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White House Petition To Make Unlocking Phones Legal Passes 100,000 Signatures 317

Posted by timothy
from the one-view-of-freedom-of-choice dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A White House petition to make unlocking cell phones legal again has passed the 100,000 signature mark. Passing the milestone means the U.S. government has to issue an official response. On January 26th, unlocking a cell phone that is under contract became illegal in the U.S. Just before that went into effect, a petition was started at to have the Librarian of Congress revisit that decision. '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.'"
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White House Petition To Make Unlocking Phones Legal Passes 100,000 Signatures

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  • My vote counts! (Score:4, Informative)

    by buybuydandavis (644487) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:56AM (#42967661)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:09PM (#42967849)

    In Europe don't you buy the phone at retail prices? Why would it be locked at all?

    A minority does so. Standard practice is to buy the phones under a multi-year contract, heavily discounted. Still, in most countries, the buyer can unlock the phone when he wants for a fee that (at least in some of those countries) decays as the phone ages.

  • Clarification (Score:5, Informative)

    by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:10PM (#42967859) Homepage

    On January 26th, unlocking a cell phone that is under contract became illegal in the U.S

    I don't have a big problem with that, but this is the really important part:

    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.

  • by compro01 (777531) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:16PM (#42967985)

    Replace "for the next two years" with "for the next infinity years".

    The anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA makes it illegal to ever unlock the phone without the carrier's permission, regardless of whether the contract is up or not.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:18PM (#42968009) Journal

    No, they're selling equipment. After 30 days, it's yours according to the contract - at least it is for the one I signed. I pay for the equipment, and the State agrees that it is a sale at the offered price - charging me sales tax. I have a service agreement which states if I choose not to keep the equipment I have to give it back for a full refund within the first 30 days, after 30 days, I am required to keep the phone.

    Nonetheless, you've just made the point that locking/unlocking is unnecessary. I quote, "And early termination fees protect their investment." Which is exactly the point - the contract with my provider states that I will keep in force a minimum level of service for 2 years in return for the reduced purchase price. If I break the contract , I owe them $350 (prorated per the schedule).

    Locking is an unnecessary and burdensome business practice which should be illegal, and is instead enforced as a result of a law which was - by it's nature - not intended to apply to physical transactions.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:21PM (#42968067)

    See, we "bitch and moan" because we bought a phone, and then the government told us we are not allowed to do what we want with the phone.

    No, you bought a subsidized phone under a contract. You're free to unlock it as soon as you fulfill that contract, or you're free to buy the unsubsidized/unlocked version in the first place and never enter the fucking contract in the first place.

    What you're asking for is to have your cake and eat it too. If you want freedom, BUY THE UNLOCKED PHONE!

  • Re:Option 3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:23PM (#42968095)

    can't you already do TTY over amateur radio?

    You can get Internet access of amateur radio if you want, there are plenty of people doing digital stuff. Here's the problem: you cannot do any commercial. That means that you cannot even browse Google, since it would transmit advertisements over an amateur band. A secondary issue is that everyone has to be licensed to transmit on amateur bands, and so most people would never be able to use it. Also problematic is the callsign requirement, which would make it much harder to use things like Tor. There are also regulations that make cryptography useless on amateur bands.

    The problems with citizen-run communications are mostly regulatory. There are technical issues, but they pale in comparison to the regulations standing in our way.

  • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:52PM (#42968557) Homepage Journal

    You're both wrong. Everybody on here knows it should be:

    In USA, they are teh suck!

  • Re:Option 3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @02:14PM (#42969797)

    That means that you cannot even browse Google, since it would transmit advertisements over an amateur band

    Wouldn't that fall under the "pizza rule"?

    (Background - it used to be fairly strictly enforced that you couldn't order a pizza over an amateur radio-telephone link (patch or autopatch), since that was a commercial transaction. This got clarified in the 1990's (iirc), where you can't operate an amateur station in furtherance of your own business (can't use it to dispatch taxis, for instance), but you can use it to conduct your own occasional personal business (like ordering a pizza for delivery or arranging to trade, sell, or buy personally owned amateur radio gear (but not a radio dealership advertising sales)).

  • by InvisiBill (706958) <> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @03:26PM (#42970799) Homepage

    What this petition is doing is asking the White House to get Congress to repeal a law they passed to make the act illegal.

    Except, this isn't a law Congress passed - it's a mandate from the Librarian of Congress, who is not an elected legislator.

    Hey, maybe that's what we need to make illegal: unelected bureaucrats creating laws by proxy.

    Except, this is a law passed by Congress (the DMCA).

    Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of on-line services for copyright infringement by their users.

    Per 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1), the LoC is in charge of reviewing related items on a regular schedule and deciding if "fair use" exemptions need to be made. One of these exemptions was made in '06 to cover phone unlocking, and was not renewed this time.

    This type of unlocking has been illegal since '98, with an exemption being granted from '06 - '12. It's not that it's suddenly illegal, it's now just no longer not-illegal (again).

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