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Unlocking smartphones without permission illegal after Friday

January 25, 2013|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • Starting on Saturday, it'll be illegal to unlock smartphones without carrier permission, but people can buy devices that come already unlocked.
Starting on Saturday, it'll be illegal to unlock smartphones without… (Apple )

A change to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that makes it illegal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices without the permission of their carrier goes into effect Saturday.

Carriers lock smartphones -- which they typically subsidize in the U.S. -- as a way to prevent their customers from getting a cellular plan with a different company.

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Users unlock phones when they want to switch carriers, sometimes after the phone's original contract has run out, or so they can use it when going abroad.

The change was made because the Librarian of Congress determined that consumers have a number of alternatives to unlocking devices, including buying devices that come already unlocked.

Users who want to unlock their devices before it becomes illegal at midnight can head over to iFixit, which opposes the change and has a variety of links on how to unlock phones.

"For many users, unlocking a phone is a necessary fix, opening up a feature and freedom that people need to effectively use their devices," a blog post by iFixit says. "The Copyright Office’s decision to outlaw this right of ownership hurts users and further empowers carriers to trap consumers."

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