Unapproved Unlocking of Smartphones Becomes Illegal

Bad news for people who don’t like having their smartphone tied down to one network: beginning last Saturday, it is now illegal to unlock a phone without permission from the wireless carrier. Back in October, the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office ruled that consumers had enough existing alternatives to purchase an unlocked phone. The decision allowed for a 90-day period in which people had one last chance to unlock their phone before the new rule came into effect.  That term expired on Saturday.

So what does this mean? Basically, if a customer wants a new unlocked phone, then they have to purchase it that way. Customers will still be able to purchase unlocked phones through such retailers as Amazon. However, it is now forbidden to purchase a locked phone from a carrier, which comes with a large discount, and then unlock it on your own.

The Library of Congress did say that “legacy” phones, which are phones previously purchased or acquired by a consumer, are okay to unlock. That means you’re free to unlock the phone you already have, just be wary about buying a locked phone when the time comes to upgrade.

It’s worth noting that the same October ruling that outlawed unlocking did uphold rules that allow for jailbreaking. Jailbreaking allows customers to run unapproved applications on their phone, with the cost that doing do voids any warranty on the phone. So while customers may not have total freedom to unlock their new phones, at least they’ll be able to run whatever apps they want.

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