Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Law Effective Today: It's Illegal to Unlock Your Cellphone

Posted By on Sat, Jan 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM

In a bizarre but little-known law that goes into effect today, it's now illegal for you to unlock your cellphone without your carrier's permission.

Chances are that when you purchased your cellphone from your carrier (i.e. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon,) the device would only work through the carrier's cell and data network. That is, unless you "unlocked" the device, by replacing the SIM card or took the phone to another carrier for service.

But beginning today, something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act no longer allows phone unlocking unless you have the initial carrier's permission.

"It wasn't a good ruling," Rebecca Jeschke, a digital-rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told ABC News. "You should be able to unlock your phone. This law was meant to combat copyright infringement, not to prevent people to do what they want to do with the device they bought."

What's the worst-case scenario? A civil offense could be hit with as much as a $2,500 fine. Anyone trying to profit off of the act, such as a cellphone reseller, could face a $500,000 fine and prison time.

But feds add that if your phone has been previously unlocked, you're grandfathered in and won't face any legal issues.

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