting” exemptions to users of copyrighted products from eBooks to DVDs. Until the ruling on October 20, 2012, unlocking cell phones was allowed.