Help Me Obama Wan, You’re My Only Hope… For Legally Unlocking My Phone

Yes, it is now illegal for users to unlock mobile phones to use on another network and most of us are not too happy about it. The good thing is the change in legal status, a direct result of the Library Of Congress ruling we told you about in October, will probably not affect too many of us. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) still protects our right to unlock the bootloader but it stripped away our ability to lawfully unlock a cell phone purchased from a carrier even after we’ve fulfilled our contractual obligation.

For example, a phone purchased from AT&T cannot legally be unlocked by the user (or third party) to be used on T-Mobile. The carrier, on the other hand, faces no new restrictions and in many cases will unlock devices of customers in good standing. Phones on Verizon & Sprint are unaffected since they are CDMA networks with handsets that aren’t really locked the same way GSM phones are locked. Purchase an unlocked phone, like the Nexus 4, and this becomes a non-issue.

The reason to be upset about the DMCA is because it extends the power of carriers to an unprecedented level. I signed the petition not because I plan to buy a subsidized phone then take it to a competitor’s network. I signed it because I do not believe the right of the seller should supersede the right of the owner.

The petition is little more than a fifth of the way to the 100,000 signatures required for a White House response. Reaching the signature goal will not automatically fix the DMCA but a White House response may send a message to our representatives inside the beltway: a message that consumer protection is not a thing of the past, a message that giving corporations more control is not in the best interest of their constituents. Obama may not be our only hope, but he is our first step. Hit the petition link below and if you’re feeling especially democratic, find the rest of your representatives here.

Source: White House Petition

About the Author: Rudy Rivapalacio

Rudy is a Southern California guy who has used his tech savvy skills in a law enforcement and corporate security career. He often jokes about having a "Windows 3.1" tattoo and has the Bill Gates-like rule regarding no Apple products in the home. His two daughters (one at Cal, one in High School) have so far found a way to abide by that rule. When not glued to Android news or on Xbox live, Rudy is probably off traveling abroad. His West Hollywood apartment is littered with a few too many bikes, cameras and Android relics, but he's found a way to hide most, or some, of his toys from his wife. Rudy is a big Chargers fan, and consequently, buys beer in bulk.

  • Jack Reacher

    So much for “We the People”….we need a new US Constitution that starts “We the Multi-National Corporations”…. So now I fully purchase a new cellular device (commencing within one year from this agreement on 13 December 2013), and one year later, when it’s time to get this year’s supported model (I bought two Samsung Galaxy Nexus phones directly from Google, and 14-15 months later they no longer support the devices with operating system security upgrades) the carrier volunteers to unlock the sim card and bootloader, so I can remove and delete privacy invasive software….No thank you. I’m really tired of the carriers and device OEMs invading my privacy more than NSA, all for their financial gain. This “change” really doesn’t say much for what the Administration and our Congress think of the rights of “We the People”. I don’t have much to hide, but I do still prefer to wear clothes and to protect myself from identity theft, since both are my responsibility under current laws of this nation.