questionshow do you feel about the new unlocked cell phone…

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This isn't entirely accurate. Unlocking your cellphone can be illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a statute enacted back in 1998. Under one provision of the DMCA, the Librarian of Congress may issue exemptions - activities that are not to be deemed illegal under the DMCA. These exemptions are renewed and revisited every three years. Each exemption must be newly considered every cycle, so that there are no "permanent exemptions" under this provision.

Which brings us to the current issue. In the previous cycle of exemptions, the Librarian of Congress had included unlocking cellular phones, however, in the most recent exemption rule making, the Librarian of Congress chose not to renew this exemption for the current three year period.

So, it is not "a new law" or anything of that sort. It's an old law that for three years exempted cellphone users from being in violation of the law for unlocking their devices. That exemption is no longer valid.

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@90mcg112 beat me to this.

This is a problem with the DMCA, flat out. It was a bad law when it was passed, and now with the passage of time has putrefied like a dead animal in a gutter in August. And smells as bad.

The reasoning for not unlocking phones is to keep consumers from reigning on a contract. First, I don't see how they can, really: try to leave a carrier before your contract is over and not pay the early termination fee. Tell me how that works out for you. Second, the real issues is AFTER your contract is over or after you have paid the ETF. Right now the carrier is under no obligation to unlock your phone (yes, the phone that you have paid for). They can tell you to screw off, and circumventing IN ANY WAY the means that the carrier has put in place to keep your tied to their network and services is illegal.

Yes, this has to change, but the bigger issue is that the DMCA has got to go.

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I think it'll get overturned. There's massive support in favor of allowing people to unlock their phones. It doesn't terribly affect me personally, since I've never had the need to unlock a phone, but even if I don't exercise a right doesn't mean that right shouldn't exist.

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Cool I signed this e-petition !
By the way. All they (the cell companies) have to do is say.
Look here is a free phone. Sign up for a 2 year contract.
If you leave this contract early you pay a penalty of the retail cost of the phone.

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Unless they give you the phone for free with no contract, it shouldn't be locked to their network.

This is similar to buying your own modem instead of renting one from your ISP. When you leave them, you can use your modem with your next ISP if you want. Why shouldn't a phone (that you pay for) be the same way?

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Except they don't always unlock your phone when you ask (even with cherries on top). My dad got a "free" iPhone 3GS for extending his contract for 2 more years. My sis gave him her old iPhone 4. I tried to give the 3GS to a friend to use on T-Mobile, and in order for that to work, AT&T had to unlock it. Nope. They refused to unlock it. So that phone would have ended up in the landfill if I weren't so unscrupulous.

Here's the real funny part of that law. "Jailbreaking" is legal [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_jailbreaking#United_States]. It also grants you access to otherwise locked down parts of the phone.

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@embhorn: How dare you do what you implied. Think of the children!

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In my experience if your account is in good standing you can call your provider and ask them to unlock it for you.

But it wouldn't affect me anyway because I don't plan to ever buy a locked contract phone again.

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@caffeine_dude: they already have that. It's called the ETF fee.

The entire situation is, IMO, BS. The "retail cost" of the phones is astronomical. My iPhone shouldn't cost more than an iPad or a laptop. The prices stay high so we sign 2 year contracts to have the privilege of buying a phone at what it should actually cost.

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@embhorn: Um, dude, that's exactly the provision of the DMCA that was not renewed. So, that entry on the wiki is no longer accurate. The exemption from 2010 expired and was not renewed.

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@90mcg112: Dear friend, you are mistaken. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/10/jailbreaking-now-legal-under-dmca-for-smartphones-but-not-tablets/
So we can jailbreak until 2015, when the jailbreaking exemption is up for renewal.

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I am on the fence with this. I agree if you buy the phone outright, you have the right to unlock your phone. However, for those that sign that 2 year contract for the subsidized phone, I think that the phone company should be able to recoup their money. BUT, then I start thinking about the outrageous prices of phones, that is why there is a cancellation of contract fee, usually pretty high, and possession is 9/10th of the law...

FWIW: I don't believe in contracts for cell phones, as I would rather pay upfront then be nickel and dimed for 2 years, and I hardly use my phone for anything other than to tether my tablet, so a 2 or 3 year old phone works fine for me.

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I can see getting a discount for signing a contract but I do not like paying the same after the contract period. I should be able to use the phone anywhere at anytime and I should also be able to bring my own phone and get a better rate without a contract.

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@embhorn: You are right, sorry about that, I scanned your link too quickly to appreciate the content.

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No worries. The DMCA is the most confusing and dynamic "law" I've seen. It changes on the whim of the Librarian of Congress (or how often he gets perks from the RIAA/MPAA). What ever you are doing legally today could suddenly land you in PMITA prison tomorrow.