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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