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Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:01 AM

The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013 (So Far): It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/the-most-ridiculous-law-of-2013-so-far-it-is-now-a-crime-to-unlock-your-smartphone/272552/



This is now the law of the land:

ADVISORY

BY DECREE OF THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS

IT SHALL HENCEFORCE BE ORDERED THAT AMERICANS SHALL NOT UNLOCK THEIR OWN SMARTPHONES.

PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*

That's right, starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers.

I have deep sympathy for any individual who happens to get jail time for this offense. I am sure that other offenders would not take kindly to smartphone un-lockers.

But seriously: It's embarrassing and unacceptable that we are at the mercy of prosecutorial and judicial discretion** to avoid the implementation of draconian laws that could implicate average Americans in a crime subject to up to a $500,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

52 replies, 3869 views

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Arrow 52 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013 (So Far): It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone (Original post)
xchrom Jan 2013 OP
sadbear Jan 2013 #1
AverageJoe90 Jan 2013 #26
intheflow Jan 2013 #2
Lesmoderesstupides Jan 2013 #3
Sekhmets Daughter Jan 2013 #31
Lesmoderesstupides Jan 2013 #34
Sekhmets Daughter Jan 2013 #35
Lesmoderesstupides Jan 2013 #36
Sekhmets Daughter Jan 2013 #40
leftyohiolib Jan 2013 #51
Lesmoderesstupides Jan 2013 #52
proud2BlibKansan Jan 2013 #4
hootinholler Jan 2013 #8
proud2BlibKansan Jan 2013 #11
rexcat Jan 2013 #12
Plucketeer Jan 2013 #15
Spike89 Jan 2013 #19
Horse with no Name Jan 2013 #10
Plucketeer Jan 2013 #16
Horse with no Name Jan 2013 #18
midnight Jan 2013 #13
proud2BlibKansan Jan 2013 #25
midnight Jan 2013 #46
MattBaggins Jan 2013 #37
randome Jan 2013 #5
sadbear Jan 2013 #6
randome Jan 2013 #7
farminator3000 Jan 2013 #9
midnight Jan 2013 #14
dsc Jan 2013 #17
Ed Suspicious Jan 2013 #22
JustABozoOnThisBus Jan 2013 #38
MattBaggins Jan 2013 #39
woo me with science Jan 2013 #20
Rainforestgoddess Jan 2013 #21
bluestateguy Jan 2013 #23
AverageJoe90 Jan 2013 #24
quinnox Jan 2013 #27
farminator3000 Jan 2013 #28
MattBaggins Jan 2013 #41
farminator3000 Jan 2013 #44
LTR Jan 2013 #48
farminator3000 Jan 2013 #49
Lone_Star_Dem Jan 2013 #29
MattBaggins Jan 2013 #43
Lone_Star_Dem Jan 2013 #45
MattBaggins Jan 2013 #47
ZombieHorde Jan 2013 #30
Recursion Jan 2013 #33
Recursion Jan 2013 #32
lpbk2713 Jan 2013 #42
stevenleser Jan 2013 #50

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:05 AM

1. Does anyone remember the good ole' days when you didn't even own your own phone?

Ma Bell owned all the phones. She just let you use them.

This law seems similar to that setup.

I doubt it will last.

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Response to sadbear (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:23 PM

26. Depends on who takes charge over the next few years.

If we can get some more progressive Democrats in office we may have a decent chance of overturning this crap......Third Way Democrats? Maybe not so much. And if we see another surge of "free market" Teabagging Rethugs you can forget it.......

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:18 AM

2. Implications are far-reaching.

We won't own anything any more. Or, more to the point, this is planned obsolescence taken to its most extreme limits.

Here's example of how this could affect other areas of property ownership:

You buy a new Ford. The headlight goes out. The car's computer registers this and the software won't allow anything but another headlight from the Ford factory (or one that's contracted by Ford to be used with their computer software). So you'll be a slave to that brand, unable to buy generic replacement parts, so they can charge you top dollar.

I hope to hell this gets challenged and taken to court. It's pure BS, a decision made by a single person who no doubt has plenty of money to buy a new smart phone every week if he has to.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:27 AM

3. Get an unlocked smart phone on a Canadian Carrier

 

Many carriers have plans that cover calls, text and data in the US too.

Problem solved.

My contract expires in a few months and I will drive to Canada and get a new phone and plan there.

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Response to Lesmoderesstupides (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:49 PM

31. Can you please explain to this dummy,

what is "unlocking" and why someone would want to?

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Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #31)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:07 PM

34. An unlocked phone can be used on any carrier.

 

Verizon phones are locked and only work on Verizon

In Europe if you have a phone you just buy a providers sim card and you are on their network, just like T Mobile and ATT did here until now.

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Response to Lesmoderesstupides (Reply #34)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:14 PM

35. Thanks...I switched to Sprint a few months back...

they offered a better plan for me. I had been with Verizon for about 8 years, but they wanted too much for their data plan (I don't use a ton of data) and I had to buy too many minutes to get unlimited calls to my kids. I spend very little time on the phone...got rid of my land line when I moved 13 months ago. Some months I had "used" 13 out of 900 minutes. I think I must be even more antisocial than Howard Hughes....

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Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #35)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:21 PM

36. You can negotiate lower rate if you donít use the time or data

 

I am the same way and knocked 30% off my bill when I told them I donít use or come any were near my monthly allotment in an entire year. When they checed my use they were schocked at how litte I use my phone.

I threated to leave to another carrier and the manager gave me a discount just to stay.

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Response to Lesmoderesstupides (Reply #36)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:37 PM

40. Hey thanks!

I'll remember that for when I'm near the end of my Sprint contract. What I do like about Sprint is the unlimited mobile to mobile....

The only time I call a land line, it's an 800 number...even then I never get near my total which is now 450 min. a month.

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Response to Lesmoderesstupides (Reply #3)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:57 AM

51. until that is made illegal

 

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Response to leftyohiolib (Reply #51)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 10:11 AM

52. See http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022277303

 

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:31 AM

4. The fine is too high but I don't have a problem with this.

Carriers are practically giving these phones away. I got an iPhone for 99 cents at Christmas.

Since it's obvious they aren't making any money by selling phones it's not surprising they want to restrict how you use them.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:40 AM

8. I have a huge problem with this

Oh, BTW, carriers are not giving phones away, the are making a healthy margin on the contract life they can simply afford to appear to give it to you.

As an android developer it is essential to be able to root a phone to perform troubleshooting.

As a citizen, if I pay for a piece of hardware that contains an open source OS, I have the right to do as I wish with it.

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Response to hootinholler (Reply #8)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:47 AM

11. They are making money on the service

But when they sell phones for 99 cents, you can't convince me they are profiting.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #11)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:52 AM

12. Obviously you don't understand how they structure their costs...

If you purchase the phone outright you are not obliged to sign a two year contract with them. The cost of the phone is structured into the service plan. Businesses do not give anything free to anyone. There is always a cost to the consumer.

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Response to rexcat (Reply #12)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:19 PM

15. You've "nailed it".

Even that bowl of mints next to the cash register at a restaurant - you pay for them in your meal tab. They won't show up on your bill, but you've paid for them nonetheless. You can certainly opt not to take one, but you're still paying for them!

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Response to hootinholler (Reply #8)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:43 PM

19. Actually has nothing to do with rooting your phone

Rooting is a different issue and not covered by this law. It is an odd law. Basically, you can buy a new phone at the full price and unlock it (many come from the factory unlocked). The only time the unlocking issue seems to be in effect is when you buy a "subsidized" phone and agree to a term contract. Why you'd want to sign up for a two-year plan with a company, then immediately switch your service to a competitor is beyond me--you'd still have to honor the contract or at least pay a termination fee.

I think it is a stupid law, but it doesn't have anything to do with rooting your phone or device.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:45 AM

10. The problem is, this includes that phones that do not have good deals on them

For example. I prefer a Blackberry. The free Blackberry was a cheap Curve. I took it and walked out the door and hated every second that phone was in my hand. So, I went back and upgraded and paid full price which was almost $700 for the phone that I wanted. That should be MY phone to do with what I want. That phone is also one of the ones that you can flash to alternate plans.
This has a lot to do, in my opinion, with the TMobile/Metro merger. Part of what they planned on offering to go after the Big 3 was the ability to bring your phone from another carrier...but I suppose that TMobile hasn't done enough for the government like ATT and Verizon.

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Response to Horse with no Name (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:26 PM

16. While I understand your stance here....

It was the Blackberry that cost you the $700 bucks. The iphone was "free". But you took back the Blackberry - which was then technically unmarketable once you brought it back (they certainly couldn't have just cleaned it up and handed it to another customer) - and they made you pay for that excess by charging you for the iphone.

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Response to Plucketeer (Reply #16)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:43 PM

18. I never had an IPhone

I got a Blackberry Curve which I took back. And yes, they absolutely do clean them up and give them to other customers.

I paid outright full price for the upgraded Blackberry. No credits, nothing.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:09 PM

13. What carrier was that?

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Response to midnight (Reply #13)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:17 PM

25. AT&T

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #25)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 06:36 PM

46. Thank you...

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:32 PM

37. That is your perogative

but I will tell them to fuck off and apply the rule of first sale that has centuries of precedence. When I purchase something it is mine to use as I see fit. If I buy a blender and want to turn it into a toaster I will do so, corporo-facists be damned.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:34 AM

5. Dumb law. You own the phone. The carrier does not.

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Response to randome (Reply #5)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:36 AM

6. It's been done before.

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Response to sadbear (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:38 AM

7. Maybe the difference today, though, is that a phone is not just a phone. It's a mini-computer.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:43 AM

9. what is the word for 10x ridiculous?

unlocked you get 4x the battery life and no stupid bloatware.

is that all new phones or new CONTRACTS?

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:10 PM

14. Not sure how to unlock or even know what that means to unlock?

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:33 PM

17. the punishment strikes me as excessive

but when you get a phone at a reduced cost from a carrier that carrier has a right to hold you to its contract.

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Response to dsc (Reply #17)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:46 PM

22. They do have the right to hold you to the contract. If you want out you pay an early termination

to defray the cost of the handset.

I for one prefer to be a defender of consumer rights over that of AT&T's so I may be biased in my analysis.

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Response to Ed Suspicious (Reply #22)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:35 PM

38. But once the contract period is done, you own the phone

and you should be able to unlock it, jailbreak it, root it, or throw it in the air and blast it with a skeet gun.

All with no "punishment".

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Response to dsc (Reply #17)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:35 PM

39. not all contracts are legal

First Sale supercedes DMCA.

And this is a problem of the grey area of DMCA. It was never meant to cover this bullshit.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:45 PM

20. Good god.

It's well past time to slap this crap down, and hard.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:45 PM

21. This must be a joke!

Onion worthy

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:53 PM

23. Is it still a crime to tear the tags off of pillows?

Too many politicians who have been in office for too long making too many laws to keep themselves busy.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:14 PM

24. This is seriously fucking outrageous.

Ten years in prison.....for this? Goddamn. This country really is being taken over by fascists. When are people finally gonna wake the fuck up and realize that we're still in serious trouble?

On a related note, I find it extremely ironic that this article came from a "libertarian" site. Normally these people would be head-over-heels for this stuff......

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:30 PM

27. and many if not most people will go ahead and do it anyway

 

I'd put this crime in the same category as the stern FBI warning you see on all DVD movies about copying or other similar laws that are rarely, if ever, enforced or prosecuted.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:32 PM

28. the correct term is "root" the phone. unlock sounds unsavory.

and its the only way to get rid of frigging FB, on my phone, anyway.

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Response to farminator3000 (Reply #28)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:39 PM

41. No it is not the proper term

rooting and unlocking are not the same although many phones need to be rooted to unlock them.

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Response to MattBaggins (Reply #41)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:56 PM

44. you're right, but they probably don't know or care. both control issues...

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/smartphones/pros-and-cons-of-jailbreaking-or-rooting-your-smartphone/1460

jailbreaking?

Is it legal?

Up until July 26, 2010, jailbreaking or rooting your phone was considered illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That law, enacted in 1998, criminalized the circumvention of access controls technologies. However, the law also gives the Librarian of Congress the power to designate exceptions. This yearís ruling made an exception for software that enables a wireless phone to execute software applications (i.e., jailbreaking or rooting).

Although as far as I can tell, nobody was prosecuted for jailbreaking their phones prior to the legalization, some say Apple did threaten to do so. Note that the ruling only affects criminal prosecution; the ruling doesnít address breach of contract. Therefore, if you signed a contract in which you agree not to jailbreak the phone, it doesnít keep the phone vendors from issuing patches to ďundoĒ your jailbreak or even brick your jailbroken phone.
Why the handset makers and carriers hate it

Donít call up your cellular carrier and ask for help jailbreaking or rooting your phone ó the carriers and the phone makers hate the entire idea. Thatís because it takes control away from them and gives it to the phoneís owner.

Phone manufacturers donít want you to do it because of the small number of cases in which it can make the phone unstable or open it up to security breaches. It then makes them look bad because itís their phone thatís crashing or introducing malware to your network.

Carriers hate it even more because it can cost them money. They even go so far as to ďcrippleĒ features that the phone makers build in, so they can charge you an extra fee for the same service. One example is Wi-Fi hotspot capability, for which carriers charge up to $30 per month when you can do the same thing on a rooted phone with no extra fees using a free or low, one-time-cost app.

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Response to farminator3000 (Reply #44)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 07:29 AM

48. If done correctly, rooting a phone is almost stupid proof

I've rooted several and installed custom Cyanogenmod-based ROMs. The task isn't all that complicated if you at least have an idea of how it all works, and tew importance of a good recovery. Carriers don't like it much because it allows users to uninstall all the crapware that comes with it. And yes, it does open the doors to activities such as Wi-Fi tethering without paying the extra fee. The law says that if we own the phone, we can do whatever the hell we want to it. The only thing they can do is deny warranty service, which seems fair.

I am currently with a no-contract carrier, as I got sick of all the contract B.S. When one purchases a phone outright from a no-contract carrier, they can do whatever the hell they want with it, though most of those phones are locked into a particular carrier.

The law seems like it was designed by AT&T to keep people from taking their old iPhone 3s (and now 4s) to Wal-Mart or T-Mobile to put on their services (which they can do). Under a contact, the carrier is subsidizing your phone (almost like car financing). But when that contract end, the phone is paid off and no obligation remains, customers should have the right to do whatever the want with them, including unlocking and bringing to a rival
compatible carrier.

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Response to LTR (Reply #48)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:24 AM

49. yep, i did it, so...

ok, i'm not stupid, but i don't know a thing about programming or android.

as long as you do enough googling and get the right ROM for your model of phone, it rules.

mine lasts 2 days instead of 6 hours, no constant FB updates (couldn't stop on normal phone), and is seems faster.

ad blocking and backup are sure nice.

Here's rooting in a nutshell: Your Android smartphone is based on Linux. A big, bad, scary computer operating system known only by people with neck beards. (Only, not really. But mostly.) Anyhoo, Android apps need permission to access certain parts of Linux, and not all apps have this special "root" access. That includes a few basic things, like the camera flash, and the ability to take screen shots. There are a bunch of other apps that need root access for other reasons, too, but the basic premise is the same.

So should you root your phone? First thing to do is read this editorial, and decide if you want to go further. Then if you're the type who loves to mess with things, go for it. If you want to squeeze a little more functionality out of your phone, go for it. Need more convincing? Check out "Rooting Q&A -- Is it for me?"
http://www.androidcentral.com/root

OK, so why would I want to root my phone?

Good question! Maybe you donít. Everything in a Linux system is a file, or is treated as a file. Since Android runs on top of Linux, it acts the same way. Most of the files you will need to access or change are available to you without having elevated permissions. "Most" being the key term here. When you want to do things that affect or change the core software of your device -- like updating the version of Android on your phone, or adding a nice piece of software from another device -- you'll have to do it as root. Dream and Magic users have been running Eclair on their phones for a good while now, and itís because they have rooted their device. Rooting also gives you access to some handy software that you couldnít use otherwise. Things like a complete system backup or ad blocking software require you to root your device. Donít root your phone just for the sake of rooting your phone, but if you come across something you feel you could use or would like to have, then consider it. You'll find that the open source community is usually pretty helpful and encouraging new people to do new things is common. And when you get to the point where you can lend a hand to the new folks, pay it forward.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:37 PM

29. This is only on those subsidized (cheap bundled in a contract) locked phones, though.

Usually, after a certain period of time when your commitment was met they'd give you a code to unlock those and you could switch to another carrier with your old phone. Not sure if they will anymore since this law basically doesn't cover that, and most people don't really read their contract to see if that's covered. If not it means that if you leave the carrier, even after your contract is up, you have to get another phone to use a different carrier.

What I'm not understanding, because from what I can tell it's not covered, is what happens if you buyout your contract? Can you then legally unlock the phone since you've met their requirements to change providers? Or are you just SOL for going for a cheap bundled phone in the first place?

This is going to make people look at phone "upgrades" from their carriers in a whole new light. You'd better make sure you're getting a contract that actually will meet your evolving needs for the next two years, because if you don't it may cost you a significant amount more to switch to a new carrier.

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Response to Lone_Star_Dem (Reply #29)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:50 PM

43. That may not be true

This problem comes from the DMCA and covers all phones. This is a law that is above and beyond the contracts and it may now be illegal for all new phones.

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Response to MattBaggins (Reply #43)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:56 PM

45. I should have been more clear.

If you buy an unlocked phone, which is more expensive and not one they bundle in the contract packages, you're fine. That's what I meant, but I left that vital part out of the post. What can I say, it's Monday.



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Response to Lone_Star_Dem (Reply #45)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:12 PM

47. I don't blame you at all

Even the experts aren't sure what this all means since the DMCA legislation was so poorly written.

This irks me to no end since I believe they will try to apply it to tablets and other devices to include making rooting illegal. Will they try to say that I can't put a custom rom on my Nook? They can kiss my ass if they think I won't do exactly as I please with my stuff.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:47 PM

30. Seems really weird to me that the government would get involved in this.

If I bring food to a restaurant, the restaurant may ask me to leave, but I wouldn't get a fine and jail time.

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Response to ZombieHorde (Reply #30)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:53 PM

33. This was why the DMCA raised so many hackles in tech circles

Because it was a pretty unprecedented expansion of power.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:52 PM

32. You can still buy an unlocked phone, you just can't get the subsidy for it from the carrier

Actually it rarely ended up saving you money, since the termination fees were generally so high.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 03:44 PM

42. The poor multi Billion $$$ telecomms need protection.




After all, what's the point of having all those lawyers and lobbyists on the payroll
and all those Congress critters in their pocket if they can't get things their way?


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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:33 AM

50. Original Article

http://www.livescience.com/26541-unlocking-cellphones-becomes-illegal.html

The new rule against unlocking phones won't be a problem for everybody, though. For example, Verizon's iPhone 5 comes out of the box already unlocked, and AT&T will unlock a phone once it is out of contract.

You can also pay full-price for a phone, not the discounted price that comes with a two-year service contract, to receive the device unlocked from the get-go. Apple sells an unlocked iPhone 5 starting at $649, and Google sells its Nexus 4 unlocked for $300.

Advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questions whether the DMCA has the right to determine who can unlock a phone. In an email to TechNewsDaily, EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz said, "Arguably, locking phone users into one carrier is not at all what the DMCA was meant to do. It's up to the courts to decide."

If you do buy a new phone and want to unlock it before the deadline, you must first ask your carrier if the company will unlock your phone for you. The DMCA only permits you to unlock your phone yourself once you've asked your carrier first.

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