Feature Article

February 20, 2013

Whitehouse Petition to Make Mobile Phone Unlocking Legal

The Wired magazine reports that San Francisco-based entrepreneur Sina Khanifar has started a petition to force the Obama administration to legalize mobile phone unlocking. The petition coined whitehouse.gov, is seeking 100,000 signatures by Saturday to compel the administration to respond to a recent decision by copyright regulators which makes it illegal to unlock mobile phones purchased after January 26. By Tuesday afternoon, there were some 81,000 signatures that are being supported by tech luminaries.

Khanifar told Wired Reporter David Kravets that “the decision to remove the exemption for unlocking phones is bad for consumers, and it’s up to our elected officials to help defend consumer rights.” The U.S Copyright Office ended the practice of granting an unlocking exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) four months ago.

As per this report, the DMCA makes it illegal to go around the software embedded in phones that effectively controls carrier access. However, the report indicates that not much will change with consumers despite the act.

Additionally, before unlocking exemption in 2006 and again in 2010, the carriers never sued individuals for unlocking their personal phones. And they have no plans to it now, says the report. “When unlocking was exempted and allowed, the carriers and phone makers were busy successfully suing illicit businesses that bought throw-away phones by the thousands, unlocked them, and shipped them overseas,” wrote Kravets.

Last year, carriers told the Copyright Office that they did not oppose individuals unlocking their phones. In fact, today many carriers provide such a service to subscribers interested in unlocking their mobile phones because the latest trend is to deliver unlocked phones to customers.

The whitehouse.gov petition is asking the administration to pass a bill that would make mobile phone unlocking permanently legal. To see what ultimately happens, you will just have to wait and see.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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