Mobile phone monogamy: Should unlocking your cellphone be illegal?

Unlocking your phone might not be illegal, but you still might get in trouble with the law for doing it.

At what point can you cut the tie between your cellphone and your phone company? An online petition has just raised enough signatures to get the White House to take a second look at whether unlocking a cellphone, that is, switching the phone from one carrier to another, should be against the law.

Officials say unlocking violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the same way people are not supposed to break into copy protection systems for movies or music.

Slate Tech blogger Will Oremus joins Marketplace Tech host David Brancaccio to explain the pros and cons of cellphone unlocking.

About the author

Will Oremus is a tech blogger for Slate.
Log in to post2 Comments

How does unlocking the phone allow access to violate copywrite that a locked phone doesn't? And if it doesn't, why does the DMCA apply at all?

The DMCA's purpose is to protect copywrite protection schemes. But unlocking the phone doesn't have anything to do with unlocking copywrite protection, rather it has to do with allowing the phone to access alternate networks. This is no different than when printer manufacturers used software and the DMCA to try to prevent people from using aftermarket ink cartridges. I believe that the justice system found that to be an illegal practice.

This should not be illegal. It's just for the cell phone companies to bind you to their network. Most At&t phones work on T-Mobile, for example, after they're unlocked. Also, unlocking apparently raises the value of your phone.

With Generous Support From...