The Economic Implications of Making Cell Phone Unlocking Illegal


The Librarian of Congress, though the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) has decided that unauthorized unlocking of cellphones would be illegal and provided a 90-day window for compliance. The window closes tomorrow and with that, we’re curious about the implications for not only consumers, but the unlocking industry. There’s potentially thousands of jobs that are affected by an attempt on the part of the government to shut down the unlocking industry. Is this legislation good for the economy in the long run? We reached out to our friends at to get their reaction. Read on for more.

Here is the official legislation:

“Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable a wireless telephone handset originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, if the operator of the wireless communications network to which the handset is locked has failed to unlock it within a reasonable period of time following a request by the owner of the wireless telephone handset, and when circumvention is initiated by the owner, an individual consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of the computer program in such wireless telephone handset, solely in order to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, and such access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.”

It’s pretty convoluted but it seems like you still have the right to request it to be unlocked and that might help your case if they don’t respond but the government tries to come after you. But all this is legal speak wrapped in so many “ifs” that it makes your eyes cross.

For comment, we reached out to our friends at to see what they thought. Here’s their response:

“After reading that unlocking cell phones is becoming illegal in the US, I’m absolutely baffled. It’s like saying after you’ve bought a house can’t redecorate. If you buy a mobile phone, then you’ree the rightful owner. If you want to switch carriers for cheaper service then you should have the option to take yourself to an independent unlocking website such as ours and purchase an unlocking code.

Now, we undertand the carrier’s position that if you opt into a contract with them, you’re getting a deal and you have no option but to stick with the carrier until the contract is up. But what happens if you want to go away on holiday and the plan that the service provider offers is too expensive? It’s important that the consumer be able to use an independent travel SIM with companies that specialize in cheap roaming calls and SMS. To do this, you’ll need to unlock the phone, but this legislation is at odds with this scenario. Even if the carrier is able to compete with independent service providers, this legislation seems bad for the economy as it would make thousands of small businesses illegal.

If you buy a phone you should have the right to tamper with it as you rightfully own that cell phone. Making cell phone unlocking illegal would put thousands of unlocking websites out of business. I the owner of and would really struggle as this is my only source of income and I’m not trained in any other sector. The government really needs to rethink the implications of this legislation.”

So like an email, we’ll sign off on this post with “thoughts?”.

  • Tutibreaker Designs

    just like music indutry, they want a monopoly. ignoring the costumers rights

  • knottyrope

    with AT&T you dont own the phone until your contract is up, then carrier can unlock for free when up.

  • slam

    ALL this does is add more cell phones to the land fill.

  • Wethepeople

    This is a lose/lose for small businesses that offer this beneficial service and for consumers. This is a limitation on our freedom of choice. We use cell phones to communicate and this limits this freedom being imposed by our government with the influence of large cellular companies. It’s the same tactics the music industry tried to do and we all saw how that turned out.