White House Supports Cell Phone Unlocking


Mike Gerwitz

Earlier this week, the starter of the White House petition to “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal”[0] posted a thread on Hacker News[1] stating that the White House had officially responded[0], stating:

The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.[0]
The petition—as stated in the above response—garnered over 114,000 signatures. The response is exciting news because the Library of Congress had removed the phone unlocking exemption[2] at the beginning of this year. (As the EFF points out, this may not necessarily mean that unlocking your phone is “illegal”[3]).

However, although this response is getting a lot of attention (I was surprised to see my local news station report on it), this is not yet cause for celebration; it is my hope that the White House will now follow through with this statement and act upon it appropriately.

(The EFF has also posted their own comments on the White House's response[4].)

This is just one issue in a string of problems that is the DMCA[5].

[0] https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-unlocking-cell-phones-legal/1g9KhZG7

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5319577

[2] http://mikegerwitz.com/2013/01/Phone-Unlocking-Once-Again-Illegal

[3] https://www.eff.org/is-it-illegal-to-unlock-a-phone

[4] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/white-house-supports-unlocking-phones-real-problem-runs-deeper

[5] https://www.eff.org/wp/unintended-consequences-under-dmca