Unlocking cellphones no longer allowed
By Bloomberg News
Published: 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
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wind energy’s viability trumpeted in volatile market
- Brand loyalty a 2-way street
- Job hunts harder as support dwindles
- Are you inviting an audit?
- Google X lab pushes bounds of possibility
- Experts: No, your iPhone won’t turn your baby into Einstein
- Questions dog e-cigarettes’ popularity
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- Tech Q&A: How to hide your Siri searches
- Finding a room in Pittsburgh to get easier as hotels boom
- Survey of large employers suggest Highmark could suffer without UPMC contract