Guess What? It is Now Illegal To Unlock your Phone in the US

January 27, 2013 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Last week, we brought news to you about a White House petition to keep this from happening. But as of this past Saturday, it is now illegal to unlock your phone. Now this probably seems pretty harsh, but anyone who unlocks their handset in the US without written consent from their carrier, could face civil or even criminal action. In the worst case scenario, you could be hit with a $2,500 fine if you unlock your device for use on another carrier.

An example of this is the nearly 2 million Apple iPhone users who currently have their phone unlocked and are running it on T-Mobile’s network. Now if you unlock your phone for a profit, then it’s a whole other ballgame and you could be facing half a million dollars in fines as well as some prison time.

So how did this law come into affect? Well the Library of Congress and the US Copyright Office no longer give cellphones an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law was intended to prevent infringement of copyrights, not to specifically ban the unlocking of your new smartphone. But for most people this won’t be a big deal as this is SIM-unlocking, and not bootloader unlocking. You can still unlock the bootloader on your Nexus 4, Galaxy S3, or whatever device you have and void the warranty. This also does not impact devices that are sold unlocked like Nexus devices. Hey buying Nexus looks pretty good right about now, right?

If you did unlock your phone before this weekend, you are in the clear. Just like with the unlimited data plans on AT&T, and Verizon, you’re grandfather in to unlocking your cell phone. I know that sounds weird. Besides that, we don’t actually expect the carriers to go after their customers for unlocking their phones. It might be a bit difficult for the carriers to find out anyways. Here’s what Brad Shear, an attorney who is an expert on social media said regarding this:

“I don’t see carriers going aggressively after people, but bottom line is that I would not recommend violating this provision of the law.”

So how upset are you that you can’t unlock your phone now? How many of you actually SIM-unlock your device anyways? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Source: Norebbo