eWeek.com, a website for technology news, opinions and reviews, reports that as of today, Jan. 26, unlocking smartphones without a service provider's permission is illegal.
A Library of Congress ruling has gone into effect that prohibits smartphone users from circumventing copyright protection systems — systems that enable a phone to run on only the network of the carrier that sold it. For example, if you purchase an iPhone with AT&T service, that phone is programmed to only connect to AT&T's network. If you want an unlocked phone, one that you could connect to multiple service providers, you'll have to buy it that way — and it's more expensive — or ask your carrier to send you an unlock code, which could be unlikely.
"Imagine buying a car equipped with software that prevents you from taking certain roads — and being legally barred from disabling the software!" Mark Sullivan writes for PCWorld.
"That decision was made not by voters, the courts, or even Congress," Sullivan continues. "It was made by one man, 83-year-old Congressional Librarian James Hadley Billington, who is responsible for interpreting the meaning of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)."
Sullivan says there is "big money" at stake with the decision.
"The unlocking ban will simply help keep subscribers locked in post-paid plans (reducing 'churn')," he writes. "And phone locking is the carriers’ main instrument for keeping people locking in two-year, post-paid contracts."
What do you think about the decision making unlocking smartphones illegal? Have you already unlocked your phone or will you spend the extra money to purchase one that is unlocked? Tell us in comments.