Feeds

Don't like your cell network? Legal unlocking ends TONIGHT in US

Land of the free big corporate operator

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Unlocking a phone to use it with another carrier will be illegal in America from midnight tonight unless the cellphone is already in your hands.

Freeing a phone from a particular network used to be allowed, but under last October's reinterpretation of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that right disappears from all handsets bought from Saturday. Jail-breaking devices - to allow the installation of third-party apps - will remain legal, only not on tablets.

The Librarian of Congress has the ability to grant exceptions to the draconian DMCA, and back in 2010 decided that unlocking should be allowed, but those rulings are reviewed every three years and in 2012 there was a change of heart: Americans were given three months to get used to the idea - three months which runs out tonight.

At issue is the ownership of the device as the new rules restrict the rights of the apparent owner to use the technology as they feel fit. It also makes little sense as we could soon see US courts being asked to decide where exactly the line falls between a big phone and a small tablet - American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

So circumventing the carrier lock on a cellphone will constitute a breach of the DMCA, as will installing Cydia on an iPad (but not an iPhone). Android users rarely have to circumvent blocks to install software, but will also have to avoid unlocking handsets.

Operators lock phones to give them enough time to recover the subsidy they pay when the contract is signed; typically a phone is free or rather cheap and the monthly connection bill makes up for it. Operators remain eternally optimistic that customers will send each other expensive multimedia text messages or download games from the operator's portal, all of which goes into calculating the subsidy and will be missed if the customer switches networks.

The answer is to not buy subsidised handsets, and it’s the availability of such phones that convinced the Librarian of Congress to change the rules. So if you want a subsidised handset you can unlock then best buy one today, otherwise you'll have to pay full price, or not be an American. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS
AppleSIM 'ware to allow quick switch of carriers
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.