White House petition demands cellphone unlocking remain legal

Thanks to a new federal policy that took effect on January 26 in the US, unlocking a certain group of mobile phones has become illegal in the country, much to the chagrin of some users. A new petition has been created that urges the Obama government to repeal this move and make unlocking legal.

The Librarian of Congress back in October 2012 had made the unlocking of mobile phones illegal under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Librarian, responsible for determining who is exempt from strict anti-hacking law, had provided for a 90-day window during which people were still able to unlock phones. The window period ended on Saturday, making any more unlocking a federal crime, in violation of the DMCA.

WIll the US government change its mind? (Image Credits: Getty Images)

WIll the US government change its mind? (Image Credits: Getty Images)


Many groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have been against this move, questioning its legitimacy. It has argued that the move is anti-competitive and will produce a lot of electronic waste as people will have to purchase new handsets when they switch carriers.

Unlocking phones gives consumers the power to use devices with specific carriers even after their contract has expired. Now, users will also be unable to use a handset of their preference on a carrier of their choice, having to rely on the handsets the carriers officially have available.

An official petition to the US government has come up requesting the administration to turn this move back. Started by ‘S.K.’ from San Fransisco, California, the petition says, “The Librarian of Congress decided in October 2012 that unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the DMCA. As of January 26, consumers will no longer be able unlock their phones for use on a different network without carrier permission, even after their contract has expired.”

S.K. continued, “Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full. The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.”

S.K. signed off saying that this petition asked that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.

The petition, which requires 100,000 signatures by February 23, has already amassed well over 25,000 in less than a week’s time. The petition will go up in front of the Obama administration if it manages to reach its target.

Published Date: Jan 28, 2013 15:54 PM | Updated Date: Jan 28, 2013 15:54 PM