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Unlocking Cell Phones Will Be Illegal in the U.S. Come Sunday

by Todd Haselton | January 24, 2013January 24, 2013 4:30 pm PST

iPhone unlock passcode

This is so bizarre, especially because we own the devices, but apparently it will be illegal to unlock phones starting on Sunday. I always unlock my phones, especially if I have a carrier locked unit that I want to use overseas with a cheaper SIM card, and it usually costs around $50. What does it do? Basically, you can pop in any other SIM card, not just the one your carrier provides, and use the device. This, of course, falls within the limits of the network your phone runs on in the first place.

The move is part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, originally created against hackers, and basically prevents users like you and I from going to a third party and paying for an unlock code.

Sure, you can still get an unlocked phone if you buy one, and AT&T will unlock a device if you’ve satisfied your two-year contract. Meanwhile, as TechNewsDaily notes, you can also buy phones such as the iPhone 5 on Verizon, which is unlocked and ready to go right away.

My question is this: how strict will the government be? Is it illegal in the sense that I can’t download music (even though it’s readily available to do so), or is it illegal in sense that people are watching and actively going after the providers of unlock codes? My guess is that it’s the former, but we’ll see.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...