Unlocking Mobile Phones Will No Longer Be A Crime in the U.S.

Unlocking Mobile Phones Will No Longer Be A Crime in the U.S.

by Dan Vlasic on 30 July 2014 · 2119 views

1 medium Unlocking Mobile Phones Will No Longer Be A Crime in the USThe name is the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, and it has been passed by the House of Representatives last week. If everything is fine at the next stage, that is the presidential desk, Americans may gain more flexibility in unlocking their smartphones. President Obama encouraged both Houses to pass the 'pro-consumer' law that would potentially allow Americans keep an existing phone, but switch to a carrier that would satisfy their budget without having to stick to draining long-term contracts.

Cell phone unlocking has been a great issue in the United States ever since 1998 when wireless carriers started using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which initially was created to prosecute piracy. According to this act, users who unlocked their smartphones were subject to criminal prosecution and, in some cases, even a term in prison.

In 2006, the Copyright Office introduced an exception for mobile phones, but it expired in 2012 and was never renewed, so today it is technically illegal to unlock your smartphone. The legislation on unlocking is reviewed on a three-year basis, so if we assume that Pres. Obama rubber-stamps the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act by the end of this year, which is a predefined deadline, consumers will be able to unlock their smartphones and switch to a different wireless carrier without fear of prosecution.

When the act becomes a law, you will be free to unlock your smartphone and switch to a different network, which no longer would be a criminal offense, even if you bulk unlock multiple devices. As a result, the law also covers smartphone unlocking for businesses that offer unlock smartphones services to consumers in case they don’t want to do this on their own or simply don’t have the expertise.

Another clause in this legislation comprises a directive to the Librarian of Congress requesting “other devices” clause be included in the act, which would effectively enable the customers to unlock their tablets, too.

Truth be told, phone locking started out as a marketing campaign of mobile carriers to generate consumer database and once was a loyalty program, which granted the subscriber a ‘free’ phone in exchange for a long-term commitment, the contract with the wireless carrier. Over time, the scheme became more of a burden for consumers, which made them stick to inconvenient plans, and manufacturers were largely abusing it, so hundreds of thousands of Americans signed the petition to the White House to review the legislation. Hopefully, everything goes smooth and the bill comes into effect by the end of this year, so you can jump that contract.

Sources: L.A. Times, WhiteHouse.gov, Huffington Post, Digital Trends.

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