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Unlocking your phone will be legal

News by Luke Jones on Monday July 28, 2014.

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Smartphones unlock
Smartphones unlock

There have been some pretty monumental shifts in the law regarding unlocked phones in recent years in the US, but none as seismic as this. We have been increasingly heading to the unlocking of devices being legal, whereas now it is a grey area, and today the Cellphone Unlocking Bill has passed through the House and President Barack Obama is going to sign it off.

The result of the bill being passed will mean that consumers are free to unlock their smartphones and change carriers at will (outside of contracts). Initially it was legal to do such a thing under a Library of Congress Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption from 2006 to 2012. Early in 2013 the law changed to make phone unlocking illegal, prompting a wave of protest. Earlier changes at the end of last year meant that the big four US carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) agreed to make it easier for subscribers to unlock their handsets. However, this was only valid once the contract for the device had ended and could only be done with the carrier's aid and consent.

Under the proposed new law the carrier contract would still have to be finished, but the carrier consent and aid would not be necessary. That would eliminate the often frustrating experiences the carriers would put in place to stop people unlocking their devices. It would also mean that unlocking away from the carrier would not put the consumer in danger of legal repercussions such as jail or a fine.

"This is something that Americans have been asking for and I am pleased that we were able to work together to ensure the swift passage of legislation restoring the exemption that allowed consumers to unlock their cell phones," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said.

"The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget," Obama said. "I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law."

When the laws again come up for review in 2015, new copyright laws may extend to tablets and other devices.

source: Reuters

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About the author

Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.

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