After Whitehouse responded to the petition to legalize unlocking, a new bill has been introduced to re-legalize unlocking. This signals – to a large extent – the high possibility of unlocking become legal.
Unlocking, to those who don’t know about it, is a process by which you get to use any SIM-card (or carrier) on your phone which is usually locked to one particular carrier. Users of AT&T are popularly known to be with strict locked smartphones which can be unlocked only after the contract is over. However, jailbreaking allows for users to unlock their smartphones even before the contract is done with.
An expiration of a clause in the DMCA makes unlocking illegal. The Library of Congress had, in October last year, decided to change the laws to make unlocking a potential crime without the permission of the carrier. So if you wanted to unlock your iPhone (locked under an AT&T contract), you had to get a written consent from AT&T that explicitly allows you to unlock your iPhone.
The bottom-line question that people raised was: when I pay for a device, why shouldn’t I have full-rights over the device? That led to petitions on the White House website and websites like FixtheDMCA.com.
Thankfully, the White House sided with the 114,000+ consumers who petitioned asking for the legalization of unlocking processes. This has what brought the bill into forefront and I’m hoping that the widespread coverage along with the support for legalization would push the Library of Congress to retract completely and allow for a complete unlock legalization.
But doubts do prevail. While jailbreaking is legal, there are exceptions. You cannot jailbreak a tablet but in the petition response White House has pointed to this too. However, it would be interesting to watch the proceedings of how the legalization of unlocking is implemented and how it affects other jailbreak rules.
In the context, AT&T published a bottom-line on its blog saying that it has always been in favor of unlocking but its replete with hidden disclaimers: AT&T customers are free to unlock their smartphones once their contract is over. But a look at the comments on the blog looks like bad PR for the company.