As of January 26th, unlocking your cellphone or tablet will become a crime in the U.S. In October of last year, the Librarian of Congress, charged with interpreting the anti-hacking law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ruled that unlocking cell phones will be illegal. The revised rules state that it is illegal to unlock a smartphone or tablet without the permission of the provider, but put a 90-day window in place so that users could adapt to this new law. That window will expire on January 26th.
The process of unlocking a phone allows users to free their phones from the shackles of cellular carriers. When a phone is unlocked, it allows users to use their devices on different cellular networks as long as the device is capable of working on the desired carrier. For example, a Nexus 4 purchased from T-Mobile is already unlocked, so this device would be eligible to be used on AT&T
Some carriers do sell handsets already unlocked, such as Verizon’s iPhone 5 and LG’s Nexus 4 on T-Mobile. Unlocked phones that are sold through carriers will not be affected by this law, so if you want to legally possess an unlocked phone in the U.S. you’ll have to start buying one of these. Some carriers, such as AT&T, ensure that their handsets may be unlocked once they are out of contract.
What do you think of this interpretation of the DMCA? Will it stop you from unlocking your devices or can Uncle Sam shove it? Let us know your thoughts.