DMCA Law To Make Unlocking Phones Illegal After January 26th


T-Mobile’s “bring your own phone” campaign is about to take a bit of a dive as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act will make it illegal to jailbreak and unlock phones. According to the act, it is illegal to  unlock both tablets and phones without permission from your wireless provider. Back in last October, the DMCA determined that a 90 day window would be available during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. Unfortunately, that window closes on Saturday, January 26th.

Aside from T-Mobile’s campaign to lure iPhone customers over from AT&T, unlocking devices has been a major asset for international travelers who wish to use their own devices on different networks. For T-Mobile’s sake, unlocked devices are a major draw for customers who wish to roam internationally from outside the US as well luring unhappy AT&T customers. The new rules won’t completely negate unlocked devices, as devices like the iPhone 5 or Nexus 4 are sold directly unlocked from Apple and Google.

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.”

One area T-Mobile doesn’t have to worry about is unlocking devices they sell you. The DMCA permits your carrier to unlock the device once you’ve requested an unlock code. Still, once the calendar creeps over into Saturday, unlocking your phone will be illegal. If you are concerned about breaking the law, you can definitely search around the Internet to find a code to unlock your current device.

With T-Mobile’s ads like the one above featuring a big open padlock with an iPhone, how will this affect them? Assuming this isn’t overturned or struck down, will this change your plans for your next device purchase?

TL;DR: For those of you concerned about jailbreaking and rooting, it’ll still be legal to jailbreak/root smartphones which really leaves this cut off date affecting customers looking to unlock devices and switch carriers.

We’ve pinged T-Mobile and will update with their comments when it arrives. 


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  • mmmmaxheadroom

    I’m from the government and I’m here to help. not so much!

  • Piotr Madej

    The phones are not the property of the carrier but the sole property of the owner. The carrier has not right to tell the user what they can or cannot do with their devices. The people who sit on DMCA are probably a much of old farts who have no clue how to use a smart phone, can only dial a number. It’s really sad that we can’t get some young blood anywhere to make things better.

  • Morning Wood

    Well…You guys had to have your “Democrats” in power. Well…There ya go. They want and will control everything you do. Its only gonna get worse.

    • PCJ

      firearms are next

  • D Velasquez

    oh boy, so what’s next? talking on your cellphone is illegal after 9 pm because it could be used for illegal activity?

  • brian90

    You can buy a NEW unlocked Ipohone 4s Directly from Apple’s website with the 12month option to pay for $550 ($45/month over 12 months). AND the 4S is BETTER than the iphone 5. I have an iphone 5 and my wife has the iphone 4s. MANY problems with my 5.

  • Wilma Flintstone

    I can’t begin to say how retarded this is.

  • yozo123

    You all have interesting points. Here’s another… The carriers who paid a lot of mula to get the iPhone created for their network and paying Apple big bucks for advertising rights are freaking out the TmobileUSA is saying come on in and use that compatible iPhone on our network. Tmobile basically has lower overhead by avoiding all the returns and defective iPhone headaches, support for end user use, etc.
    TmobileUSA has less ad dollars out the door because they don’t have to pay Apple a cent.

    Another reason for not allowing unlocking is that carriers paid a lot of money for developing all those uninstallable crap-apps that you have never used. Some unlocking techniques allow you to remove all that crap-apps for your own personal use of memory.

  • awatt

    I’m more interested in seeing how the DMCA plans on policing this.

    • PCJ

      probably go after websites and try to shut them down. file lawsuits against people who create programs for unlocking. Jazz like that.

  • Dennis Da Menace

    Hey all, we can start taking initiative and go sign this petition:

    Took me about a minute. To hell to those who tell me what I can or can’t do to my own property!

  • PCJ

    im about to break the law tomorrow

  • MANZ

    The DMCA was pushed into law by the Republicans under George W. Bush. Not the Democrats. Get your shit straight before you post.

    • Righty29

      No it was passed into law by democrat Bill Clinton.

  • Oscar Dominguez

    My concern is ATT blacklisting devices they have not authorized too be unlocked.

  • Corepreacher

    I just got a memo from coporate tmobile. Our methods to help customers to unlock phones is legal and we should continue with business as usual

  • Rey Flores

    What’s the Digital Millennium Copyright Act going to do ticket us? I will still unlock my phone that I Paid for.

  • michael


  • Bill Smith

    They can pass all the laws they want. People are going to do what they want to irregardless.

  • JackThomasAZ

    Fuck the government. It’s your property. Do with it as you wish. Only civil disobedience against these ridiculous laws will curb the fascist government in Washington.

  • Mobilewolf789

    Just to be clear, this does not apply to phones already out of contract? (I thought I read that somewhere).

  • iamnumbersix

    “Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against–then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there it that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted–and you create a nation of lawbreakers–and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

    Courtesy of Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. Explains a lot.

  • Scott Walsh

    There is no way to enforce this, this is just a big laugh and a joke!

  • Macro47

    Maybe I should just buy my computer from Time Warner Cable and let them decide to NEVER let me use my computer with a different ISP. Maybe I should buy a dell and only use the version of windows that they supplied and not upgrade. I’m so sick of this crap.

  • rgvtech

    Maybe I’m just not understanding. Unlocking a phone allows you to download free apps that originally one pays for?? I thought that was considered jailbreaking (different)?? Soo.. if I get an unlock code for my phone I can download free apps?! If that’s not the case then I don’t understand why unlocking and still having to pay for any apps u purchase normally would be illegal.

  • orbis

    screw the goverment

  • EddieT

    If this illegal issue bothers you, and you want to have the option to be able to unlock a device you believe you paid for and own, then sign this official Petition and pass it along:

    There’s still time! 11 days left to get 100,000 minimum signatures.. At present, there is 64,000 sigs.. Please pass this petition link around to help make a difference!

  • EddieT

    this is on topic: please google:
    “white house petition make unlocking cell phones legal”
    and sign it. we need 100,000 signatures, before Feb 23rd, but at present we’re only at 64k. and a majority of the major Tech Press is urging us to act now

  • crazygal

    Got a good response from the white house about legalizing
    cell phone unlocking. here is the source:

    The recent ruling that effectively bans third-party unlocking has ruffled more
    than a few feathers, and the people have spoken with their electronic
    signatures—14,322 of them , to be exact. Now the petition to the White House,
    which asks that DMCA protection of phone unlockers be reconsidered, has finally
    received an official response, and it appears that it’s for the positive.

    You can still get your phone unlocked from any third party vendors like ..there is no issues ..