Washington: It is now illegal to unlock your mobile phone without your carrier’s permission.
The U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress are no longer allowing phone unlocking as an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is starting Sunday.
Rebecca Jeschke, a digital rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told ABC News, that it was not a good ruling, adding that ‘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.’
Of course, the carriers prefer the new rule because it ties your phone to their network. U.S. cellular carriers sell phones at a subsidized or discounted rate with a contract.
You pay the network for service on a monthly basis and they give you the phone for a cheaper price than it actually is worth.
When it was legal, people may have unlocked their phone to resell it when they upgraded to a newer model or to use it with an overseas carrier and take advantage of local rates when they traveled abroad.
According to the report, Brad Shear, a Washington, D.C.-area attorney and blogger who is an expert on social media and technology law, said that violations of the DMCA [unlocking your phone] may be punished with a civil suit or, if the violation was done for commercial gain, it may be prosecuted as a criminal act.
He added that ‘a carrier may sue for actual damages or for statutory damages’.
The worst-case scenario for an individual or civil offense could be as much as 2,500 dollars fine.
As for those planning to profit off of the act or a criminal offense -- such as a cellphone reseller -- the fine could be as high as 500,000 dollars and include prison time, the report added.
First Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013, 18:36