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US Copyright Chief Breaks Handset Locks

Article Comments  100+  

Nov 24, 2006, 4:08 PM   by (staff)

The Librarian of Congress, who is responsible for rulings on copyright in the US has granted an exemption that will allow users to take their handset with them if they switch carriers. The change, which takes effect Monday, allows users to bypass software locks on handsets with or without a carrier's help to lawfully bring their phones with them to a new network. The ruling found that software locks like SIM locks or SPC codes on handsets were not covered by the DMCA because they are designed to protect a business model instead of preventing copyright infringement. While this ruling covers SIM locks and other handset-based locks, the ruling does not prevent CDMA networks from refusing to allow a user's phone on a network. The exemption will last for at least three years, but the Librarian of Congress could be asked to review the exemption in a future DMCA evaluation, which happen every three years.

more info at Ars Technica »
more info at Library of Congress »



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Nov 30, 2006, 11:25 AM

Try It

has anyone tried to get the unlock code from a company yet
Yes they will give it to you... It all depends on who you talk to...
Your missing the point. Its never been illegal for a carrier to give you the unlock code. Getting the phone unlocked through a 3rd party was a gray area due to the DMCA before this ruling.

Nov 25, 2006, 9:43 AM

Simply Put

Does this now mean I can purchase, for example, a k1m motorola from Sprint and activate it and use it on the Verizon Netork?
We'll just have to wait and see..... Shocked
yes but after you purchase and before you activate, there's going to be a lot of work to do, some of which may still be illegal

not sure if changing ESN numbers is illegal, is it?
In theory yes, though unlocking a phone more traditionally applies to GSM based phones. The problem, as mentioned by several others and the article, is that this does not prevent carriers, such as Verizon, from restricting the ESNs on their network.
Verizon uses BREW as it's data language, Sprint uses JAVA like most of the industry. To use the K1m's features on Verizon would be impossible. It would be the same for a Verizon phone on Sprint. In either case you would have a voice only phone and an ...
Why would you even want to? If you have a sprint phone the only thing you could do is make calls and txt message, no mobile web, GIN, or whatever.. it's just a lot easier don't you think?
Sp3c1al Ed

Nov 25, 2006, 1:51 PM


I wasn't able to open the entire article, as I am at work. Do companies have the right to decline new customers an unlock code?

Since it is the holiday season, and most companies are going to give away some huge discounts on phone pricing, what stops customers from activating with Company A, getting their unlock code, then cancel Company A to bring their phone to their existing account with company B? Will company A get screwed? Will the employee get a huge chargeback? Is there anything to protect the company ore saleperson?

Like I said, I wasn't able to read the entire article, just had a few questions.
I think that's what part of the ETF (early termination fee) is for.
This is the good cell you have
Well, that is what the early cancelation fee is for, but with most companies, they are now offering deals where you have so many days to try out the network and phone and you can cancel with no strings attached. But, with Cingular, you have to give al...

Nov 29, 2006, 5:15 PM

Big mess

Am i the only one on here that thinks this is going to be a bigger pain than it is worth in the long run? Its true, you can unlock a phone and switch, but then some of the features may not work on a different carrier. I work for a cell phone company and when you really think about all the pros and cons, is it really worth taking the chance to loose some of the feature functions just so you can bring your phone with you to another carrier? I could be biased on this issue, but I really dont think it is worth all the trouble for the consumer and for the cell phone carrier.

Nov 27, 2006, 2:45 AM

What about?

What about features and user interfaces and such? I mean if I have a T-Mobile phone and want to switch to Cingular.... how will the features work, because the features will be originally compatible with T-Mobile?
if u unlock your t-mobile phone and bring to cingular the Picture mail and the internet wont work.only vocie and data.

Example 1 (that work)say t-mobile razr. the software in it wont let u edit the Picture mail and internet for cingular. so u have ...

Nov 25, 2006, 5:25 PM

Verizon software??

Does this mean if you have a Verizon phone and they block you from using bluetooth with there software, if I unlock it I will be able to use bluetooth?
Problem is many of the phones don't come with the hardware for full bluetooth capability in the first place!
vzw doesn't lock their phones... also my new 8600 has full BT support.

Nov 27, 2006, 1:38 PM

What's the difference?

If I unlock a SE W810i for Cingular, what will change with the phone? Am I risking anything by unlocking it?

Thanks for any info you can give.
You don't risk anything by unlocking it. But if it is a cingular branded phone and you try to use it [unlocked] on TMobile you might find some of the features don't work correctly. Cingular specific applications won't work on TMobile and vice versa....

Nov 25, 2006, 9:05 PM

Sidekick for cingular

Now will I be able to get a sidekick for cingy that i can actually use the data part and the full potential of the sidekick
...in theory. Good luck with it though. And let us know how it works out for you
As it stands right now, Cingular would have to add a service they do not have.
ATT Wireless

Nov 28, 2006, 8:47 AM

Better Late than never.

I've been unlocking my own phones for a few years now. But this is good in that it makes GSM look even more desirable. CDMA customers will have a lot of problems with trying to bring thier phone to a different carrier.

Everytime I unlock a phone to use with my carrier I go to www.nokiusa.com to order the settings for the phone. (I only use and unlock Nokia phones)

Nov 24, 2006, 4:32 PM

So like it said

This really means nothing

"the ruling does not prevent CDMA networks from refusing to allow a user's phone on a network because of ESN regulations"
gunny said:
This really means nothing

"the ruling does not prevent CDMA networks from refusing to allow a user's phone on a network because of ESN regulations"

Which I interpreted to mean ESN's without GPS or any...
So this does in fact mean that if you have a Cingular Sim Locked phone and change to T-Mobile, that Cingular HAS TO UNLOCK IT?? Please tell me thats the case.....
I'll disagree with you on this one. Sure, it means nothing to all of our CDMA brethern out there, and it honestly doesn't impact our GSM users because of the prevalence of unlocking services out there, but- It does chip away at the overwhelming powe...
gunny said:
This really means nothing

"the ruling does not prevent CDMA networks from refusing to allow a user's phone on a network because of ESN regulations"

Well, let's here it for one more useless United Stat...

Nov 27, 2006, 4:55 PM

Prepaid Phones

? since some prepay carriers like revol, cricket and those who offer you unlimited minutes all day every day with no contract are they exempt from this, basically can I take a sprint or verizon phone over to one of the carriers as long as its on the same network

Nov 27, 2006, 3:31 PM

Is the sky falling on the current wireless business model?

Could this be the first step in additional legislation to limit the use of carrier subsisies? Consumers Union continues to push no contract post paid phones with a uniform technology. Will they get a sympathetic ear in the new Congress?

Nov 25, 2006, 7:59 AM

my imagination

i upgraded my cell ph to Motorola KRZR K1m from VZW when it comes out...then i was not happy with VZW user interface firmware...i returned it to VZW...and then...i bought KRZR K1M Alltel version from Motorola...at first, i couldn't registered Alltel K1m's ESN through VZW web site...i guess VZW put me back on the 2year contract...so it's like i m tied to that cell ph within 2year...but but...finally i called VZW 611, i wanted to change my cellph that i bought from Moto...and the attendent asked where i got this ph and why i changed, so on...i used common sense not to tell this is the ph intended for Alltel...That attendent could be able to know what kind of ph and what model is...just running ESN and decoding it...my guess is VZW keeps ESN fo...
At first, we could carry our own number to any carrier.

Now we might carry our cell phone handsets to any compatible wireless network.

What would be next?

According to the limitations of some stingy wireless carriers, we consumers are discrim...

Nov 25, 2006, 10:20 AM

When is this taking effect?

As an indirect Verizon store unlocking other peoples phones could be another good thing for us to offer as a service. Before I get too crazy... is it even possible to unlock a gsm phone and have it put onto a cdma network...

And obviously you can not use other companies services then...correct? Like you can't use instant messenger service for sidekicks on Verizon (especially since they cant bill you) And how will companies react to this....the systems are only prepared for certain ESNs or DECs hopefully someone smarter than I can fill me in.
CDMA = Verizon, Sprint, Alltel, US Cellular
GSM = Cingular, Verizon, Cell One Dobson
iDen = Nextel, SouthernLINC
you cant use gsm phones on cdma and vice versa, unless they have a capability for doing both.

"unlocking" a gsm phone means having the ability to put in a different carrier's sim card and the phone working... but say if you bought a cingular phone,...

Nov 24, 2006, 4:32 PM

what does this mean?

so, does this mean that carriers will be forced to give out unlock codes for gsm phones? does this mean that all phones sold from now on will be unlocked right out of the box?
Usually it isnt a problem with T-Mobile since they'll supply the unlock code after 90 days of continuous service. But hopefully the phones will come unlocked from the provider, or will have less hassle of getting it unlocked.

Just have to wait and...
Just because it's legal to unlock a phone doesn't mean it's illegal to lock a phone.

Nov 25, 2006, 12:19 PM

Imagine That...

wireless carriers preventing people from using their own property as they see fit is now no longer allowed.

I hope this is the first step of many in favor of consumers versus corporate profits.

I must also include the cursory, I told you so, to people who said this would never happen.

Very Happy
captainplooky said:
wireless carriers preventing people from using their own property as they see fit is now no longer allowed.

I hope this is the first step of many in favor of consumers versus corporate profits.

I must also
Wireless Buddy

Nov 24, 2006, 8:15 PM

Next step...

CDMA! Let me use a Fusic on my Verizon number!
I have the Fusic and I'm really enjoying it much more so then any phone that is on my verizon account. The Fusic is a very cool phone

Good Luck Smile

Nov 24, 2006, 6:53 PM

I know what this means

You can get your phones unlocked at Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, and Walmart now because they don't have to be scared of Cingular or T-Mobile suing them!
And I hope this means unlocking won't be a whole $25 now.
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