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Cell Phone Unlocking Is Legal -- For Now

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the can-successfully-kicked-down-road dept.

Cellphones 135

On Friday President Obama signed into a law a bill allowing mobile devices to be legally unlocked, so that consumers can switch between carriers. The legislation was kicked off by a successful petition on Whitehouse.gov after the Librarian of Congress decided that cell phones no longer needed an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-hacking provision. The legislation (PDF) passed both houses of Congress and is now law. Unfortunately, the new bill doesn't guarantee permanent legality. It simply reinstates the exemption, and leaves the DMCA alone. For the next year, cell phone unlocking will certainly be legal, but after that, the Librarian of Congress once again has the ability to void the exemption once every three years.

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LOL, "American Freedom"! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588679)

LOL, "American Freedom"!

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (4, Informative)

PNutts (199112) | about 3 months ago | (#47588711)

This isn't about freedom, it's an example of "For the People".

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47588745)

If it really were "For the People" they wouldn't need a law to be able to switch carrier in the first place.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (5, Insightful)

Thantik (1207112) | about 3 months ago | (#47588761)

That's because in America, corporations are people too!

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (5, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47588785)

And that's the biggest fucking mistake any democratic government ever made.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588933)

So you don't like certain people now?

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589061)

> And that's the biggest fucking mistake any democratic government ever made.

You don't get out much, do you? Even in the US, Iraq, Vietnam, and even the Civil War provide historical contexts of far, far bigger mistakes.

Funny how "wars on [fad-of-the-week]" tends to lead to huge mistakes.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (1, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about 3 months ago | (#47589357)

The "Corporations iz peeple" conflict has lasted far longer than any of those wars you mentioned.

And I'd happily plunk down a slashdot sub on a bet saying it's cost more as well.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47589539)

One interesting issue with "corporations iz people" is that it's impossible to sell life insurance to a corporation, because it can die freely, unlike with people, who are reluctant to die, so life insurance costs can be estimated very predictably, and sold at a good profit, to anyone who's interested. Corporations are not reluctant to die at all, and if there is money to be made off of one dying, the incentive to die and spawn a new replacement corporation that takes over the remnants instead is very great. In this sense no corporation is responsible, because bad decisions don't follow them around, if they are willing to die and start over. Like, only corporations who maintained existence for decades have been responsible for EPA and asbestos claims, when it fact back then using asbestos was status quo, everyone did it, and a whole lot of businesses that have went bankrupt and the title cleared that way, and the buildings, employees and chattel picked up by a replacement corporation at auction, did not have to pay for it. Such EPA and OSHA asbestos litigations might have been that spurred this great variety of I can't keep track of great company names anymore, like HP instruments for 70 years had the highest reputation, and now they are called Agilent, and so goes for a bunch of other things, spin offs, bankruptcies, mergers, to evade responsibility that, they feel, shouldn't be responsibility in the first place. Suing a corporation for installing asbestos tile in the 60's? Everyone did it. You can sue them for hiding information they knew about, such as lung cancer, that could be a criminal case, against the actual employees, not the deep pocket of the corporations. But even that is dubious, as even today, I can work with silica dust, and carbon black, and welding smoke, and cigarette smoke, or even just simple atmospheric dust, that pollutes the lungs. That's why the nasal cavity first goes up, then down, to create a mini-cyclone, to filter the dust into snot, then most really tiny ones that do end up in the lungs are small enough for phagocytes to carry them away. And there is this intermediate fraction, that's impossible to deal with and deposits continuously, around 0.2-1.5 micron, and life's answer to that is to just fuck it, make a brand new lung, called a child. So you have to watch the total amount of time you spend in a lifetime working with asbestos, dry airborne toothpaste silica, carbon black, dusty jackhammers at an asphalt road repair that kick the dust up all over the place, welding smoke, etc., but cigarette smoke is downright doing it to yourself, so how can people pick on asbestos when they don't pick on cigarette smoke? It's insane. Asbestos has these mini fibers that fly in the air and deposit crap in your lungs. So does cigarette smoke, and road repair jackhammers, and spray painters, anything that kicks up dust, such as a soccer game in a drought ridden or arid area, etc.

PS. When are they gonna start enforcing the DMCA on cars? Someone claiming intellectual property on it, hacking, such as reverse engineering to figure out what makes it tick, and repairing the problems or creating derivatives with addons, is a violation of intellectual property. Fuck intellectual property. When you spend 20 grand on a car, they can't tell you you have no right to repair it. It's up in the air with cell phones. If you spend only 2 cents on it, they could say buy a new one, and you cannot violate the DMCA. If you spend over 2 dollars on a set, unit, then it's a different story. Watch for free cellphones that cost less that 2 cents, and only come with a service with free cellphone replacement, even if you need 1000 of them per month replaced only costing 20 bucks, and a DMCA sustaining intellectual property agreement. The powers that be are working on it.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589823)

> One interesting issue with "corporations iz people" is that it's impossible to sell life insurance to a corporation, because it can die freely,

Credit default swaps are effectively "life insurance for corporations" - they insure against a corporation defaulting on a loan obligation. Technically a corporation does not have to "die" to go into default, but corporate dissolution and/or bankruptcy are very strong linked with defaulting.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 3 months ago | (#47590359)

You entangled the meaningless comparison of the gp post of life insurance for corporations vs. people with an even more meaningless comparison of life insurance to default credit swaps. You're so far off the reservation that your post is literally a waste of space.

Re:LOL, "American Freedom"! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589597)

Not really.

Funny (5, Interesting)

Torp (199297) | about 3 months ago | (#47588687)

Because where I live carriers are obligated by law to unlock any phone not tied to a contract for free, and one tied to a contract for a minimal fee as soon as the contract is up.
The legality of firmware modifications isn't even talked about, this is a consumer protection requirement.

Re:Funny (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 3 months ago | (#47588697)

Yep, it must be terrible to live in a land where Big Government can high-handedly and arbitrarily restrict the Freedoms of large corporations. It's a shame that the serfs living under such repressive regimes don't have skilled and benevolent lobbyists to help them rise up and throw off their shackles.

At least, that's what the corporate news outlets here in the US are leading us to believe.

Re: Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588765)

Thankfully Obama passed this, because our congress is do nothing. Now, off to get my Verizon phone unlocked so I can switch to AT&T!

Re: Funny (2)

JackieBrown (987087) | about 3 months ago | (#47589271)

I'm really hoping this is a joke. You realize Congress passes the laws that get to Obama's desk?

Re: Funny (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#47589737)

I think he was being facetious.

Anyone paying attention enough to know congress is a do nothing would have had to pick up on how legislation works in order for that to mean anything to make it worth repeating.

Re: Funny (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 3 months ago | (#47590483)

I'm really hoping this is a joke. You realize Congress passes the laws that get to Obama's desk?

Less of a joke than one might think.

Too many laws establish a regulatory framework that then writes regulations
with the force of law. The agency established by the law is under the direct
management control of the executive office.

This is not new with Obama but the recalcitrant congress has made this
more and more visible and "necessary". Consider how the EPA has
extended its mandate to include the CO2 that you exhale and incur simply
by eating and making a living and soon will be carbon taxing you... too.

Some of the worlds worst has been delivered by bureaucratic middle management
given a mandate to solve a problem with little oversight as to how. Some
historic "solutions" came to light January 27, 1945...

Re: Funny (1)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | about 3 months ago | (#47589605)

Keep in mind, barring some models like the Galaxy S4 that support both...CDMA phones will not work on GSM networks and vice versa.

Re: Funny (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 3 months ago | (#47590457)

Thankfully Obama passed this, because our congress is do nothing. Now, off to get my Verizon phone unlocked so I can switch to AT&T!

Hmmm off to get my phone unlocked while I can....

FWIW I unlocked my previous AT&T phones (never give one up) bought some prepaid SIM cards with other carriers
and gave their networks a try. Here in the heart of Silly Valley -- we have the worlds worst cell coverage. Too many phones,
too few towers. My most reliable phone is a 15 year old unlocked Nokia flip phone. One charge lasts a full week -- a
replacement battery costs about $7. I power it down... put it in a zip lock bag in clean pair of socks while hiking...

I have been shopping for a modern dumb phone that is it's equal and am having
little luck. I would buy one... voice+text+GPS(for 911 safety) if it had a full week+ of
standby time.

The dumb thing about smart phones is the battery life.... it stinks.

Re:Funny (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588783)

You joke, but it strikes me as unfair that some nations legally restrict phones subsidized from a long-term contract. Even though I don't have such a phone, if I want to enter such a contract it's my business, the government should have nothing to do with it.

Re:Funny (4, Insightful)

gmack (197796) | about 3 months ago | (#47589177)

Once the contract is done with, it should be your phone and not the telco's phone and that is all these laws are demanding. I can still go to most countries in Europe and get a phone on contract, but as soon as the contract is finished they are required to unlock the phone and to me, that seems fair to both sides..

Re:Funny (4, Informative)

Torp (199297) | about 3 months ago | (#47589373)

Exactly - you can, like in the US, get a free/reduced price phone with an X year contract if you want. All the carriers would be happy to sell you one.
There are two differences: one, when the X years end, they MUST unlock your formerly subsidized phone for an insignificant fee (i think i paid 10 euros last time).
Two, you don't have to get a subsidized phone. There are 5 million places that would happily sell you a new, carrier free phone to use with any GSM carrier.
The carriers are also required to unlock phones not attached to a contract for free - i.e. if you pay full price, it has to be unlocked - but no one's crazy enough to buy a full price phone from them, any other store would be cheaper :)

Re:Funny (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 3 months ago | (#47589487)

You joke, but it strikes me as unfair that some nations legally restrict phones subsidized from a long-term contract. Even though I don't have such a phone, if I want to enter such a contract it's my business, the government should have nothing to do with it.

There is no problem with long term contracts for subsidised phones. You enter a 24 month contract, you get an expensive phone really cheap or for free, and the cost is included in the 24 month contract. Now you can unlock it. That doesn't mean you are out of the contract. You'll still pay for your 24 month contract.

Re:Funny (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 3 months ago | (#47590403)

Unless your bill gets smaller 24 months after you get a new phone, you should be able to get one phone (bought under contract) unlocked for every 24 months of service. That is to say, if you bring your own phone initially, then upgrade, say, 12 months later, those first 12 months in which your bill was exactly the same as it was *after* you upgraded should cover half he cost of the new phone. You were paying for it before you even got it, and they should respect that.

My provider doesn't do service contracts, though; they finance phones. I have 2 phones on my plan currently, and I pay $12.50/mo for each of them. In 9 months, they'll be paid off and my bill will drop by $25 in total, unless I decide to upgrade at that time. Of course, I could pay the $112.50 balance owed on one (or both) of those phones right now and be allowed to upgrade. Or, I could just decide to live with the phones I have, both of which are working quite well and, being the high-end models of their day, should continue to do so until their batteries give out, and enjoy the reduced bill.

Honestly, we don't need a law for this; people just need to wake up, realize what they're signing up for, and just don't sign it if they don't like the terms. Yes, competition is reduced when everyone's locked in a contract. The solution? Don't sign. When they all start hemorrhaging customers, they'll first start competing on price (wherein the remaining customers win) and, when that doesn't work, they'll start competing on terms (wherein we all win). Or, you know, switch to one of the carriers who's already started competing in that manner; maybe you have to wait out your contract, maybe you have to pay a termination fee, whatever, just do it.

Re:Funny (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588853)

You seem to be living under the illusion that these kinds of laws bother "large corporations". Whatever costs this will create for them, they'll just pass on to their customers. Corporations like regulations that create barriers to entry, the more the better. And Obama keeps supplying them.

This is nothing but political theater by which crony capitalists like Obama appeal to fools like you, while pissing away your taxes and your retirement funds in handouts to their buddies in industry.

Re:Funny (2)

Imrik (148191) | about 3 months ago | (#47588981)

This doesn't create a barrier, if anything it destroys one, not that it matters given how high the barrier for entry in the cell carrier business is.

Re:Funny (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47589651)

It must be terrible to live in a land where Big Corporations can claim property rights one everything, including intellectual property rights on methodologies and technologies related to the sequence of steps you take to wipe your own ass, or how many clicks you do to complete an online purchase, 1-click shopping methodology being OPP, of Amazon, who's down with it, yeah you know me. I must be some fucking communist spy to be bitchin about overbearing and reaching excesses of property rights, such as intellectual, and copyright term extensions, etc, etc. Fuck Disney, and fuck Mickey Mouse, for extending copyright another 20 years, in 2000. It's 2014, and I could be reading science books from 1935 for free, but because of Disney and they gay ass Mickey mouse, I'm stuck at 1923. It's time for Mickey Mouse to enter public domain, it's a cliche way past it's cliche prime. In fact someone should make porn fucking Mickey Mouse without paying royalties to Disney over it, and get sued over it, as a form of protest. Dear Mickey Mouse, here comes a big black cock up your ass!

Re:Funny (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47589699)

If they want to protect Mickey Mouse, they should call it like that, by name - the Mickey Mouse intellectual property right protection exemption act, whereby all the science books from 1935 are public domain, but Mickey Mouse stays a property of Disney. And they should have a list of shame exemptions, codified into the law, renewable periodically, that did not expire in 70 years, but maintain perpetual intellectual property protection, such as Disney keeping Mickey Mouse in 2098, just like we have DMCA exemptions, with the opposite being true, not being a DMCA exemption being a shame. Call it the Mickey Mouse exemption to copyright protection lapse.

Re:Funny (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47589873)

The initial copyright Act of the US was for 14 years, renewable to 28. Right now patents are at 20 years from date of filing, increased from 17 from date of approval, so that delay tactics can't be used. All we need is excuses to keep increasing it. How long until patent protection lasts lifetime of inventor + 70 years? These limits are a mere choice, and there has to be a balance between the interest of the public, and interest of the public in the Adam Smith's On the Wealth Of Nations, self interest seeking behavior generating greatest public benefit. That's fucking bullshit! The self interest seeking Pharaoh's of Egypt did not create greatest public interest for the enslaved Jews. Neither did Caligula trying to introduce his own statue, to be worshipped, as a 2nd God, in the Temple of Jerusalem. He was merely seeking his own self interest, in the Adam Smith way. Property is essential to life, but there has to be a balance. What do these stock owners, and intellectual property publishers contribute to society? They contribute to the wealth by "owning" by sitting back and collecting, by blackmailing everybody else through hogging access rights. Why is a fucking scientific article $35 when the authors only get 25 cents or less? It should be 2 dollars, the authors getting $1.95, and 5 cents, the equivalent of the value these publishers contribute, by marketing, selling, and holding it in a database. Also why do college textbooks cost over $100? And why don't the authors, the creators, get $90 of $100 at least? This "tapping" of the collective "intellectual" wealth is equivalent to a predator living off of prey, but overconsuming prey. By the way all of us, you and I, are predators, parasites, on other life, until Monsanto comes up with a green, photosynthetic baby, that lives off of sunshine without having to eat other life. (But there isn't enough density of energy to get mobile from that, so one little parasyte, like a human, has to eat a lot of photosynthetic ones, with a lot of surface area, to keep alive, on the order of 7 acres for a family of 4 or 5 barely enough green area to produce food through the most efficient crop, potato. A human does not have an acre of surface area on his body, so he has to be a predator or parasite.) So there is no in and of itself, a priori, argument against being a predator, or having predators, that's life, we're all like that. But there is this issue of property rights not in balance with the maximum public good, and Adam Smith was dead wrong on maximum self interest, just like minimum self interest is wrong too. Confucius' Yin Yang is The Way of the Tao, the way Qi flows in the Universe. In a lot of things, balance brings about optimums.

Re:Funny (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47589893)

And those 7 acres were the Irish potato famine average per starving family, as far as I know. With today's biotech, and super efficient crops, the limit might be as low as 1 acre.

Re:Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588733)

You probably live in the free world.

Re:Funny (2)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 3 months ago | (#47588941)

You're always free to not buy locked phones.

Re:Funny (3, Insightful)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 3 months ago | (#47588775)

It's de facto been the same in the US...you just ask your company for a code and they give it to you for free (even if the phone has previously been under contract). Additionally, you've always been able to buy unlocked phones.

what about the right to unlock for roaming at any (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 months ago | (#47588791)

what about the right to unlock for roaming at any time even when still in contract?

Re:what about the right to unlock for roaming at a (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 3 months ago | (#47588803)

Roaming is something the carrier can allow on your current sim, what you really mean is "what about using another carriers sim at any time, ostensibly for use overseas"...

Re:what about the right to unlock for roaming at a (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 months ago | (#47588819)

Yes but some places like to say no as they make a lot off of that $15-$20 a meg for data roaming.

Re:what about the right to unlock for roaming at a (2)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 3 months ago | (#47588879)

not in the US, if you are travelling internationall y grab a cheap android burner

Re:Funny (1)

houghi (78078) | about 3 months ago | (#47589243)

Where I live the locking of phones is forbidden.
So wether you have a contract or not, you can swap out your phone with any other phone and use that one. As if the contract is not related to the phone itself.

Oh and we also have number transfer that actualy works. I have had the same number for (I think) 10 years and have changed providers several times. I just fill out a form, send that in (as they need a signature) and that's it.

Re:Funny (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#47589339)

Because where I live carriers are obligated by law to unlock any phone not tied to a contract for free, and one tied to a contract for a minimal fee as soon as the contract is up.

You seem to be contradicting yourself. Once a contract is up, the phone is no longer tied to a contract.... so why wouldn't it be free per the first provision?

Re:Funny (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#47589821)

He's making the distinction between phones you can purchase which were never part of a contract compared to those that were part of a contract at one time. It's not a contradiction as it's more redundant on itself if you insist on viewing it that way.

For instance, even if you purchase your phone from the carrier, you can purchase it outright without it ever being under a contract. That would be one not tied to a contract. Of course you can also purchase it under a contract in which it is tied to a contract.

That's it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588699)

Well, I guess it must be nice to be the Librarian of Congress. In addition to your own salary you'll now be pocketing bribes from the cellphone manufacturers, so that whenever they pull one of your strings the "you don't get to unlock your cellphone this year button" gets pressed.

Not too surprising considering that it was signed into law by the same president that treats war crimes as casually as he had just lost a golf tournament:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/01/... [cnn.com]

"We tortured some folks." Well I'm sure that makes them feel better, if they haven't already been bagged and killed to keep them from testifying. How much bullshit is the US willing to put up with from the people they elect?

Re:That's it? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588737)

I didn't know Obama was President after 9/11, I thought he got elected in 2008 and took office in 2009? So did his administration torture anyone or was the fool who was elected by the Court?

This is why "regulations" are bad (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588719)

It's ad hoc tyranny.

At least with legislative actions - LAWS - the voting population can theory hold elected government officials accountable.

But regulations that are effectively edicts from unelected bureaucrats?

Apropos, although in TFA the unelected bureaucrat is the Librarian of Congress:

Book Review: 'Is Administrative Law Unlawful?' by Philip Hamburger [wsj.com]

The separation of powers broke down in the 20th century thanks to progressives who believed commissions could quickly improve society.

Re:This is why "regulations" are bad (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 3 months ago | (#47589069)

You are right, Mr. Smith. We should not permit administrative law. But, the voters do, and will most likely continue to do so indefinitely. A fatal flaw of majority rule.

The real story here is that... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588795)

A bill was signed into law! Lately bills either stop at the senate or things get done with executive orders.

Somebody school me ... (1)

CaptainDork (3678879) | about 3 months ago | (#47588799)

... where in Sam Hill did the Librarian of Congress gain this influence?

Re:Somebody school me ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589113)

Apparently from the DMCA, which is the real root of this issue (and a lot of others...). That is what needs radical changing, if not outright repeal.

Re:Somebody school me ... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 3 months ago | (#47590941)

Apparently from the DMCA, which is the real root of this issue (and a lot of others...). That is what needs radical changing, if not outright repeal.

Not really. There is nothing wrong with laws preventing people from illegally copying copyrighted works. It's just that in the case of mobile phone unlocking, I can't quite see where someone would be illegally copying some copyrighted works.

And... (4, Insightful)

J'raxis (248192) | about 3 months ago | (#47588835)

...absolutely nothing has changed. People have been unlocking their phones; people will continue to unlock their phones; and if Congress re-outlaws it, people will still continue to unlock their phones.

Re:And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588899)

/Sarcasm Until the FBI raids your home for unlocking your phone! (like downloading)

Re:And... (2)

cob666 (656740) | about 3 months ago | (#47588977)

Yes, people have been unlocking phones but without the carrier's consent you have to 'jailbreak' the phone. I'm going to assume that the phone either needs to be out of contract or you need to pay the balance due on the phone to get it unlocked.

If providers are going to have to unlock phones then I can see them changing things up a bit. Instead of the phone company 'subsidizing' your phone which you are allowed to keep when your contract is up, I see plans that include a lease fee for the phone with a new phone every years (or two) option if you turn in your old phone. With this model, just like car leasing if the phone is beat up or doesn't include all the accessories you'll be charged a 'lease disposition' fee. Providers will keep their user base locked in and won't have to provide unlock codes because the phone remains the property of the provider. If the user wants to unlock the phone they will need to pay the lease buyout fee and the phone will be theirs.

Re:And... (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 3 months ago | (#47589125)

T-Mobile has been taking full advantage of the difficulty of jailbreaking. Their monthly rates are attractively low, but they do their absolute best to _insist_ that you buy a new phone from them instead of migrating your old phone, and their sales people do their level best to discount even the _possibility_ of such an option. So they've turned around the old model of "free or cheap phones, the money comes from their monthly bills" and separating the costs. This allows them to advertise as the "cheapest", with the hidden and often hideous cost of a new phone amortized over the first few years of your plan.

The other vendors are also now doing this, as well, in their "we'll lower your monthly fee". The confusing plans and options among all the carriers are textbook cases in "bait and switch".

Re:And... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#47590129)

Their monthly rates are attractively low, but they do their absolute best to _insist_ that you buy a new phone from them instead of migrating your old phone, and their sales people do their level best to discount even the _possibility_ of such an option.

Not the experience I had talking to a T-Mobile guy a few months back. Showed them my old phone, they told me to get it unlocked by my old carrier, and they'd be good to go....

Re:And... (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 3 months ago | (#47590479)

Funny, when I switched to T-Mobile, they were more than happy to get AT&T on the phone for me to get my HTC One X unlocked. Of course, AT&T refused to provide the correct unlock code (they pulled that "we'll text it to you within 24 hours" bullshit, then, when that code didn't work, insisted that they had to escalate it to "engineering", and that I'd hear back in 24 hours again, which I never did -- and I know it wasn't T-Mobile scamming, as I went into an AT&T store when the first code didn't work). In the end, I borrowed a friend's old HD2 and used that until the phone I was waiting for came out, at which point I did end up buying a phone, an HTC One (M7), from T-Mobile. Then the M8 came out and I went in to check it out, fully expecting them to pressure my into paying off my M7 and upgrading; instead, they highlighted some of the feature differences, pointed out that the two were mostly similar, then spoke of what they felt were the drawbacks (the M8 being slightly larger, the fact that I'd have to replace my desk and car docks, etc), eventually saying they'd be more than happy the help me upgrade, but advising me to hang on to the M7 for the time being.

Yes, such vicious salespeople.

It's worth mentioning that, even while paying off two phones, my T-Mobile bill, for unlimited EVERYTHING (with the upgrade to unlimited LTE data on both lines) is still $20/mo less than I was shelling out to AT&T for 2 lines sharing 700 minutes and 500 text messages, with 4GB of data each (before $10/GB overages kicked in). And, when both phones are paid for in 9 months, my bill will drop by an additional $25. Actually, it will probably drop by another $20 when I drop the insurance on both phones (what's the point, when I can just walk in to a T-Mobile store and get a brand new phone at that point?), so my bill ends up being $65 less than AT&T. Sure, that's assuming I keep the same phones for longer than two years, but where's that option with AT&T?

Re:And... (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 3 months ago | (#47590979)

How long ago did you do this? Your experience is completely opposite from mine, less than 3 months ago.

Re:And... (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 3 months ago | (#47590977)

Maybe you ran into a guy who did that, but TMobile promotes it pretty well on their stores and their web page, and before they had iphones they had radio ads encouraging people to just use an unlocked iphone.

I looked into prices for my wife and I, and even without the subsidized phone (and using expensive phones paid off per the month) TMobile was substantially cheaper than AT&T or Verizon. For a family of four, AT&T becomes cheapest, with its family plans.

You could say that all the different prices and contracts and deals makes comparison between companies more difficult than it should be, but that doesn't make TMobile more expensive.

Re:And... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 3 months ago | (#47589081)

Our elected congress never directly outlawed it. This rule, like so many others, came from an unelected bureaucrat.

Re:And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589607)

No, I'm fairly sure the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision came from Congress.

Re:And... (1)

onproton (3434437) | about 3 months ago | (#47589775)

It's true that not much will change in reality, but it's still a win ideologically & may change the direction of the conversation.

ineffective political pandering (1)

silfen (3720385) | about 3 months ago | (#47588837)

Your Verizon phone likely will still only work on Verizon, and this may make phones and phone service a little more expensive down the road, and it may kill some business models that could have brought phones to the poor with no monthly charges, but who cares! Well-off, politically connected geeks can now unlock their phones officially! A victory for democracy!

Re:ineffective political pandering (-1, Flamebait)

gabrieltss (64078) | about 3 months ago | (#47588859)

But just think all those folks who got their FREE OBaaama Phones can now get them unlocked to get get even MORE free services... ON MY TAX DOLLARS! Where is -MY- free Obaaaaama phone?

Re:ineffective political pandering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47588883)

What the fuck are you smoking?

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 3 months ago | (#47588937)

So they will unlock their free phones and pay even less then? You're a friggin' genius.

"Where is -MY- free Obaaaaama phone?"

You'd see it right there on the table next to you if you took your head out of your ass.

Re:ineffective political pandering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589833)

Wooooosh!

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | about 3 months ago | (#47588867)

There are a lot cheap phones out there, you just have to look. A friend paid $10 for a phone and about $10 a month, you know of anything cheaper?

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

moosehooey (953907) | about 3 months ago | (#47589065)

T-mobile to go. You can get a phone and the first year of service for $120 (20 for the phone and 100 for initial Gold membership), and then you only need to put on $10 per YEAR to keep it going (as long as you don't use up too many minutes, so it makes a good emergency phone).

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 3 months ago | (#47588925)

"Your Verizon phone likely will still only work on Verizon, and this may make phones and phone service a little more expensive down the road"

Please, prey tell, how this will make phone service more expensive. Explain to us all how enabling a free market economy makes things more expensive, while vendor lock in results in lower cost to the consumer. I can't wait to hear your explanation.

Bear in mind while explaining that this allows people to switch to a lower cost service rather than be locked into a higher cost one. Please also bear in mind that reducing the huge profit margins of corporations is far from the same as costing the consumer more, and that when consumers can switch attempting to tack a bit more on to the profit margin will result in current customer loss, but can not result in a loss of current customers when they can't switch.

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

silfen (3720385) | about 3 months ago | (#47589293)

Please, prey tell, how this will make phone service more expensive.

If you switch phone carriers, that's a big loss to your phone company. Providing locked phones are one of several mechanisms by which a company can insure against that loss and they are willing to give you a discount for that. In different words, they pay you an insurance premium, same way you pay car insurance.

And by further standardizing phone service terms, it will likely also lead to a weeding out of MVNOs, which have been thriving on offering non-standard business models. Some of them offer a small number of locked phones, others specialize in supporting any unlocked phone, meeting different preferences and kinds of demand.

and that when consumers can switch attempting to tack a bit more on to the profit margin will result in current customer loss, but can not result in a loss of current customers when they can't switch

Consumers have been able to buy unlocked phones and switch at will for many years. I haven't had a locked phone or a contract for more than a decade and been with MVNOs for years. So, there is absolutely no reason to create legislation to force companies to make that business model mandatory for everybody.

And, again, when you make it easier for consumers to switch, that increases cost for the operators, and they are just going to pass those costs on to their customers. This whole regulation forces low frequency switchers to subsidize high frequency switchers. Why is that a good thing?

Explain to us all how enabling a free market economy

A free market means that buyers and sellers are free to agree to the terms under which they do business. Imposing additional restrictions on those terms, by definition, does not "enable a free market economy".

Sometimes (rarely) imposing restrictions on the market may be beneficial, but don't try to sell anti-free market policies as pro-free market policies.

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 3 months ago | (#47589461)

"If you switch phone carriers, that's a big loss to your phone company. "

If someone switches phone carriers to my phone company, that's a big gain for my phone company!

" Providing locked phones are one of several mechanisms by which a company can insure against that loss and they are willing to give you a discount for that."

No. You are confusing discounted handsets with discounted rates (the latter of which don't exist.)

"Consumers have been able to buy unlocked phones and switch at will for many years."

So by your own admission, this cant possibly be a sudden change that will cause an increase in rates.

"Sometimes (rarely) imposing restrictions on the market may be beneficial"

Perhaps, but as you pointed out while you were trying to paint this as one of those situations (without knowing it), this is clearly not one of them. Thanks for playing though!

Re:ineffective political pandering (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about 3 months ago | (#47588965)

> and it may kill some business models that could have brought phones to the poor with no monthly charges

If a potential business model relies on creating a captive market via legislated freedom removal, it's a bad business model, full stop. Cell phone subsidization plans are already protected by contract law. The additional criminalization of unlocking is unnecessary.

VzW Worldphones unlocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589171)

Nope, once I made a few tweaks to my Moto Razr HD (courtesy of instructions found on the 'Net), I could put my T-Mobile pay-go SIM in it, and get at least HSPA+ (or is that HSDPA+ ? always mixing the letters up - anyway one of several GSM-based bands that VzW "world" phones support when unlocked) on it, which in most cases is as fast as the LTE on Verizon - where I can get that T-Mo signal, which is far less common than Verizon's LTE where I go.

I have also done that with a Samsung Note 2 for VzW that I sold a while ago (too big to carry around comfortably, but loved the screen size for my eyes - tradeoffs ).

BTW, I have not been locked into a VzW contract for several years now, but not too motivated to change since the coverage is still the best where I go, and I am still on the unlimited data plan from the contract days, so eBay is my phone supplier now so as to not lose that data plan (son used 12GB one month with that feature while away at tech school no problem). I don't push it so much as to face the upcoming VzW limitation plan for excessive use for a given tower situation.

Re: VzW Worldphones unlocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589197)

BTW, the Note's switch to T-Mo did not even require the unlocking effort of the Razr - just had to change the setting for Mobile Networks network mode.

OMG (0, Flamebait)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 3 months ago | (#47588873)

These comments suck.

Re:OMG (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about 3 months ago | (#47589011)

Thanks for your insightful contribution that doesn't suck.

DMCA (1)

SirAudioMan (2836381) | about 3 months ago | (#47589107)

The DMCA is one of the single-handedly most stupid laws that has ever been passed in the US! Pretty much every stupid lawsuit and dumb statute you guys have falls under the DMCA! It's clear that lobbiest really did get to the government to pass this dumb act!

They had to get the *President* in on this one? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47589149)

On Friday President Obama signed into a law a bill allowing mobile devices to be legally unlocked

Good news and all, but did it really have to go up to the President? No wonder he hasn't had time to get around to closing Guantanamo Bay if he has to do with (relatively) piddling crap like this!

Re:They had to get the *President* in on this one? (4, Informative)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about 3 months ago | (#47589311)

The president must sign every bill before it becomes law. If the president chooses not to sign a bill, it is considered a veto and the bill is returned to congress. If it gets a 2/3 majority vote, the bill becomes law anyway. This is one of the primary duties of the president.

So yes, it went to the president, just like every other bill that has gotten through congress.

Re:They had to get the *President* in on this one? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589863)

You almost got the procedure. The US President has 10 days (not including Sundays) to sign or veto a bill. If the US President chooses to neither sign nor veto a bill, then it depends upon whether Congress is in session or not; if Congress is not in session then it becomes a "pocket veto" [wikipedia.org] , if Congress is in session at the 10 day mark then it becomes law without the President signing it (see Aticle 1, Section 7, Clause 3 [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:They had to get the *President* in on this one? (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about 3 months ago | (#47590245)

Yes, I simplified it. I also got the first sentence wrong, and corrected that by mentioning the ability for congress to override a veto. The main point is that every bill goes before the President before it can become law.

Re:They had to get the *President* in on this one? (1)

hacker (14635) | about 3 months ago | (#47590451)

...and even if he doesn't sign it, it becomes law anyway, as long as Congress is in session.

will be pontless if it sticks (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 months ago | (#47589189)

We will just see more incompatibly between networks. A lot ilke if you have an unlocked cmda phone today.. Where you going to go other than back to verizon? Each phone will end up with custom firmware, so you are stuck with that carrier.

Re:will be pontless if it sticks (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 3 months ago | (#47589805)

We will just see more incompatibly between networks. A lot ilke if you have an unlocked cmda phone today.. Where you going to go other than back to verizon? Each phone will end up with custom firmware, so you are stuck with that carrier.

First of all, Verizon is not the only CDMA carrier in the USA. (Sprint, for example, uses CDMA.) Verizon can't "break" their version of CDMA without making it impossible for non-Verizon subscribers to roam on their network.

Second, many of the phones currently available in the USA support all CDMA and GSM network protocols. Some even support them at all of the frequencies used outside North America, so you can roam in other continents.

Third, many phones from CDMA carriers now come with a removable SIM card, just like GSM phones have for years. I'm not sure, but I think switching carriers may involve modifying the apps and parts of the OS (and would that involve unlocking or even jailbreaking?) However, the most important step is to swap out the SIM card with one from the new carrier, and that has become a lot easier.

Re:will be pontless if it sticks (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 months ago | (#47590355)

ok i should have said 'where can you realistically go'. verizon was a quick example. I do know its not 100% black and white ( i even have a phone that does both cmda and gsm with 2 sims, at the same time ) but realistically most people will be stuck with what they buy from their carrier and not have more capable phones

and yes they can all 'break' their network so you can only use their "approved" phones, if they want to. they just dont have/want to yet. if this goes further and they are forced to start giving out codes you watch how long it takes...

i doubt they are making much off the phones, but currently the lock-in factor helps keep you around, since most people dont buy phones outright like some of us do.

Re:will be pontless if it sticks (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 3 months ago | (#47589831)

If you have a Verizon worldphone with GSM support you have more options. I'm switching over to a GSM provider soon and will be curious to see what happens when a different SIM is used in the US.

Can titles please be internationalized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589361)

As a European Slashdot reader I would really like it if titles like these would be changed to "Cell Phone Unlocking Is Legal In The USA -- For Now" for example. :]

As long as... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589435)

You outright own your phone (EG it is not still under contract) there is no reason' you shouldn't be able to do any damn thing you please with it.

This only addresses half of the problem (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 3 months ago | (#47589567)

The other half is that some carriers (I'm looking at you Verizon) won't activate a phone they didn't sell, even though it's capable of operating on their network. What good is an unlocked phone if no other carriers are willing to activate it? To be effective, this needs a partner law requiring carriers to activate phones which can operate on their network, regardless of where the customer bought it.

Another benefit this would have is that manufacturers would start selling phones directly instead of only through the carriers. The carriers are already busy trying thwart the unlock requirement - most of the new carrier-branded phones I'm seeing support only the frequencies that carrier uses. Even if you could unlock it, it won't work on another carrier (or will work with degraded capability). But if the manufacturers began selling phones directly, it would be in their best interests to sell a single phone model which supported all carrier frequencies in that country. With another bonus being that it'll work in most of the rest of the world as well.

SIM locks? (1)

dos1 (2950945) | about 3 months ago | (#47589735)

I wonder why the comments are filled with discussion about SIM locks and operators unlocking or not the devices after the end of contract. SIM-lock issue is no biggie, you can always simply buy the phone without telco as middleman.

What's more important there is that without this DMCA exception, you can't legally "jailbreak" your phone, install your own operating system or some "custom ROMs". Without this exception, jailbreaking an iPhone to install Cydia is illegal; breaking into bootloader of some non-unlockable by default Android phone is illegal as well.

Without this exception, in America you're not free to choose the software to run on your own hardware if only the producer doesn't want you to. Duh, even worse - it's actually illegal to try to. *This* is the clue of this issue, not any silly simlocks.

Re:SIM locks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47589903)

Without this exception, jailbreaking an iPhone ... is illegal; breaking into bootloader of some non-unlockable ... phone is illegal as well.

Are you sure ? The "no circumvention" part is to protect the underlying software from being "looked at" (decompiling and all that). I would say that there is no looking, so no faul.

Though its (as always) up to the courts (and the party with the deepest pockets) ofcourse :-\ .

Captcha: budgets - Again fitting to the above. How do they do that ...

Re:SIM locks? (1)

hacker (14635) | about 3 months ago | (#47590459)

SIM-lock issue is no biggie, you can always simply buy the phone without telco as middleman.

...except in the United States of America.

You might be outside the US, but you literally cannot purchase a phone in the US without specifying which carrier you're going to bind that phone to, contractually. Not Samsung/HTC/LG/Motorola/Google, not Microsoft, not Nokia, not iPhone and not BlackBerry.

So you're luck to be outside the US. For the rest of us, we're stuck paying full price for phones off-contract, and still being held to carrier restrictions.

Re:SIM locks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47590647)

SIM-lock issue is no biggie, you can always simply buy the phone without telco as middleman.

...except in the United States of America.

You might be outside the US, but you literally cannot purchase a phone in the US without specifying which carrier you're going to bind that phone to, contractually. Not Samsung/HTC/LG/Motorola/Google, not Microsoft, not Nokia, not iPhone and not BlackBerry.

So you're luck to be outside the US. For the rest of us, we're stuck paying full price for phones off-contract, and still being held to carrier restrictions.

Actually, you do not have to specify which carrier you are going to bind the phone to ... the only 'specification' you are required to make up-front is CDMA vs. GSM ... the choice of which will, in turn, limit you to a range of carriers - eg. AT&T runs GSM, so you can't use a CDMA phone on their network.

Re:SIM locks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47590969)

Not true. Motorola sells the Moto G and Moto E factory unlocked. Put any sim in and go. BLU Products sells both feature phones and smartphones that are unlocked, many with dual sim capabilities like overseas. BLU is based out of Miami, FL and phones are available at independent prepaid cellular dealers all over the USA and online from Amazon, Ebay, Newegg, and many other popular e-tailers. The Moto E can be had for $129 and comes loaded with the latest version of Android and the specs are unheard of for a phone at that price. Many BLU smartphones can be had for under $100.

Re:SIM locks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47590997)

Uh, what? Of course you can.

"Doesn't guarantee permanent legality", WTF (1)

fnj (64210) | about 3 months ago | (#47589801)

This should be bloody obvious to anyone with the mentality of an everage 12 year old or greater, but there is no guarantee that ANY law stay in effect permanently. You can supercede any law at any time just by passing a new law. Hell, you can even amend the Constitution. If you supersede the fiftth amendment and then pass a law enabling the cops to beat you with a rubber hose to extract a confession, you couldn't even (legally) refuse to incriminate yourself any more.

Re:"Doesn't guarantee permanent legality", WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47590081)

This should be bloody obvious to anyone with the mentality of an everage 12 year old or greater, but there is no guarantee that ANY law stay in effect permanently.

All this is saying is that in three years when the law expires the librarian of congress can once again take a bribe from the cell industry and once again remove the exemption.

If you supersede the fiftth amendment and then pass a law enabling the cops to beat you with a rubber hose to extract a confession, you couldn't even (legally) refuse to incriminate yourself any more.

I can imagine the new Miranda "You have the right to remain silent, if you can stand the pain"

Re:"Doesn't guarantee permanent legality", WTF (1)

hacker (14635) | about 3 months ago | (#47590463)

All this is saying is that in three years when the law expires ...

Ahem. Laws don't "expire", but that's why I suppose you chose to post that comment under AC, instead of a proper username.

If they were serious about passing this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47590079)

If they were serious about passing this as law they should have made it permanent. It is ridiculous how this keeps bouncing back and forth between being illegal and legal.

Librarian? (1)

shillbot (978627) | about 3 months ago | (#47590373)

Why does Congress have a librarian? Congress doesn't actually do anything. And that librarian only seems to do stupid things.

1 out of 3 aint bad (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 3 months ago | (#47590527)

While in another year it may well become illegal to root your phone and crack boot loaders at least you won't be breaking the law when you SIM unlock.

The only reason piecemeal temporary exemptions exist is restrictions are overwhelmingly seen as illegitimate and completely unenforceable.

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