The practice of unlocking a smartphone without a carrier’s permission was recently criminalized in the US, forcing Americans to stand up for the right to use their property as they wish without the fear of prosecution.
Over the weekend the window of opportunity closed for US consumers to buy and legally unlock a phone. From now on unilaterally freeing a mobile phone from the restrictions that prevent it from working on other carriers’ networks will be considered copyright infringement.
This means no more freedom of choice to switch operators as one pleases or saving money on calls when traveling internationally.
The good news is that phones purchased before the January 26 deadline won’t be affected by the ruling, nor will those purchased factory unlocked or second-hand. The bad news is that if a carrier-locked phone was purchased after the deadline it will become a ticking time bomb if the user dares to modify the phone's firmware without carrier permission – even after the contract expires.
The exemption that allowed users to unlock their phones was taken from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by the Librarian of Congress back in October 2012 with a three-month grace period, giving Americans enough time to forget about the ruling.
As the deadline passed, future customers outraged by the ruling have launched a petition to the White House to make unlocking cellphones “permanently legal” or “ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision.”
The petition, posted to the “We the people” website, has already gathered more than 30,000 of the 100,000 signatures needed by February 23 to force the Obama administration to respond to the issue.