Now illegal to unlock new phones without permission

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(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

Starting today, it’s illegal to unlock your new subsidized mobile phone without your carrier’s permission.

The new rules, which don’t affect consumers who acquired phones before Saturday, come from the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Previously, you could unlock your subsidized device under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You could then sell the phone or use another carrier’s SIM card to start new service in another wireless network. The change is an update to the DMCA.

Carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint didn’t particularly like the fact that their subscribers could essentially jump ship after getting deeply discounted devices in exchange for monthly service commitments. According to Wired.com, however, carriers rarely went after individuals who unlocked their phones. Instead, they targeted businesses “that bought throw-away phones by the thousands, unlocked them, and shipped them overseas.”

“The carriers’ position has always been, it’s never been about individual consumers,” James Baldinger, an attorney for several providers told Wired.com. “They are concerned about traffickers that steal subsidies and in the end increase the cost of wireless for consumers across the United States.”

Many carriers now provide unlocked phones, and the U.S. Copyright Office says consumers have a wide range of options in obtaining such devices.

While carriers haven’t gone after individuals, they still could become targets of civil suits or criminal fines.  Under the new mandate, individuals could face fines of up to $2,500, and cellphone resellers could be fined as much as $500,000 and face prison, Brad Shear, a Washington D.C. expert in social media and technology law, told ABC News.

67 comments Add your comment

Madea gets reassignment surgery

January 26th, 2013
12:08 pm

Tom

January 26th, 2013
12:08 pm

Joey M

January 26th, 2013
12:15 pm

We don’t have a balanced budget but we have new cellphone laws?

Innocent Bystander

January 26th, 2013
12:20 pm

“The carriers’ position has always been, it’s never been about individual consumers”

That pretty much says it all right there.

mary andrew

January 26th, 2013
12:21 pm

This is stupid!!!!!!!!!!!

Bood from DC

January 26th, 2013
12:24 pm

It’s just a rule – not a law. People ignore rules all the time.

tim

January 26th, 2013
12:25 pm

HA Ha

You can almost kill someone and you won’t go to court.

A civil fine means nothing.

Unlock all the phones you want!

Try and collect

Another joke from our congress.

AU Liberal in ATL

January 26th, 2013
12:35 pm

It’s not a joke, it’s a shame. It’s a shame that members of congress can be bought and sold like so much cattle.

AD

January 26th, 2013
12:36 pm

This is an example of politicians not looking out for the American people. We should find the politicians that supported this crap, list their names and phone numbers, and vote them out of office.

John

January 26th, 2013
12:39 pm

“…increase the cost of wireless for consumers across the United States”. Ok, so our cell phone bills will become cheaper, right?…, right?? BS!

Sam the Sham

January 26th, 2013
12:39 pm

Great news that will reduce cell phone theft (where thugs steal your phone, unlock it, and sell it to other thugs). It’s about time.

Jeffisgoofingoff

January 26th, 2013
12:43 pm

We’re the phone company. We don’t care. We don’t have to…

SK

January 26th, 2013
12:46 pm

Just buy a Google Nexus 4. Only $300 unlocked,new

Then you can do whatever you want.

who cares

January 26th, 2013
12:56 pm

att sprint verizon suck anyway !!!!!!!!

Latin Guy

January 26th, 2013
1:01 pm

This is Bullllllllllllllllllll…………..There are other important issues to take care off in congress and this comes out …………….. Heck why not work on getting our budget worked on…

In the Tank

January 26th, 2013
1:02 pm

Comon, guys, this about trade balance……..companies rooking our companies out of money and essentially working a system (see China). I can almost guarantee we wont see any one individual getting charged, unless he/she owns a business then ships the phones overseas for resale.

jschmoe

January 26th, 2013
1:08 pm

BS. If you buy something you own it and you are free to do with it what you want. If you pay for the phone and pay for the other carrier services how can they possibly say you can’t use your possession with your service. If carriers don’t want people to jump ship after getting a discounted phone, then don’t give consumers discounted phones and see how that works.

lol

January 26th, 2013
1:11 pm

Good luck enforcing that.

kaiser

January 26th, 2013
1:12 pm

I just hope factory unlocked devices will still be sold. They aren’t tethered to a carrier since they were never manufactured to be apart of the carrier in the first place. It shouldn’t just be carrier only permission.

Hopefully T-Mobile still offers their unlock service.

Dekalb comments

January 26th, 2013
1:14 pm

Sam the Sham @ 12:39

This law will have zero, repeat zero, effect on cell phone theft. Do you really think that someone who is bold enough to steal your cell phone knows about this new law or for that matter cares? This law is just Congress paying homage to their corporate masters.

MANGLER

January 26th, 2013
1:15 pm

jschmoe,
The argument is about people signing up for 2 year plans for a reduced price phone and then unlocking the phone and selling it. It’s not about people who bought already unlocked phones that were not discounted. The reduced price phones are not actually property of the person who buys them, until they finish the time frame agreed on. Then they can do what they want with the phone. by the way

French dude

January 26th, 2013
1:18 pm

I already given up on those big carriers by buying my phone unlocked directly from China (where they all come from anyway). It’s easy, fast, cheaper and you are not locked into a contract.

vaporland

January 26th, 2013
1:18 pm

ok, fine. I’ll go with no phone unlocking, if the telcos will cut my monthly bill by the carrier subsidy amount once the phone is paid for..

If 30% of my AT&T monthly bill goes towards “paying for” my subsidized phone, then after two years, I deserve a 30% cut in my phone bill, because it’s paid for, right?

john schockley

January 26th, 2013
1:18 pm

The odd thing is that a single person is the judge and jury when it comes to the DMCA. no panel, no vote, nothing. secretary of the library of congress, its bizarre…..as for these companies hating that their customers are jumping ship, locking their phones is a Sh*t move….isnt this where the companies are supposed to do their talking by offering the superior product/service??

some internet dude

January 26th, 2013
1:26 pm

This is only for subsidized phones. if you buy your phone full price you are free to do with it as you please. And yes carriers like Tmobile will unlock your phone for free after the buyers remorse period is over about 390 days.

some internet dude

January 26th, 2013
1:26 pm

ooops thats 30 days

Goonie Goo Goo

January 26th, 2013
1:31 pm

Agreed – this is BS. I have never bought a subsidized phone that didn’t have a contract and an early termination fee. If the carriers are not enforcing or can’t recover the early termination fee from these “businesses” that buy in bulk, then increasing the civil penalty does not deter these “businesses”. However, increasing the penalty may deter individuals. Also, if the intent of this law/rule/policy does not affect individuals, the policy should have included explicit language saying so.

Hmmmmmm

January 26th, 2013
1:51 pm

LOL… What BS!

Rachelle

January 26th, 2013
1:51 pm

I think a little more explanation in the story might help the rest of us who don’t quite get this…….

Mick Dee

January 26th, 2013
2:10 pm

When you unlock that phone, you’re taking money from a corporation. Remember what Romney said: “Corporations are people, my friend. They are people.”

Joey M

January 26th, 2013
2:37 pm

Just go with Virgin Mobile and tell AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile where they can put their phones.

woodrow

January 26th, 2013
2:43 pm

So people are waaa because they can’t cheat phone companies. Get a job losers.

oldfart

January 26th, 2013
3:43 pm

It’s real simple. Rule of law is threatened to enforce a marketing ploy. Simple solution. Make the phone companies list a separate line item on the bill and when the phone is fully purchased it is the customer’s to dispose of as they wish. It also keeps the actual price of the phone above board and keeps those of us who buy our phone from supplementing the rest.

Nona

January 26th, 2013
4:21 pm

I’m no defender of Congress, but this article CLEARLY STATES: “The new rules … come from the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.” See above, first sentence, second paragraph. Not a word about Congress enacting this rule because, um, it didn’t. Reading comprehension, anyone?

joedlell

January 26th, 2013
4:57 pm

Freedom is not only a USA asset, there are other countries that enjoy it without having to defend it every day with an ak47 assault rifle.
Wouldn’t you want to raise your kids without school shootings
what about 30 days payed vacation a year.
free Universal health care for all

would you dare to live in peace?

come to europe

we can help

write us to info@emigrarjuntos.com or visit our web http://www.emigrarjuntos.com

Ed Powell

January 26th, 2013
4:59 pm

I don’t get it… when people unlocked, didn’t they still have to pay the original carrier an early termination fee? So where’s the savings by switching to another carrier?

The Carnivore

January 26th, 2013
5:13 pm

I don’t see any new “law” in this article. Also, what exactly is a “subsidized” phone? Who is subsidizing it?

old man

January 26th, 2013
5:47 pm

I admit I am not a lawyer specializing in cell phone law, but I am a lawyer, and it seems pretty bizarre that the Secretary of the Library of Congress would be given sole authority to issue a regulation without any public notice, comment period, etc. Even the FCC, SEC, DOL, etc., publish proposed regs and have comment periods, draft regs, revised regs, etc., before a final reg becomes law.

Phone manufacturers jack up prices for unlocked phones, with no realistic idea that many people will buy them at that price. Their deal with carriers is that they will sell to the public at one price, but sell to the carriers at a fraction of that, forcing everyone to subscribe for two years to get a realistic price.

At some point, the DOJ would certainly review this bizarre market framework. Eventually they broke up the Bell system a few decades ago.

drbasic1

January 26th, 2013
6:02 pm

ya this should be the number one problem to solve at the top of our kangaroo Government….just forget about the budget, Iran, Korea, etc…….idiots

Kevin

January 26th, 2013
6:12 pm

How dare they enforce rules?

They gave me a subsidized phone–in a legal transaction that I willingly entered into. But that doesn’t matter! It should be mine to do with what I want! I’m entitled to that!

roughrider

January 26th, 2013
6:15 pm

This pretty much shows who our Congress represents.

heck no

January 26th, 2013
6:48 pm

oh no missa obama aint gonna lets me take advantage of the system?
wha da heck

Hackjobs

January 26th, 2013
6:59 pm

I love how everyone bitches about congress…This didn’t go through Congress. This came from the US Copyright Office. It’s an administrative rule, not something that congress voted for.

I swear, I think people just like to complain.

DLink

January 26th, 2013
8:24 pm

Some few things make me ANGRY. It’s best not to be one of them.

I don’t much care WHO came through the firewall or WHY, or HOW – it’s wrong.

When a person “OWNS” your communication device they do NOT have to ask to trespass on that traffic. You are now fair game for the government. Totally, a trick to make Obama look bad, and YOU’D FREAKING !!!KILL THE CONCEPT OF HAVING A COUNTRY FREE DO THIS.!!!

“I” do not buy into this. KILL assaut weapons now. There is no need other than malicious killers to have such weapons. An internet threat is just that. An internet threat running cover for guns. Keep it out of the news!

The day I need an automatic with 20 rounds is the day Mexico or Canada declares war on the U.S.Which I would not blame them for with the state of our Congress at the time being. Their f’ing up their duties to the people. Make nice, or you will be slapped down by the people. I truly feel Saxby when I say that. A better man than most.You’re a good man Saxby Chambliss.

People will never know, but, I will. I look closer than most, and I know a good man going down. I hope you find a worthy replacement. I’d vote for that person.

Bobby Z

January 26th, 2013
8:56 pm

Boof-
Law or no law, how do you interpret this? Is it OK, go ahead, everybody’s doing it, It’ not a law, etc. etc.

“Starting today, it’s illegal to unlock your new subsidized mobile phone without your carrier’s permission.”

Andrew79

January 26th, 2013
9:23 pm

Where’s my comment – don’t like my opinion…servers too slow?

Andrew79

January 26th, 2013
9:27 pm

So they are blocking my comment – why? I didn’t cuss or call names…so much for free speech and open press…I don’t even know who prints this rag.

My whole point was this journalist is intentionally dishonest and, if you want to modify your phone, BUY YOUR OWN – they are doing this because people are gaming the system, jailbreaking phones, claiming to lose them, and then selling them.

Why not just give criminals money for being criminals instead of making them works so darn hard…maybe they would leave normal people alone.

Andrew79

January 26th, 2013
9:28 pm

Still waiting for you to post my original comment please.

Andrew79

January 26th, 2013
9:29 pm

Okay – I’ll play.

French dude

January 26th, 2013
9:30 pm

Why do Europeans cell phone companies only charge minutes to the caller and not the receiver. As in the US both get charged. What a ripoff, we are getting milked all the way by greedy American companies.