TribLIVE

| Business


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Unlocking cellphones no longer allowed

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

Daily Photo Galleries

By Bloomberg News
Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Starting today, consumers won't be allowed to unlock new mobile phones purchased from wireless providers under a change in rules backed by carriers led by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc.

The Library of Congress' Copyright Office, as part of a periodic review, said altering software to let one carrier's phones work on other networks won't be among activities that are expressly permitted under copyright law. The rule change was announced in October.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, with members including the country's four largest mobile carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA Inc. — had argued that “locking cell phones is an essential part of the wireless industry's dominant business model” involving handset subsidies and contracts, Librarian of Congress James Billington said in the notice.

Consumers still can choose to buy unlocked phones that will work with multiple carriers, giving them an alternative, Billington said.

Partly because of that possibility, unlocking newly purchased phones doesn't merit an exemption under copyright law, he said. Consumers who bought phones before the change can unlock their handsets, according to the rule change.

The new restriction represents a misuse of copyright law, said Sherwin Siy, a vice president with the Washington-based policy group Public Knowledge.

“It wasn't made to make it harder for people to switch phone companies,” Siy said.

The change removes legal protection that has allowed consumers to unlock their phones and doesn't explicitly make the act illegal, Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based advocacy group, said in an interview.

“You will not have this shield in the event you're sued,” Stoltz said. “It may go to court some time, and then it will be up to a judge.”

CTIA said in a filing with Library of Congress that subsidies “depend on ensuring that the handset will be used, as contemplated, with the carrier's service.”

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. More hearings ordered for Sunoco pipeline across Pennsylvania
  2. Consol Energy cutting retiree health benefits, phasing out pension
  3. Highmark to increase premiums, limit access to health care in new plans
  4. Oil, gas industry boom leads to expansion of laws in Pennsylvania
  5. Number of chronic safety violators in mining industry drops
  6. Alcoa opens Indiana plant to make light-weight alloys for aircraft
  7. Bond experts fear inevitable sell-off
  8. Hospitals, doctors in Pa. received $32M in 5 months from drug, medical device companies
  9. Roundup: Pittsburgh Corning plan confirmed; II-VI reorganizes segments; more
  10. New models, China sales key to GM’s future, Barra tells investors
  11. Coca-Cola shaves incentives for executives
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.