A ban making it illegal for Americans to unlock their smartphone, so it runs on more than one mobile network, has gone into effect.

Smartphone users in the US now officially have to get permission to unlock their smartphone, following a ruling handed down by the Librarian of Congress – the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution.

Up until January 26, US consumers were able to ask their carrier to unlock the phone under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but this right has now been removed.

Alternatively, users could buy unlocked versions from manufacturers, but these handsets were normally more expensive than those locked to one network.

Petition launched to US Government

In relation to the hotly-contested change, a We the People petition to the US Government has been set up against the new ruling. Nearly 33,000 people have so far signed it.

The Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal petition says: “Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.

“We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.”

The petition needs about 67,000 more signatures by February 23 this year to reach its goal of 100,000. It will then cross the second threshold and require a response from the US Government.

‘Infringing on firmware copyrights’

The ban on unlocking phones was first announced in October last year by the Librarian of Congress, which found that the procedure amounted to infringing on firmware copyrights.

Smartphone users were given a 90-day time limit that made it legal to unlock phones without permission.

Pop-up sites

Several online services offering to unlock phones for a small fee now seem to have surfaced, and some have said the change will not impact them.

One US registered website openly says it can ‘unlock any iPhone’ and claims its software can find the ‘best unlocking solution’ to do the job.


[Image via webanywhere]