How to legalize phone unlocking

Even assuming Congress wants to leave the broader problems of the DMCA alone for now, we can do much better. In this blog post, I give a brief background on the DMCA and its relation to phone unlocking, take a close look at each of the congressional proposals and suggest what an effective unlocking fix would look like. Both the Obama administration and the FCC have come out in favor of allowing American citizens to unlock their cell phones, contrary to legislation imposed by the Librarian of Congress which went into effect earlier this year.

Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, takes a look at some of the proposals already on the table to make it happen and suggests a different course of action. Worth a read.

  • Here in France, the law force telcos to do a free unlock of a customer’s phone, on his demand, after the first 6 months of its contract. It’s very frequent to use the same phone on different networks (giving your phone to a friend when buying a new one, or changing your contract while keeping your phone). I think it’s great and it didn’t stop telcos to sell phones with subsidies.

    With iPhones, it seems it’s Apple who performs the unlock (you ask the telco to unlock the phone, you then receive an e-mail from Apple telling you to sync your iPhone, and the next sync of the phone will do something more, unlocking it… I realize that I only did it before iOS 5, when you had to sync the iPhone with a computer… I don’t know how they do it now).

  • ltintol

    This is too narrow a discussion. Kyle Wiens posted a great article about the rest of our stuff here:

  • lucascott

    Trouble with many of these laws is that they said ‘after the customer had completed contract’. But the carriers are already doing those unlocks. Well when possible. CDMA phones are often ‘locked’ because of the tech. Until companies are required to support all carriers types in all handsets that will always be an issue