Unlocking Smartphones Rendered Illegal by Librarian's Baffling Decision
NEWS ANALYSIS: In yet another unintended consequence of some very flawed legislation, it’s now illegal to unlock any phone you purchase after Jan. 26.The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 has been the source of both controversy and consternation since it became law 15 years ago. Because of the DMCA, it became illegal to defeat the encryption on a DVD you purchased so you could watch a movie on your Linux computer. It became illegal to make a binary copy of a movie so you could watch it on your iPad. Now, because the Librarian of Congress has decided it to be this way, it’s now illegal to unlock phones purchased on or after Jan. 26. No doubt you’re asking yourself several questions. First, how is it that the DMCA has anything to do with phones? Second, why does the Librarian of Congress have anything to do with whether phone unlocking is illegal? We could go on from there. Basically the way it works is this. Every three years the Librarian of Congress, which was made the responsible party for determining exemptions to the DMCA issues a report in situations in which the law doesn’t apply.
For the last six years, the Librarian has allowed phone unlocking. That exemption was removed last year, and it takes effect on Jan. 26. But as you might expect, this is anything but straightforward. You can read it for yourself right here, but be aware that the part you’re interested in starts halfway down the page, past the aviation stuff.