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back to article Don't like your cell network? Legal unlocking ends TONIGHT in US

Unlocking a phone to use it with another carrier will be illegal in America from midnight tonight unless the cellphone is already in your hands. Freeing a phone from a particular network used to be allowed, but under last October's reinterpretation of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that right disappears from all …

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Legal, illegal, scheissegal

The carriers try to hide the real cost of their offerings. I would have thought that unlocking the phone is the legitimate defense of the customer who got lured. Legitimate no longer, it seems ... can't be long until the European jurisdictions follow the leadership of the revered US.

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Meh

So glad

Not to be an American't......

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Anonymous Coward

So

If I travel to the US with my iphone and iPad, both jail broken and unlocked do I get arrested as I enter the country, then jailed or fined?

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Re: So

Of course not. First, because you already have the things, so aren't covered by a rule that takes effect tomorrow. Second, and ultimately more relevantly, the issue lies with the process of unlocking; the locked/unlocked end states are both totally legal, the problem is the mechanism to go from one to the other.

Sane carriers (of which there aren't many, but T-Mobile surprisingly is one) are happy to unlock phones ON REQUEST, as long as you've had the thing for a certain period of time (typically, 90 days) and are current on your bill (the 90 day part is to prevent people buying phones on contract, unlocking and reselling them "as new"; they can still do this, of course, but they'll have to wait 3 months before they do).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So

Wouldn't put money on it - the septics are fond of prosecuting you for breaking their laws elsewhere.

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Pirate

Re: So

Great comment.

Remember that US laws apply to the whole globe. Unlock your phone in the UK and take it to the US and end up being someones bitch in a US Federal Prison.

Another crazy US Law (like being put on the Sex Offenders register for life for taking a leak in public.)

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Unhappy

Re: So glad

A fair amount of snark in your comment, I'll choose to ignore.

I am an American until at least midnight, it seems, and I had no idea that my merkinesque person was in jeprody until I read this article.

Could somebody at El Reg promise me I'm not waking up Scandanavian ? Tropics would be good, Australia fine for the rest of the Summer although I'd have to learn the language ...

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Re: So

>Septics

It stinks, doesn't it?

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Re: So

It's just like the gun laws....nothing will change. People will still unlock their phones just like people will still buy guns. Downloading media is illegal also and carries a stiffer penalty, guess what, go look up the statistics on what was D/L the most and by how many people.

And the part about sex offenders, look in your own backyard. The ONLY people I have ever heard of being a sex offender aren't just urinating in public.

But it DOES sound like you have a few issues by mentioning being someones "bitch" and "sex offender", and THAT sounds just like what we've come to expect of YOUR country.

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Devil

Re: ...the septics are fond of prosecuting you...

Woah there, buddy! There's no need to call our Merkin friends diseased, now!

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You can't "download media"

That would be like faxing paper to a fax machine. The whole point about downloading is that you don't need any media.

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Re: ...the septics are fond of prosecuting you...

I don't believe that septic used in this way is down to that usage of the word. Instead it's "septic tank, yank" - as in rhyming slang. Although I'm not sure where "yank" originates from...

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Re: ...the septics are fond of prosecuting you...

'yank' comes from the dutch 'Jankees'; a common name/nickname for the settlers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So

>If I travel to the US with my iphone and iPad, both jail broken and unlocked do I get arrested as I enter the country, then jailed or fined?

Technically, they could probably just have you extradited now.......take the plea bargain, you'll be out in 6 months.

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Windows

Re: So

Of course not. He'd be extradited instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So

"Another crazy US Law (like being put on the Sex Offenders register for life for taking a leak in public.)"

Is that true? I'd like to see them go to France one day, where pissing on the street appears to be every Frenchman's duty.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Legal, illegal, scheissegal

"Freeing a phone from a particular network used to be allowed, but under last October's reinterpretation of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that right disappears from all handsets bought from Saturday. Jail-breaking devices - to allow the installation of third-party apps - will remain legal, only not on tablets."

Jesus - this is fucking bullshit.

Reminds me of the US laws that the rigged meat industry got created, that stopped people from criticizing their shitty and unhealthy and unethical practices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_libel_laws

The more I hear about this DRM nazification - from "Oh you can't rip your own CD's and put them on your thumbdrive", this, "Oh you can't remove the network locking on your own phone."...

Most of the network providers in Australia, that DO provide locked phones, also give $5000 worth of free calls per month, billed at $100 a minute and shit like that - before they start charging you at some outrageous rate.

Buy the cheap shit Samsung, unlocked, plain clamshell phone, for $40 from the Kmart or some supermarket.

Fuck the networks.

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Re: Legal, illegal, scheissegal

"Legal, illegal, scheissegal "

Yes, carriers do their best to OBFUSCATE their costs but can't HIDE them outright. A discerning customer is able to work out more or less what they'll be spending, and if they sign a contract they are acknowledging that they are getting a free / cheap phone in return for staying with the network for the contract duration.

Unlocking a contract phone while still on contract to go to another carrier is a breach of contract, and the only way it is justified is if the carrier changes their terms halfway through (ie it's the supplier who are breaching the terms of contract)

As to the difference between 'phone' and 'tablet', I would have thought it's very simple. Any device, whatever the size, that has a SIM card and is capable of connecting to the mobile phone network is a phone. Anything that is wifi-only is a tablet

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Re: Legal, illegal, scheissegal

I have never understood the thinking behind this.

If you sign a contract say for 12 or 24 months you are paying a monthly fee during that time to the provider to cover the cost of the phone and normally a set amount of minutes, texts and net access etc.

So, why does the provider give a monkeys hoot if you decide to unlock it and use it on another network? You are after all still paying them?

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@James Micallef - Re: Legal, illegal, scheissegal

I'm dubious of the logic behind the proposition that, say, a Nexus 7 changes from a tablet to a phone merely by being bought with or without HSPA.

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Re: @James Micallef - Legal, illegal, scheissegal

"I'm dubious of the logic behind the proposition that, say, a Nexus 7 changes from a tablet to a phone merely by being bought with or without HSPA"

It's only a proposition to establish the legal status of the device. Since when have legal terms kept within the bounds of logic?

:)

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Re: So

Unlock your phone in the UK and take it to the US and end up being someones bitch in a US Federal Prison.

This sort of hyperbole only makes it more difficult to organize public opinion against ill-conceived laws like the DMCA. No rational person is going to take this sort of paranoid ranting seriously.

Tell you what: anyone who's jailed in the US for unlocking their phone in the UK will be personally liberated by me and my Ninja Unicorn Cavalry. How's that?

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Re: So

"Another crazy US Law (like being put on the Sex Offenders register for life for taking a leak in public.)"

Is that true?

It's certainly allowed by the laws of some states. Here in Michigan, public urination itself is a misdemeanor which does not constitute a sex-offender crime, but if there are aggravating circumstances (eg multiple counts, sexual posturing, etc), then the offender could face more serious charges that do entail sex-offender registration. See http://www.lawrefs.com/urinating-in-public-michigan/, for example.

Other states are more draconian about this sort of thing, and while I'm not going to do the research, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are states where a public-urination conviction does entail sex-offender registration. We love our sex-offender registration here in the US; it's our witch-hunt du jour.

I also have no idea how many people, if any, might currently be on their state's registry solely for such an offense. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some.

The more common case that people complain about is the considerable number of registered sex offenders whose only offense was consensual sex when both parties were underage. While teens rolling in the hay might not be a good idea, ruining their lives over it seems a tad over the top, not to mention counterproductive.

Of course, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with the DMCA or unlocking phones.

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Automatic unlocking

I'd object to locking a phone to a network much less if, once the contract has finished and the phone is legally mine, they didn't then extort more money to provide an unlock code. That should be automatically provided without the need to ask for it. Even better if it could be done by a system text message, although I can appreciate such a method is probably more easily hacked than sending something in the post to be manually entered. (I bought my last phone minus contract so it's not locked, thus avoiding the problem.)

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Re: Automatic unlocking

>I'd object to locking a phone to a network much less

Largely with CDMA phones in the US (Verizon, Sprint, etc) the phone is locked to the network due to incompatibilities between networks as opposed to artificial operator restrictions. Not being legally allowed to root a device you own and run whatever software you have rights to run on it is beyond absurd. Obviously now its buyer beware for the geeks but its stupid you even have to worry about it.

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Trollface

absurd you say???

"Not being legally allowed to root a device you own and run whatever software you have rights to run on it is beyond absurd."

now you leave apple's business model alone! it made them one of the most valuable companies on the stock market.... oh hang on a minute..

as you were.

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Anonymous Coward

Am I glad I live in the UK, brought my phone direct from an operator, got my unlock code within a few days for £15... I don't buy phones that are locked unless I can unlock them!

I usually buy from CPW or Vodafone, their phones are usually unlocked..

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re: Am I glad I live in the UK

Of course unless Britain wants to be thought of as an axis of evil/supporter of terrorism it will wish to get alongside the forces of Righteousness and implement these rules itself.

After all we bravely fought Europe for the right to have 1 year warranties rather than 2 - having locked phones is a fundamental sign of Freedom(tm)

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Re: re: Am I glad I live in the UK

Indeed. I once had a right wing American tell me that the NHS in the UK is yet again nothing more than the government controlling our lives.

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Glad I'm Canadian!

Here in Montreal you can find a kiosk that unlocks phones for $20 CAD in almost any shopping mall.

The last two or three phones I've had were pay as you go phones from other networks that I then unlocked to use with my provider. Cheapest way to replace a phone when your baby breaks them.

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For US readers...

Looks like there is a petition that you can 'sign' at http://wh.gov/yA9n

Probably won't help, but it doesn't hurt to try.

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Re: For US readers...

Whoa, nice find! This is one petition I'm going to watch!

This simple petition willd demonstrate exactly how much the US Gov. cares about it's people versus corporations.

I really don't care that they are locking things back down, it just shows where we (I'm American) stand as citizens, right below the corporate bottom line. Go USA!

Anyways, this petition is a very good demonstration of the online petition system effect. If it does get enough signatures, and the law doesn't change, please stop posting links to them, because they will be wholey regarded as an marionette of good will by the US Gov. Yes, I think the online petition system is a 3-Card Monte. Does it work, doesn't it work, does it matter...just keep starring away!

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Nothing to do with all those iphones ending up on tmobs network then.

If the net ops wanted this it will hurt them. I'll just buy an unlocked phone from amazon and use it on mobipcs :-)

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Anonymous Coward

The problem is that most unlocked phones are sold at inflated prices to protect the "carrier subsidy". Look at the price of the Nexus 4 (if you could get one) versus the price of other 4.7 inch phones. Either Google was taking a big loss on each one, or someone is getting ripped off.

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Stop

Look at the price of the Nexus 4 (if you could get one) versus the price of other 4.7 inch phones.

Read the reviews again, paying particular attention to the battery life and memory limitations. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

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Windows

After the contract has expired,

they should be forced to give you the unlock code as ou have paid for the subsidy (?) with your monthly fees...

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Re: After the contract has expired,

Even before the contract has expired, this is ludicrous! Every cellphone contract of which I'm aware has an early termination fee clause. You wanna unlock your subsidized phone? Pay the ETF.

I've also noticed that even with all the crying the operator do about having to subsidize devices, my bill never seems to drop once that "subsidy" is paid off.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: After the contract has expired,

That is why the FCC should have allowed AT&T to buy T-Mobile but put stipulations in place that separates the phone from the plan. If you want a subsidized phone, you pay on it for 24-months and at the end, it gets removed from the bill. You still have the same plan, etc. It would also help in when people lose or just want to upgrade, they see how much they must payoff to get a new phone. The FCC could force change by withholding their votes on mergers and acquisitions unless the carriers provide more customer friendly services.

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Re: After the contract has expired,

Actually, T-Mobile is currently giving me a £4 per month discount for having continued the contract for another 24 months and not requesting an upgrade to my handset.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: £4 per month discount (After the contract has expired)

Yes, I too was offered this amazing discount with T-mobile when I was mulling over whether to keep my current contract and buy a phone outright, at the time £36/month, so would have been £32/month. I'm now signed up for another 24 months @ £36/month.

Some quick maths here:

£36 * 24 = £864

£864 - £500 (cost of Galaxy S3 at the time) = £364

£364 / 24 month = £15 / month for service.

So when my contract runs out, do you think they'll give me a £21/month discount, no, it'll be £4 again. So I'll probably upgrade again. Rinse & repeat.

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Re: £4 per month discount (After the contract has expired)

@ AC 10:18

T-Mob will effectively give you £20/month discount if you switch to their full monty SIM only contract, currently £16/mo unlimited calls/texts/data. When I recently looked at contract phones vs SIM only + unlocked phone it was hard to find any great difference between any of them. With a contract phone you may have the convenience of an automatic upgrade, but SIM only gets you an unlocked phone from the start.

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WTF?

Is it 1. April already?!

My flabber is truely gusted.

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Flame

American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

Good. Neither should you.

Small tablet == okay.

Bulky phone == okay.

Hybrid device == okay.

"Phablet" == stupid, stupid, stupid word.

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Re: American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

American law doesn't acknowledge the existence of lots of things since it's pretty much guaranteed to be constantly behind the times. I always enjoy watching the various state and federal legislatures playing vernacular twister to make new and undefined pegs fit into the existing square holes.

>"Phablet" == stupid, stupid, stupid word.

Really? Here I thought most pholks thought it was phabulous.

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Re: phablet

A phablet is an abnormal growth on a male's ABC*.

*Per Johnny Knoxville, ABC stands for Ass-Ball Connection

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Headmaster

Re: American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

""Phablet" == stupid, stupid, stupid word."

Couldn't agree more. Any ful kno it's a "tone".

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Re: American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

>Phablet

Phlappy?

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Happy

Re: American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

Tablerone.

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Re: American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

No, tablerobes are a bit more triangular than phablets.

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Facepalm

Re: American law does not acknowledge the existence of the phablet.

""Phablet" == stupid, stupid, stupid word."

At least you weren't tormented by the word used by some of the French video game press before the Wii U tablet controller had a proper Nintendo name. A video game controller in general is a "manette". A tablet-type object such as an iPad is a "tablette". The Wii U controller? "Mablette". Ugh.

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