Unlock Smartphones, Unlocking Mobile Phones, DMCA Rules and Laws

If you live in the United States, bringing your own device to a new wireless carrier or using a global carrier just got a little more difficult; the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will make it illegal to unlock your devices without your carrier’s permission.

Back in October, the DMCA determined that a 90-day window would be available during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it, a window which closes in just a couple of days.

Unlocking devices has been a major asset for international travelers who wish to use their own devices on different networks. While the new rules won’t affect devices sold factory unlocked such as the iPhone 5 or Nexus 4 that are sold directly from Apple and Google, respectively, it would mean locked devices that are sold directly through carriers cannot be unlocked without obtaining carrier approval, at which point the carrier will provide you with a subsidy unlock code.

Groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) continue to question whether the DMCA has the right to decide who can unlock a phone. EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz sent a letter to TechNewsDaily explaining “Arguably, locking a phone users into one carrier is not at all what the DMCA was meant to do. It’s up to the courts to decide.”

It’s unclear how the DMCA is going to be able to enforce this new law.

Users should note that unlocking is different from “jailbreaking,” which opens the phone up for running additional software and will remain legal for smartphones.

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By Josh Robert Nay

Josh Robert Nay is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TruTower. He has worked in the telecommunications industry since 2003 and specializes in GSM based technology. He also uses (too many) VoIP apps and is a long-time user of BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone. He adores anything having to do with space exploration and writing. In addition to the links below, he can be found on LinkedIn and can also be found on his website at http://www.joshrobertnay.com.