Petition To Make Cell Phone Unlocking Legal Reaches 100,000 Signatures, Will Draw White House Response



A White House petition to make cell phone unlocking legal has reached the 100,000 signature mark, the amount required to draw an official response from the government. With the help of Anonymous, Reddit and word of mouth, it took right around a month to gain the necessary 100,000 signatures. The petition, a response late January move by the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to make cell phone unlocking illegal, asks for the decision to be rescinded or to champion a new bill that makes cell phone unlocking legal.

Under the law that began at end of January, the US Copyright Office says only owners of the software, which of course really only provides for the manufacturers of operating systems to unlock cell phones. For us as consumers, we believe that it should be our right to buy a phone and do whatever we want with it, including the opportunity to unlock it and switch carriers.

For its part, T-Mobile tried to play down the decision especially in light of efforts to heavily promote their “bring your own phone” campaign:

Increasingly consumers are looking for choice and flexibility in the way they purchase wireless. They want the freedom to bring their own device without having to compromise on value, which is why we will continue to make it easy for consumers to bring unlocked, GSM-compatible devices to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile recommends customers contact the device manufacturer or AT&T directly to request the unlock code for their device. Customers would then purchase a SIM card, select a T-Mobile SIM card only Value plan that suits their needs and T-Mobile will help the customer configure their device for its network. T-Mobile offers step-by-step instructions at retail and on the T-Mobile customer support forums online.

As for the petition itself, here’s the full description:

The Librarian of Congress decided in October 2012 that unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the DMCA. As of January 26, consumers will no longer be able unlock their phones for use on a different network without carrier permission, even after their contract has expired.

Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full. The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.

We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.

For now, we’ll just wait and see how the Obama administration reacts to efforts to remove this ridiculous decision.

TheNextWeb via

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  • GinaDee

    I’ll sign this petition.

  • Darkbotic

    Interesting… I asked TmoNews in a tweet to support this petition when it had over 30k signatures left 4 days ago when we thought we were not going to make it but they didn’t support it. Now they come in and write an article about it… That’s what I call: hypocrisy.

    Thanks to the support of Engadget, Slashdot and others we made it just in time…
    But not thanks to TmoNews.

    • eanfoso

      I Sadly agree, I love my tmonews but I saw a lot of support on

      • I’m sorry I’ve been a little preoccupied and done my best to keep up with things. If I missed it, it wasn’t intentional…having a baby and all kind of distracts a guy.

        • 21stNow

          I would consider you having a baby distracting, too!


        • Thank you! It’s not like I’m not owning up to not posting about it and admitting full on that was a mistake. At first glance I wasn’t going to post about it, but I didn’t recognize what it was, where it was going and probably just took a quick glance and moved on. That’s my mistake. I’m owning up to it, apologizing for it and asking you all to stay on top of me to make sure I don’t pass things like this by in the future.

        • Nice

          Give the guy a break. You can tell he’s been preoccupied some of the news has been late. I’m sure most of us do look at other mobile sites and was able to find out about it. You can always put a link in your comment if you felt that passionate.

          I did sign it although I know others complained because you had to register.

        • Dion Mac

          Agreed. I’ve noticed news has been a lil slow on here as well. Unfortunately… well maybe not unfortunately, but this is the only mobile news site I visit. I would have signed the petition had I known about it because I think it is a ridiculous law. Despite what some people are posting, I know David cares because he infact did write a couple articles about the law before Jan 26th.

          About that not paying the bills part… those ugly Verizon pop ups better be putting money in his pocket cause those things erk the crap out of me. THAT IS ALL.

        • thepanttherlady

          This petition was linked throughout the comments on that other article. That’s where I saw it and then signed it.

        • Dion Mac

          Oh ok. Sometimes I get overwhelmed reading other fokes comments because they can be sooo… anyway, I probably stopped reading after about 30. BUT… I’m glad you helped with the cause Lady P. Have a good day.

          P.S. I did NOT break a shoelace this morning. ;p

        • thepanttherlady

          I so know what you mean!

          No broken shoelace? Today was a good day. :)

        • Well, news has been slow also due in part to T-Mobile being historically slow during these months. For all five years I’ve been doing this site, January and February are the two slowest traffic months on record. There’s a bump with CES and Mobile World Congress, but with no huge releases during those times, it’s just slow period.

        • brubawil87

          Honestly David, I have had a kid before, I dont blame you one bit for not being right on top of it. Especially if he/she is your first. Its a whole new experience and game changer in the whole relativity to life. But I will say that I am glad you support unlocking hope this stupid law gets either overturned or championed by another that makes more sense. I just hope it doesnt end up like the whole geohot PS3 issue where even though you paid for the device you may not modify the software to operate in anyother way then it was intended. But that has a whole piracy/copyrighted material world behind it.

        • D4

          The simple fact that you actually take time to reply to individual comments even ones as idiotic as these have been. Is MORE than enough proof that you make an effort to give us as much news as your time allows you. If this website isn’t paying the biils, than any effort what so ever put into this site is more than enough. The petition hit 100K ultimately, that is all that matters at this point. Now its time for the white house and or congress to get their heads outta there…you get the picture.

        • Josue

          we buy phones with our money we should do w/e we want with them…congrats on becoming a dad

    • Wilma Flintstone

      Unfortunately I believe this. But the reasoning I got was that the article I wanted them to write wasn’t about Tmobile so he didn’t write an article on it. This was when I wanted a MeeGo device and such article was about MeeGo but Now I’m on to Ubuntu for Mobiles as it has everything I was looking for in MeeGo and more.

      Anyway, point being, I believe what you stated and about the non support. Unfortunately.

      • Perhaps at the time we spoke about it, I didn’t full understand the intent of the petition. I’ve been preoccupied and I’m doing my best to keep up with news. You’ll notice things have been a little staggered lately so believe me, it’s something I do support, wanted to support and will continue to support. Hindsight is 20/20.

        • Zak

          Also your wording in this article is horrible. The DMCA is not an entity its a bill. The exemptions are done by the Librarian of Congress. Just piling on :-)

        • thepanttherlady


        • Zak

          Yes, it’s not an entity. Its a bill and it did not make any moves this past January, Nor did the Librarian of Congress actually. The rule making was done in October I believe. The 90 day window expired in January.

    • Paul

      Get over it, not everyone wants to sign a petition even if they tell others about it.
      Just because CNN/Fox News/MSNBC mention the petition doesn’t mean they all signed it. Great for those that signed it, I can’t even remember if I signed this one or the one about internet regulations, but don’t bash someone because they didn’t sign. it’s their choice and their right to choose.

      • Darkbotic

        Want a cookie?

  • thepanttherlady

    I signed it in January.

    • Zacamandapio

      Me too!!!

      • GwapoAKo

        Me three :0)

    • Dion Mac

      I’m exactly shocked that it didn’t reach 100k in a hour. I suspect its only because people didn’t know b/c I sure didn’t. Hope the white house can do something although as slow as congress is it will be 2085 before its changed if its changed.

      • MacRat

        Most Americans have no idea what an unlocked phone is or why they would need it.

  • Wilma Flintstone

    Good. It should be. It’s YOUR device after you buy it so you should be able to do what you want with it.

    • MacRat

      Technically, if you are getting it from a phone company, you are only leasing it.

      • Wilma Flintstone

        So if you pay full price for it and don’t get a plan, you are leasing the phone? No my good fellow, you are leasing the plan. Not the phone.

      • Cam

        Can you prove this? I don’t think that this is true. Can you show me in a cell phone agreement where it says I don’t own the phone?

  • Ihatestupidlaws

    Laws like these are what result in the so called “Almighty” USA, so very unproductive and results in it falling behind many other countries… It’s my device, I should own the right to do as I please with it!

    • Paul

      BIG MONEY, no whammies no whammies…
      It’s being driven by crApple, who doesn’t want their iFones to be jailbroken. I’ve unlocked an S2 for my dad to use on AT&T. Magenta didn’t care, and Samsung doesn’t care either.

      • MacRat

        Apparently you don’t understand the difference between UNLOCKING and JAILBREAKING.

        Apple doesn’t care if you have an unlocked iPhone.

        You can buy an iPhone unlocked directly from Apple if you want.

        • Paul

          But you can’t take your iPhone from AT&T into T-mobile and unlock it, if this law were to become real. Which, T-Mobile started doing recently.

      • Apple doesn’t care if your iPhone is unlocked. They even sell them unlocked in their stores. This is all a result of carriers like AT&T afraid of people taking their unlocked devices to other networks.

  • 21stNow

    What “carriers” are offering more unlocked phones at present? I know that you can get unlocked phones from third parties, and that carriers may unlock the phone if you request it, but I haven’t seen a carrier sell an unlocked phone.

    Unless they are referring to Verizon Wireless’ LTE phones. The Librarian of Congress shouldn’t paint the picture with a broad brush based on one carrier’s compliance with a ruling related to a spectrum purchase.

    • Nexus 4 on t-mobile is the first unlocked phone

      • 21stNow

        Thanks. I forgot about that. I guess I should technically count the Nexus S for AT&T and T-Mobile, as well, since contract pricing was still offered even though the carriers didn’t sell it directly.

  • Zacamandapio

    I was one of them. I feel so important!!!

  • Marvin Arnold

    With all the BS petitions going around lately, it won’t mean very much. It’ll get ignored!

    • Paul

      BS petitions or not, this may not get ignored. Of course, we just may not hear anything about it.

  • daswahnsinn

    Only if they ca make money off of it

  • MatthewMurawski

    Value plan? If you’re bringing a phone to T-Mobile off contract, monthly4g would be the best bet for many. It’s like it’s a secret.

  • squiddy20

    The 5 people this affects are jumping for joy. From what I understand, even with this bill in effect, if you’re in good standing with your carrier, they’ll more than likely still unlock your cell phone upon request. This just makes it illegal for the *user* to unlock their phone. While I agree it’s bad, there’s a lot more worse things out there.

    • z00mflight

      This is not entirely correct, its not that easy. For AT$T, you have to be in good standing AND your device has to be out of contract.

      I know because I tried on my 4S.