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What You Can Do About the Phone Unlocking Fiasco

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the power-to-the-people dept.

Government 416

itwbennett writes "Now that the ridiculous phone unlocking law is a done deal, and we all understand exactly what that means (i.e., 'fines of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to five years'), you might be left wondering what can you do about it. Well, you could start by lending your John Hancock to this petition at the White House's 'We The People' platform. It's already over halfway to the number of signatures required to get a response from the executive branch."

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Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747441)

...seriously - even if it got 500,000 signatures, I doubt the White house will do a damned thing about it. The law would have to be reversed by Congress, and right now, even if Obama wanted to, he's going to save his political capital for those fights which advance his own goals

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747445)

What if Obama's iPhone 5S platinum plus edition is locked to AT&T, but he wants to use BOOST MOBILE? Then this would be a fight which advances his own goals.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747471)

The man rakes in way north of $400k a year from just his paycheck and subsequent pension... do you seriously think he's going to quibble over a $300 ETF?

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747473)

Racist, but funny.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

ireallyhateslashdot (2297290) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748017)

How is this racist?

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747499)

What if Obama's iPhone 5S platinum plus edition is locked to AT&T, but he wants to use BOOST MOBILE? Then this would be a fight which advances his own goals.

If the President of the United States of America wants his phone unlocked, I don't see AT&T telling him no.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748023)

If the President of the United States of America wants his phone unlocked, I don't see AT&T telling him no.

Why not? You don't have royalty or nobility in the USA, remember. Not like us in backward, Old World Britain.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (5, Funny)

deoxyribonucleose (993319) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748051)

I wasn't aware that sucking up to the rich and mighty was exclusively predicated on hereditary feudalism. That's a relief. Let's everybody go tell their bosses exactly how we feel about them!

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748131)

And then enjoy all that sudden new free time... you wanted to lose a little weight for 2013, boy have I got a plan for you!

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748073)

You don't have royalty or nobility in the USA, remember.

Well, in earlier times, royalty was measured by how blue the contents of your veins was. Today, it's measured by how green the contents of your wallet is. The net result is pretty much the same. Sure, in theory the law treats you equally, but you really think that you are equal, with equal chances?

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748185)

Indeed. In the New World all men are equal. Of course, some men are more equal than others.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747615)

I'm sure BOOST MOBILE would be happy to give him a "BOOST MOBILE" edition iPhone for free. ;)

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747697)

What if Obama's iPhone 5S platinum plus edition is locked to AT&T, but he wants to use BOOST MOBILE? Then this would be a fight which advances his own goals.

I'm sure the president would instead buy it outright from the Apple store, thus getting an unlocked phone to begin with.

It's probably a joke that Apple is one of the few stores selling unlocked phones. The Samsung store won't sell you phones, neither does Sony nor Microsoft... they just chase you to a carrier store so you can buy the locked one.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747747)

What if Obama's iPhone 5S platinum plus edition is locked to AT&T, but he wants to use BOOST MOBILE?

Then he's still SOL.
AT&T uses GSM, Boost (Sprint) uses CDMA.

captcha: enabler

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747491)

If reversing this law costs Obama anymore more than some token political capital, that says more about how fucked up this law is than anything else.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747725)

The law would have to be reversed by Congress, and right now, even if Obama wanted to, he's going to save his political capital for those fights which advance his own goals

And there is very little reason to think Obama will want to.
White House has not been taking these petitions seriously -- the "build a death star" petition got a much (much!) more thorough and well-written response than "legalize pot" or "ban TSA" petitions. This tells me quite a bit about the expected petition impact.

USA! USA! (5, Insightful)

coder111 (912060) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747965)

Is it just me, or is capitalism in USA becoming even scarier than socialism in USSR was? I mean, I understand ending up in a mental institution (or a gulag in earlier times) for criticising the party. That's harsh and ruthless and unfair and evil, but at least understandable. But life-ruining fines and jail time for downloading an mp3 or using a device you own to the fullest? That's just insane. Well, not insane. It's exactly the same thing. It's a punishment for resistance against the Powers that Be. In USSR this was the government and the party, so you were punished for speaking up against government. In USA government does not matter. In USA it's the corporations, so you'll get punished for doing anything at all that annoys them.

Compared to being ruled by these corporations, politburo looks like a good idea...

--Coder

Re:USA! USA! (3, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748003)

In Russia, power is money.
In USA, money is power.

Re:USA! USA! (2)

kdemetter (965669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748009)

Extremes are always a lot closer than it seems : in extreme socialism/communism everything is controlled by a single government entity ( the government owns everything, including all companies )
In extreme capitalism, everything is controlled by a single company ( the company owns everything, including the government ).

Unsurprisingly , the end results are the same.

Re:USA! USA! (4, Insightful)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748091)

Extremes are always a lot closer than it seems : in extreme socialism/communism everything is controlled by a single government entity ( the government owns everything, including all companies )
In extreme capitalism, everything is controlled by a single company ( the company owns everything, including the government ).

Unsurprisingly , the end results are the same.

Right, compare Stalinism and Nazism, one extreme left wing the other extreme right wing, the difference wasn't really all that great in the way they operated. One of my favorite descriptions of these two systems comes from some nameless Soviet citizen who observed that Russians were forced to choose between two homicidal dictators and they chose the one who spoke Russian.

Re:USA! USA! (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748217)

The systems aren't that much different when you strip the fluff.

Both systems are founded on a lie. The Communist lie was "Work hard today, and we'll all be living in paradise tomorrow." The Capitalist lie is more insidious, because it's more personal. "Work hard, and you can be rich too". What's insidious about it is that success is only dependent on YOU. If Communism fails, we all failed, and hence the system. If you don't work out in Capitalism, it only means you didn't work hard enough, it doesn't mean that the system is a lie. And as if to prove it is, there are some people who actually "made it", who managed to get rich. But once you look closer and find out just HOW they got rich, you notice that most of them either came from rich backgrounds or had backers who Joe Average has no chance of ever meeting. What's left of those self-made millionaires, who actually had an idea, risked everything and succeeded, is pretty close in number to lottery millionaires.

In other words, if you want to get rich, forget working and buy a lottery ticket. It's much easier, less risky and more likely.

The only "advantage" the Capitalist system has over the Communist one is that it's harder to see through. Plus we do not have a "West" that would show us that there's a better way.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747971)

Yeah, it's always better to never do anything when it comes to civic responsibilities. The minute or two it takes to click on the indicated link and add my name is pointless. In that time I can pick my nose and scratch my balls -- much more productive.

You probably were too busy watching movies or catching up on a backlog of comic books but a couple of weeks ago a guy named Aaron Schwartz committed suicide. It was and still is getting a lot of coverage in the media, more so by indie news sources but even some in the typically clueless beltway media. Anyway, he was a guy who dedicated his life to fighting for things like open access to information. He was one of the few who wouldn't quit talking about SOPA/PIPA until the rest of the brain-dead news media finally woke up and saw it was a serious issue. He also got the establishment pissed off enough at him that it targeted him as a threat to their power structure so they bullied him enough that he eventually took his own life. So yeah, let's all do nothing about this phone locking issue, that's just what Big Telecom wants us to do -- be complacent, bend over, and take it.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

irving47 (73147) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747975)

Check congress' record on things like the can-spam act, the regs. on manipulating volume during commercials, and most importantly, the do not call list creation... They sometimes act on "easy" consumer-rights type stuff... AT&T and Verizon surely have their hooks in deep, but they're the only ones who benefit from locked phones and their arguments are running out. Especially with the ETF fees in place.

His goal has been advanced (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748101)

even if Obama wanted to, he's going to save his political capital for those fights which advance his own goals

Obama got twice as much money [opensecrets.org] as Romney in the last election from Verizon. And that was just one cellular carrier.

You all think the law as it stands was not very much supported and driven by Democrats? Well enjoy laying in the bed you all voted for. I'm not going to sign the petition because I figure America should get what it asked for, full bore. Enjoy the next four years rubes! That should give you just enough time to truly understand the term Liberal Fascism [amazon.com] .

Re:His goal has been advanced (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748127)

"liberal fascism"? Is that what we got from Bush? Because from here, the new boss looks like the old boss, even after he won a second term, when they said he's come out of his shell because he won't be running again later.

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748117)

Hell with Congress, the Big O is standing smack dab next to JOE BIDEN, a man whose nose is so deeply buried in the crack of service corporations that he can accurately determine whether or not they're brushing the backs of their teeth!

Re:Hate to be a troll or anything, but... (5, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748215)

Also, we're acting defensively when we should be going on the offensive instead. Reinstating our rights to unlock our phones is not enough.

The locking of phones by carriers should be made illegal in the first place. Our airways are a public good. They're part of our public infrastructure. They're just like our public roads. As a society, we get to set the rules of the road, or update them as need be. The locking of phones may have been ok in the beginning, but this is a business practice that needs to stop right now.

I don't get it. (1)

Nikker (749551) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747485)

So we have this situation where let's say I get an iPhone 5, the iPhone 5 (16GB) runs at about $650, I sign up on a contract and pay approx $200 for a 3 year term. If I break the contract I have to pay around $400 to cancel my contract. So if I unlock my phone and goto another carrier how does that deprive the carrier of their 'investment' ?

Re:I don't get it. (2)

Kenja (541830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747503)

Because you didn't pay 650$, you paid 99$. If you get the 650$ version from Apple, it's not carrier locked.

Re:I don't get it. (2)

Nikker (749551) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747553)

So if I pay the difference back to cancel my contract what is the reasoning behind paying $500K and going to jail for 5 years?

Re:I don't get it. (2)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747841)

So if I pay the difference back to cancel my contract what is the reasoning behind paying $500K and going to jail for 5 years?

Same reasoning behind $250k per 99 cent song.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

tsa (15680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748059)

No. You can't copy a phone like you can copy a digital file.

Re:I don't get it. (4, Funny)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748133)

No. You can't copy a phone like you can copy a digital file.

Tell that to Samsung. Apple's lawyers disagree ;-)

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748143)

So if I pay the difference back to cancel my contract what is the reasoning behind paying $500K and going to jail for 5 years?

Same reasoning behind $250k per 99 cent song.

Those are idiot RIAA lawyers demanding outrageous damages in court, which they are free to do if they can find a sympathetic judge and jury. This is an actual law prescribing a fine and it is draconian. I fail to see how this law could survive a trip to the supreme court even now that the supreme court is full of conservatives.

Re:I don't get it. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747851)

Once you pay the difference and cancel your contract, the phone is yours and I'm certain that the carrier would not only be obliged to, but be happy to give you the unlock code.

The part *I* don't get, is why they needed a new law for this. If you unlock your phone and use it on a different carrier, and STOP paying your old carrier, you've basically stolen your phone by way of defaulting on the payments for it. I'm sure there were/are plenty of laws already covering the provider under those circumstances.

The part I REALLY don't get is Americans inability to understand that THEY DON'T OWN their contract phones - at least until the end of the contract. They don't seem confused about their leased cars, you don't see Americans simply stop paying their lease and assume the car's theirs. Why the fuck do they do it with phones?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747949)

Once you pay the difference and cancel your contract, the phone is yours and I'm certain that the carrier would not only be obliged to, but be happy to give you the unlock code.

The part *I* don't get, is why they needed a new law for this. If you unlock your phone and use it on a different carrier, and STOP paying your old carrier, you've basically stolen your phone by way of defaulting on the payments for it. I'm sure there were/are plenty of laws already covering the provider under those circumstances.

yeah, it's called an early termination fee which is supposed to reimburse the carrier for the full cost of the phone.

The part I REALLY don't get is Americans inability to understand that THEY DON'T OWN their contract phones - at least until the end of the contract. They don't seem confused about their leased cars, you don't see Americans simply stop paying their lease and assume the car's theirs. Why the fuck do they do it with phones?

The part you don't get is that the carrier is not obliged to unlock the phone at the end of the term - nor even if you paid the full unsubsidized price and kept the same phone for 5 years.

And even if you break your contract and pay the early termination fee, the carrier is still not obligated to unlock it for you.

Maybe you'd be less condescending if you'd learn a bit about the issue before spouting off about how stupid people are.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748001)

I think you might be wrong, but I'm neither American nor IN America so I obviously don't know. But I do know people (Americans) who have got unlock codes from their providers. So the question is whether they're legally obliged to or not.

If they're NOT legally obliged to unlock paid-up phones not only am I surprised, but my contempt for American CONSUMERS is not lessened by this news - in fact I'd say they're even more stupid than I thought, for allowing that situation to develop in the first place.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748007)

spouting off about how stupid people are.

Yeah. About that.. intelligent people make contracts knowing they won't ever get the phone unlocked.

- People are not stupid
- and they know beforehand the phones won't get unlocked
- so the new law won't bother them
- because they don't want to unlock their phones, ever.

So where is the problem?

I see two possibilities here: either people are stupid and therefore they make contracts they don't want to keep OR people are intelligent and they know what they sign up to and therefore the law is not a problem for them.

You can't have it both ways. Pick one.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748021)

Which makes getting your phone from the carrier a bad idea to begin with.
They use it as a ball&chain to bind you to them. And if you find a better deal/a carrier that's not crappy then you will have to pay for the phone anyway.

Since I often find that carriers don't have the specific phone I want and I won't switch carriers just to get a new mobe I usually buy them myself. And snce they are jolly expensive, I only get a new phone every 3 years or when mine breaks. Since my Moto Defy still is happily chugging along I will stick to it for another year or so. Warts'n all.
Just remember that there isn't such a thing as a free lunch. If somebody who is in the business of making money wants to give something to you, always ask what it's going to cost.
Which of course doesn't explain new legislation. Unlocking a phone when you aren't supposed to surely is a breach of contract? We have legislation for that for ages. Including what kind of damages the other party can ask for. Unless of course the intention is to criminalize the act so thoroughly that they can stick you with a lot of thing. Breach of contract, fraud, wire tapping, unauthorized use of services, molesting an apple...that would amount to about 5 counts of 10 years prison(subsequently served) and a bajillion in damages. For a breach of contract. Unless you make a plea bargain for 5 years in prison and destitution for the rest of your life.

Sounds reasonable.
How is this law even legal?

Re:I don't get it. (2)

greenbird (859670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748081)

The part you don't get is that the carrier is not obliged to unlock the phone at the end of the term

No one is asking the carrier to to do a damn thing. The phone is mine. I paid the full price for it (actually more than the full price if I completed the multi-year obligation). Why should I be a criminal because I modify something I friggin paid for and own. It's completely asinine. The congress idiots that passed such a law should be in jail.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748113)

Once you pay the difference and cancel your contract, the phone is yours and I'm certain that the carrier would not only be obliged to, but be happy to give you the unlock code.

The part *I* don't get, is why they needed a new law for this.

Because it's industry lobbyists who write laws, not congress critters. They are just the gatekeepers of the ratification mechanism.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747563)

the point he is making is the Early Termination Fee.

You buy a subsidized phone, you get hit with a $400 fee (sometimes prorated) to cancel your contract.

You buy a full price phone, there is no ETF.

Either way the carrier is getting their money.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747591)

Because you didn't pay 650$, you paid 99$. If you get the 650$ version from Apple, it's not carrier locked.

You don't seem to understand the early termination fee.

AT&T has the iPhone 5 for $199, and if you cancel the contract early, an early termination fee of $350.

If you bought the phone, then broke the contract immediately by paying the ETF, you'd pay $550 for the phone.

Their "unlocked" price for the phone is $650, so you'd get a $100 discount.

But if AT&T is really losing money when selling the phone for "only" $550, then it seems like the answer to that problem is either to charge a higher purchase price, or raise the ETF. I don't see why they need the government to enforce their business model by putting people in jail for unlocking the phones.

If congress feels it needs to take action on cell phones, then how about doing something about prorating ETF fees. AT&T deducts $10 for each month of service from the ETF. So why does it cost $350 - $230 = $120 to break the contract after 23 months but after 24 months there's no fee -- the fee should be prorated at ($ETF / term_length)

Re:I don't get it. (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747623)

It's not the job of government to protect broken business models. In this case AT&T should either charge more for the phone or their ETF, or (and I suspect that this is the real answer), the "unlocked" price for the phone is artificially inflated.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

jxander (2605655) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747787)

But it is the gvmnts job to ensure that monopolies and collusion do not hamper honest business practices.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747675)

The problem is that the carriers are being allowed to commit fraud. If they really did sell you the phone for $99, then they have already lost their money, and they just hope to make more of it back in service. If the ETF is less than what they lost when they sold you the phone, that is too bad. They sold you the phone at $99. Of course, we all know that they did not sell the phone for $99. They gave you a loan for the purchase of the phone with a $99 down payment, and a two year contract to pay it off. The carrier misrepresented they deal, and wants the government to play an active role in their fraud.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747981)

I don't think that is misrepresented. I think most people have a clear understanding that the phone is cheaper under a contract because the carrier is making the money back on service.

They don't just sell you the phone for $99. They sell you the phone for $99 under the conditions of the contract which include you either paying for the service every month or paying an early termination fee.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

mug funky (910186) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747723)

because why compete when you can legislate your shitty business model into the criminal system?

seriously, if any company was losing money even on "phone trafficking" scams, they need to learn how to math.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747843)

AT&T has the iPhone 5 for $199, and if you cancel the contract early, an early termination fee of $350.

If you bought the phone, then broke the contract immediately by paying the ETF, you'd pay $550 for the phone.

Their "unlocked" price for the phone is $650, so you'd get a $100 discount.

It's even spookier when you assume that the phone's "rent to own" price is baked into the service plan, meaning that if you bought the unlocked phone for $650 and then bought the plan to go with it, you end up paying for the phone twice. What a mess.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747639)

Ok, here's one for you.

Say I walk into a phone store. In this case, let's say T-mobile.

I say I want a shiny new galaxy series smartphone, to replace my aging android froyo device. They eagerly wish to sign me onto a subsidized plan.

I tell them that I am already happy with my monthly refilled no contract plan, and that I have the 1K in my pocket right now to just buy the phone. They whinge a little by telling me they won't replace it if lost, stolen, or damaged, but transact the purchase.

I leave the store. I fucking ***OWN*** the phone.

Let's say that a few years later, the previously prevented ATT+T-mobile merger bullshit happens again, but this time, let's say it is sprint, or similar evil, and not ATT. Rather than be sprint's little bitch, I decide that I want to unlock my handset, and jump ship to ATT.

Sprint says NO, we own you now.

How do you suggest I proceed?

Re:I don't get it. (4, Insightful)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747743)

How do you suggest I proceed?

How do you want to proceed? You bought a phone that is locked to Sprint ... It is still locked to Sprint

Personally, I would be buying an unlocked phone and if Samsung does not make them available, then Samsung would lose my business to Apple.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747889)

Correct. You OWN the phone. So WHY THE FUCK would it be locked?

If you were stupid enough to pay retail AND accept a locked phone, more fool you. The whole point of BUYING your phone is to get an UNLOCKED one.

So, I'd suggest you proceed into the corner, facing the wall and wearing the pointy hat with the "D" on it for paying retail price for a locked phone. That, and I'm pretty sure the provider would be LEGALLY OBLIGED to GIVE you the unlock code for a phone you bought outright.

How would you technically move anyway? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748151)

To me the whole aspect of unlocking in the U.S. is nearly moot because most phones cannot move between AT&T and Verizon, because the technologies used are so different. Verizon and Sprint both use CDMA which was never designed with the SIM approach in mind.

About all you can do is go from one of the others to T-Mobile. Now I don't hate T-Mobile, but it's a hard and fast truth you are not going to get the same coverage nor network speed there as you would one one of the major carriers.

Re:I don't get it. (2)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747849)

It doesn't deprive the carrier of their investment, which is why these days your carrier would unlock it for you anyhow. Unlocking is no longer a DMCA exception because carriers now regularly unlock phones that are paid off.

What about.. (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747501)

... taking the cell phone to Canada and unlocking it there?

Notwithstanding that this could violate a cell phone provider's terms of service agreement, and one could still be accountable to their cell provider for violating that.

However, in Canada, the unlocking of cell phones is *expressly* legal.

And, if people who are, for instance, residents of California, are allowed to travel to Nevada and gamble and then return without consequence, I see no reason why a person from the USA could not also go into Canada and unlock their phone there without legal repercussions.

I smell a potentially profitable business opportunity for people who live in border towns.

Re:What about.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747547)

There may be something against it considering it is another country. Seems like BUYING unlocked phones is still legal, so I think we'll see plenty of money leaving the US and heading to Canada. Ironic considering our economy is crap, still.

Re:What about.. (1)

Miseph (979059) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747567)

I do not disagree with the premise that unlocking a phone should be legal: indeed, I feel that creating criminal penalties for doing so is a travesty, and might border on treasonous for the legislators involved.

But...

I was not aware that Canada had joined the Union and become a state. That would be a legally relevant point of interest.

Re:What about.. (2)

Zemran (3101) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747671)

Logically, a person who works and travels in both countries would need his phone unlocked if he wants to use a Canadian provider while in Canada or in fact any area not covered by his provider. I can quite understand providers wanting to lock phones but to break such an agreement is not and should not be criminal. Intent should be a part of the equation in that if I have a good reason to need my phone unlocked (examples already given) and I want my contract to continue and intend to continue to use the original supplier, then no harm is being done and in a civil case and they would be stupid to take me to court but as they have made this criminal, no harm is required. This is where America has lost sight of justice and is now just protecting the money men at the expense of the people.

Re:What about.. (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747997)

Well, there actually *could* be potential harm if you consider loss of revenue to be harm. Why would anybody want to use a Canadian provider while in Canada? Presumably the same reason that I unlocked my phone to use a US provider when I travel to the US (from Canada). I don't want to pay the exorbitant roaming fees. The cell companies make good money off of people travelling and using their phones while roaming. Also, even though somebody might pay for a base plan the provider can still at times earn extra money if the subscriber goes over their minutes or data allotment or text allotment etc.

Re:What about.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747761)

However, in Canada, the unlocking of cell phones is *expressly* legal.

Unlocking the cell phone is totally legal here, too. I believe DMCA makes it illegal to make or distribute tools or to provide this as a service. As long as YOU can unlock your phone, you're good

Also, not all things that are legal in a different country are automatically ok to do. Sex tourism is illegal in US and can get you in trouble even if you go to a country where it is expressly legal.

Write a letter (4, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747509)

While the "We the People" petition is a nice symbolic measure, it's not likely to result in any real action even if it reaches the signature limit.

It'd be far better if everyone wrote letters to their congressional representatives. There are lots of guides on the internet for doing so, here's one:

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/letterscongress.htm [about.com]

Re:Write a letter (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748157)

That, and the fact that anyone can sign this petition, including everyone on the planet, not just Americans. This is ridiculous.

Wow... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747535)

... another reason to be so very glad that I am not American. It seems that unlocking a phone is more serious that assault.

Re:Wow... (1)

Smauler (915644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747827)

I know I'm replying to an anonymous coward with anti-American tendencies... but he has a point. Laws like this do not exist anywhere else in the developed world, afaik. There's quite a lot of consumer protection about what you can do with your stuff in the EU, for example, and this kind of thing would be laughed out of any legislature.

Re:Wow... (1)

opus_magnum (1688810) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747847)

You still risk being sued by the relevant copyright owner for running an unlicensed version of the OS.

Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747557)

"We have what we consider to be good competition so we are taking away one of the things that fosters that competition because these guys can't figure out how to run their businesses without our help."

In no other industry is this acceptable. (3, Insightful)

SampleFish (2769857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747565)

Let's first recognize that the "cell phone" is in fact a radio. Now imagine if the radio in your car was locked to one station and you had to buy a new radio in order to listen to a different radio station. Imagine if you had to buy a new TV when switching cable providers. It's absurd. I've always thought that people should be able to buy hardware of their choosing and use it wherever it is compatible. These smartphones are little computers. I should be able to buy any hardware platform and load any OS on it. Then I should be able to go to any cellular ISP and install their radio/modem/SIM. (Note there are only 2 types of radio and 4 companies to chose from). It would be more expensive but there is no reason to make preposterous legislation around it.

Re:In no other industry is this acceptable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747593)

Your analogy is off a bit - the TV isn't locked to your cable/sat provider, the box is. Last time I checked, cable providers won't let you bring a box from a competitor.

Re:In no other industry is this acceptable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747691)

Cable providers are in fact required by law to let you bring your own box if you so desire. Of course, should you try to actually do so, you'll find out quickly why so many people feel that laws are only meant for the "little folk."

Re:In no other industry is this acceptable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747775)

Now imagine if the radio in your car was locked to one station and you had to buy a new radio in order to listen to a different radio station.

See: OnStar
See: Playstation 3
See: Dish Network
See: "Smart TV"
See: iPad

All are massively popular. Consumers are perfectly willing to accept hardware which is married to the provider's network and software. This is unlikely to change in the near future, laws or no laws. I expect it to become worse.

fwagorz (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747579)

FrreBSD corE team

While it's still legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747597)

A phone can be unlocked very easily with a firearm.

These seem like crap excuses (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747607)

CTIA [Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association] explained that the practice of locking cell phones is an essential part of the wireless industry's predominant business model, which involves subsidizing the cost of wireless handsets in exchange for a commitment from the customer that the phone will be used on that carrier's service so that the subsidy can eventually be recouped by the carrier. CTIA alleged that the industry has been plagued by âoelarge scale phone trafficking operationsâ that buy large quantities of pre-paid phones, unlock them, and resell them in foreign markets where carriers do not subsidize handsets.

1. The industry business model is selling subsidized phones in exchange for a multi-year contract.
Most carriers have early termination fees that are prorated the longer you stick to your contract,
which directly reflects the cost of the subsidized phone they sold you.
The carrier could care less what happens to that phone, as long as I hold to my contract or pay the ETF.

2. If there is a big problem with pre-paid phones, then craft the unlocking exemption to exclude prepaid phones.

The CTIA must have gotten their guidance from the copyright industry, where singular counts of infringement are treated the same as large scale criminal enterprises.

Re:These seem like crap excuses (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748183)

CTIA [Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association] explained that the practice of locking cell phones is an essential part of the wireless industry's predominant business model, which involves subsidizing the cost of wireless handsets in exchange for a commitment from the customer that the phone will be used on that carrier's service so that the subsidy can eventually be recouped by the carrier. CTIA alleged that the industry has been plagued by âoelarge scale phone trafficking operationsâ that buy large quantities of pre-paid phones, unlock them, and resell them in foreign markets where carriers do not subsidize handsets.

Emphasis mine. Their predominant business model doesn't seem to be working as more and more countries pass ahead of America as far as cellular telcos are concerned - with both better service and lower fares. And strangely, all those countries ahead have unlocking explicitly legal.

Maybe just forbidding everyone to lock phones would be a good idea? Just a hint of course...

Get over the petitions already (3)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747617)

The petitions are worthless. Opium for the masses. No petition has ever had any useful effect.

No petition will ever have a useful effect, unless you count the placebo effect as useful: "I did something for my cause, now I can go back to sleep".

Re:Get over the petitions already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747871)

Petitions have worked - many politicians do take action if they think enough of the voters care.

Your post is even more worthless than most petitions.

Re:Get over the petitions already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747979)

apathy, the cornerstone of democracy

Carry on good citizen

Re:Get over the petitions already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748015)

Change nothing, nothing changes.

Later on i can start my own revolution with justification, of, 'I asked nicely before', you can't.

Do something they don't want! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747625)

Crawl on your bellies and beg for favours from your master, or be a Man, stand tall, and be your own moral authority.

To an Alpha, the Law is seen in the same light as a mugger. Both are potential threats, but neither are to be respected. The moral Alpha has taken the responsibility to create a fully justified moral code by which to live by. The 'laws' produced by highly compromised systems overseen by profoundly corrupt ruling groups of immoral/amoral Alphas carry no significance save the extent to which they represent a likely threat.

For ordinary people (those of you proud to lick the boots of authority figures), let me pose a question. Is it fair that the wishes of a tiny minority override the interests of the vast majority (you), just because your so-called 'democratic' system favours the desires of lobbyists over the desires of the voters?

Do the owners of the phone companies care about the 'Law' when they are snorting coke, using the services of prostitutes, and cheating on their taxes? Ah, but then, the 'Law' isn't for the likes of your 'superiors'.

Perhaps you are one of these morons that believes what you are taught at school- ie., ordinary people are so scummy that without the 'Law', chaos would reign. Well, tell me, do you think chaos will reign if you are allowed to unlock your cellphone?

Please, for god's sake, fight back. Withdraw your respect from all aspects of your 'government'. REFUSE to vote unless a system of no-threshold proportional representation is introduced, so that all opinions stand some chance of being represented. See everyone associated with the government as your SERVANT, never your master. Demand that people with more power and privilege in society are punished MORE harshly for their crimes.

Be disgusted at the TSA, and what it represents. Be disgusted at all police actions designed to be 'a show of force'. Be disgusted at the ever increasing numbers of aggressive wars being waged by war-criminal Obama, and his backers in the Democrat and Republican parties.

Know how wonderful this world could be, and know just how far from wonderful (and receding daily) the world actually is.

The 'phone unlocking' issue may seem like a small thing, but it is another straw quite purposely placed on your back by team Obama.

Re:Do something they don't want! (1)

Smauler (915644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747875)

To an Alpha, the Law is seen in the same light as a mugger. Both are potential threats, but neither are to be respected.

Organization has been around for ages - No matter how big one man gets, unless he joins a system, 10 men will be bigger than him.

That's kind of the point of the law - we have the entire country backing up the little man.... or at least that is how it is supposed to work

It doesn't work right in lots of cases - but it's better than everyone for himself.

The People have already spoken (1)

qeveren (318805) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747707)

The ones that actually matter, anyway. Still, good luck with your petition guys.

Fiasco? (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747733)

My plan was to just ignore the law and unlock my phone anyway and -- oh wait, I buy my phones used on eBay to start with and don't even get involved in the whole carrier-subsidy treadmill.

Don't buy subsidized phones (5, Insightful)

somenickname (1270442) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747751)

It's pretty simple what you can do about it: Don't buy subsidized phones. Not only do you end up paying more for a subsidized phone, you lose your rights to do whatever you want with it.

I really don't understand why people are so up in arms about this. I'm a card carrying member of the EFF and ACLU and, apart from the fact that this is a criminal offense instead of a civil issue, I'm not really that concerned because the "loophole" is so simple: Buy your fucking phone instead of renting it.

Re:Don't buy subsidized phones (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747791)

Except this ignores the second-hand phone market. Someone could buy a subsidized iPhone 5 today and use it for two years, then sell it. If the original owner doesn't remember to request an unlock prior to the sale, the buyer is now stuck.

I bought a second hand 3GS and decided to pay for a SIM unlock rather than having to wait for ultrasn0w to update every time iOS increments. It's too bad future purchasers of used phones won't have that option open to them. And for what it's worth, AT&T doesn't seem willing to unlock an old phone for a non-customer, so I went through a third-party unlocker.

Re:Don't buy subsidized phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748031)

Stuck? Not really If he can technically make it work without much hustle - win/win situation.

You don't usually pay more (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748125)

Not only do you end up paying more for a subsidized phone, you lose your rights to do whatever you want with it.

That is not true from many angles.

For one thing a data plan for an iPhone on the major carriers is the same, subsidized or no. So you'd pay more for an unlocked phone, and then pay as much as the guy who bought a phone with a plan for service over two years. Yes you could bail earlier but most people keep the same carrier a few years.

You could pay less going to a company like T-Mobile but there is very real service degradation. To me even though in the long run that could save money the loss of wider coverage and aggravation makes it a bad tradeoff.

  Secondly, ALL of the major carriers now will unlock the iPhone for you on request - but for international use only. So it's not quite right to say you can't do pretty much anything you want with it - you can, just not in the country you bought the phone in (which to most people is what really matters).

Re:Don't buy subsidized phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748231)

Mod parent up.

I agree that this law is bullshit. Want to know how I reacted? I just bought a Nexus 4 from Google, now that they are shipping again. 100% mine.

I'm never going to buy a phone from AT&T again. Why? Because Fuck AT&T. Fuck AT&T. If they were in the business of providing a good service, I would continue giving them as much of my business as I can. But they are not in the business of providing good cellular/mobile service. They are in the business of improving the value of their shares, in order to deliver value to their shareholders, to the detriment of their customers.

It wouldn't be that bad if I had any real choice between wireless carriers. But being an American living in America, I don't.

I can't wait for the day when WiFi (or whatever its equivalent will be) is so pervasive in every metropolitan area thanks to things like Google fiber, that dinosaurs like AT&T and Verizon just die. Now if only something could be done about the travesty of a political system that enables such companies to lobby the government for asinine laws such as the one being discussed...

What can you do? Simple. (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747809)

Since old phones are grandfathered, don't buy a new phone as long as you can't use it the way you want to use it.
My phone is good enough and shows no sign of wear.

Re:What can you do? Simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747909)

The phone I use every day is 10 motherfucking years old, and I still love it. The best part is that when it finally breaks, it'll cost $30 or less to replace.

(capcha: vintage)

I know what I'll be doing. (0)

davmoo (63521) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747823)

I'll be ignoring the law, unlocking any damned phone I buy (I buy them on eBay or Craig's List, not on contract), and any division of government or commercial cellular entity that doesn't like it can lick the sweat off my balls.

Re:I know what I'll be doing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747939)

If you buy phones off ebay and craigslist that somebody got for $99 on contract, then defaulted on the contract and sold it, you're basically buying stolen goods. So good luck with that.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a stupid and unnecessary law too, but if you're going to be pissed, be pissed for the right reasons. The problem isn't the new law, the problem is so many people not understanding the difference between lease-purchasing something on contract, and buying it.

Do Americans even bother READING their contracts, because I'd be prepared to bet there's absolutely nothing ambiguous about who "owns" the phone you pay "$99 + $nn x 36 months" for, up to month 37.

Is this really a "done deal"? (3, Interesting)

loshwomp (468955) | about a year and a half ago | (#42747839)

Is there some explicit "no unlocking whatsoever" clause in the DMCA? As far as I'm aware, the only thing that's happened is that the explicit exemption for unlocking has expired. While I'm not volunteering to be the test case, it seems like there's a good case to be made that the generic DMCA language doesn't forbid unlocking.

In most cases, I'm not altering the software on the phone by unlocking it. I'm merely entering a code, and the phone already has software onboard specifically for the purpose of unlocking that phone when I enter said code.

No more unlocking our phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747901)

Hell, let'em completely stiffle innovation, see what that does for their bottom line.

Maybe you should have thought of this earlier? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42747915)

Like, you know, when the law was proposed, or accepted, years ago? Complaining after-the-fact is easy and if a government acts on such complaints, it would become an enormous mess. I don't particularly care eitherway -I live in the Europe, most countries here require telco's to provide unlock procedures within one year of the purchase of a phone-, but if you actually care, you should take action before the law is signed. Fixing laws after signing makes the government unreliable. Problematic laws should be addressed, but this should not become the rule, as it sometimes seems to have become.

Watch out when installing Linux (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748077)

Imagine the fun if they did something similar with operating systems. You bought your laptop with Windows on it. $500,000 and a 5 year prison sentence for switching it to Linux next. After all, Microsoft expects the revenue from their new app store and you are depriving them off that by changing to an open platform!

It's no more ridiculous than this idea.

Re:Watch out when installing Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748191)

What a pathetic analogy.

For a start, if you bought the laptop with Windows on it, Microsoft have already been paid. I don't think there's a law anywhere on the planet now, or being discussed anywhere, that would make it illegal to install Linux on it. And if you intended to run Linux in the first place you'd probably have got the same laptop for less, with freedos (or nothing) on it - so "thank you" from Microsoft, for the free money.

If you want a laptop analogy, it would need to be along the lines of "You 'bought' your laptop for $99 + 24 x $10 monthly payments". Are you then free to simply not bother with the monthly payments, and sell the laptop?

Here in Brazil, it is illegal to sell locked phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748177)

Here in Brazil, it is illegal to sell locked phones.

What you can do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42748199)

How about not buying any locked phones?

Taking the petition a bit further (1)

nbahi15 (163501) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748203)

Technological limitations on unlocking your phone aren't the only questionable business practices of cellular providers. I think we need both legalized unlocking, better billing practices, and limitations on the contracts. That is why I put together http://wh.gov/y6kK [wh.gov] . Please take a moment to sign it. Body text follows:

Customers of cellular phone plans in the US are treated poorly. We would like to see regulations that require things like:

1) A bill that reflects the advertised price, and separate line items that show the cost of the phone plan and the phone.

2) A bill that shows the cost of the phone purchased and how much of the phone has been paid off

3) Upon completion of a contract the customer has the right to have any technological restrictions removed that prevent its use on other carriers networks.

4) The right to buy out the phone and terminate the contract at any time.

5) A limit to the terms of contracts allowed.

6) The right to buy a 3rd party phone and join a carriers network with no contractual obligations.

Completely misunderstood (3, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42748221)

Fact 1: There is the DMCA law, and it won't go away.
Fact 2: Unlocking your phone yourself requires a violation of the DMCA law.
Fact 3: It is entirely reasonable to want an unlocked phone. And it is entirely reasonable that anyone should be able to get an unlocked phone without breaking any criminal laws.

Three years ago, it was recognized that most people could only fulfil their wish to have an unlocked phone by unlocking it themselves, so an exemption was made that the DMCA violation of unlocking the phone yourself was not considered a crime. Now it is assumed that people can indeed get unlocked phones, so there is no need to unlock yourself, so there is no need for an exemption.

Now here is the conclusion: Since you are not allowed to unlock a phone yourself, surely your service provider _must_ unlock it when you ask for it and cannot refuse. So instead of asking for permission to violate the DMCA law, people should ask their service provider to unlock the phone and take them to court if they refuse.
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