Starting from today, it'll be illegal to unlock
smartphones without carrier permission, although consumers
people can buy devices that come already unlocked.
A change to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that
makes it illegal for consumers to unlock their mobile
devices without the permission of their carrier goes into
Last October, the Librarian of Congress issued a temporary
exemption to legislation that outlaws the unlocking of
cell phones. The exemption allows for phones owned or
purchased before January 26, 2013 to be legally unlocked
by the user. After the deadline, users will have to
request permission from their carriers to unlock handsets,
or be in violation of a federal law.
Carriers lock smartphones as a way to prevent their
customers from getting a cellular plan with a different
company. Users unlock phones when they want to switch
carriers, sometimes after the phone's original contract
has run out, or so they can use it when going abroad.
The Librarian of Congress determined that consumers have a
number of alternatives to unlocking devices, including
buying devices that come already unlocked.