Copyright authorities in Washington have recently started to take a dim view of people who want to switch their cellphone from one carrier to another -- a practice called "unlocking".
But now, unlockers are getting some support from the White House.
"It was kind of a big surprise," says Molly Wood, executive editor at CNET. "White House senior advisor R. David Edelman blogged about the fact that the White House agrees that people should be able to unlock cellphones without running afoul of copyright law."
Experts say the guardians of copyright at the Library of Congress see unlocking a phone as a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which typically governs pirated software.
But this debate does not call into question contracts with mobile phone companies. Early termination penalties would still apply for anyone who wants to severe ties with their service provider.