Unlocking Smartphones to Become Illegal Jan. 26
The unauthorized unlocking of smartphones will go from tricky to illegal Jan. 26 as a Library of Congress ruling goes into effect.Smartphone owners wanting to unlock their devices will need to do it quickly. As of Jan. 26, the practice will become illegal. On Oct. 26, 2012, the Library of Congress ruled on a prohibition to circumvent copyright protection systems—systems that enable a phone to run on only the network of the carrier that sold it—as outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The 1998 DMC Act states, "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title," but goes on to say that during "each succeeding three-year period, the Librarian of Congress will consult with the appropriate groups and "report or comment on his or her views." The consequent, 69-page Library of Congress document states:
The Register concluded after a review of the statutory factors that an exemption to the prohibition on circumvention of mobile phone computer programs to permit users to unlock “legacy” phones is both warranted and unlikely to harm the market for such programs. At the same time, in light of carriers’ current unlocking policies and the ready availability of new unlocked phones in the marketplace, the record did not support an exemption for newly purchased phones. Looking to precedents in copyright law, the Register recommended that the class designated by the Librarian include a 90-day transitional period to allow unlocking by those who may acquire phones shortly after the new exemption goes into effect.