Congress Says Unlocking Cell Phones is Okay

By Mitchell Lazarus, CommLawBlog, July 29, 2014

You ask: why is this even a question?

Thanks to action by Congress - something we don't get to say often, these days

- it will soon once again be lawful to "unlock" your cell phone so as to use it with a different carrier.

You ask: why is this even a question?

Because of an earlier act of Congress - the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), to be specific - whose Section 1201(a)(1)(a) provides that:

[n]o person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

The software in a phone is a "work protected under this title." The locking software is a "technological measure that effectively controls access" to the phone. So to "circumvent" the software by unlocking it violates the DMCA. Even a first offense, if done "willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain," can draw a fine of up to $500,000 plus up to five years in the federal penitentiary.


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Update: Some Cell Phone Unlocking Now Officially Legal

By FHH Law, CommLawBlog, August 2, 2014

We recently reported that Congress had passed a bill designed to overrule a

2013 decision by the Librarian of Congress which severely limited the ability of cell phone owners to "unlock" (legally, at least) the software in their phones in order to move from one network to another. That bill has now been signed into law by the President, a development which FCC Chairman Wheeler promptly applauded.


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Wheeler's applause:

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Neal McLain Posted 08/02/14

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Neal McLain
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