Law changed to allow 'unlocking' cellphones - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Law changed to allow 'unlocking' cellphones

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) — It just got a little easier to swap cellphone providers.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law on Friday making it legal once again to unlock a cellphone without permission from your wireless provider, so long as the service contract has expired.

Copyright law prohibits circumventing digital locks on technological devices. But for several years, cellphones were granted an exemption by government copyright lawyers as a way of making it easier for consumers to change carriers and recycle old phones. Then under industry pressure, the Library of Congress — which oversees copyright law — agreed to let the exemption lapse as of January 2013, infuriating consumer advocates who say phone owners should be able to do whatever they want with a device once a contract expires.

"Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judicairy Committee and co-sponsor of the bill.

Wireless providers have said digital locks on cellphones protect their business model: phones are often sold at a steep discount in exchange for long-term service contracts. If a consumer doesn't want to be tied to a particular carrier, they can always pay the higher price of a device that's already unlocked, industry officials say.

The Library of Congress agreed with that logic in its latest ruling. But public backlash was fierce and several wireless providers responded by outlining a set of voluntary industry standards for unlocking. Consumer advocates said the process remained slow and cumbersome. They wanted tech-savvy consumers to be able to unlock phones by themselves or use a third-party, which the new legislation allows.

The bill doesn't apply to other wireless devices such as tablets, but directs the Library of Congress to consider whether consumers should be allowed to unlock those as well.

The legislation is only effective until the Library of Congress issues its next ruling, most likely in late 2015. But consumer advocates hope that the popular legislation will be enough to convince the federal office that it should continue to allow unlocking.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents major wireless providers including AT&T, Sprint Corporation, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless, said in a statement: "Even though the vast majority of Americans enjoy upgrading to new devices once their contract terms are fulfilled, we recognize that some consumers may want to unlock their devices to move to another carrier." It noted, however, that even though the phone is unlocked it might not work on other carriers because platforms and spectrum holdings vary.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Preliminary hearing for deadly fight in Gaslamp

    Preliminary hearing for deadly fight in Gaslamp

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 5:27 PM EDT2014-09-16 21:27:28 GMT
    A judge will decide Tuesday if there's enough evidence to send a man to trial for throwing a deadly sucker punch. 
    A judge will decide Tuesday if there's enough evidence to send a man to trial for throwing a deadly sucker punch.  
  • Minimum school days and power saving initiatives

    Minimum school days and power saving initiatives

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 5:16 PM EDT2014-09-16 21:16:27 GMT
    The record-setting late- summer heat wave that has had San Diego County sweltering is expected to begin to ease up Tuesday night, but -- in terms of causing misery -- lower temperatures may be offset by humidity from Tropical Storm Odile, forecasters said. 
    The record-setting late- summer heat wave that has had San Diego County sweltering is expected to begin to ease up Tuesday night, but -- in terms of causing misery -- lower temperatures may be offset by humidity from Tropical Storm Odile, forecasters said. 
  • California drivers must give bikes 3-foot buffer

    California drivers must give bikes 3-foot buffer

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 3:27 PM EDT2014-09-16 19:27:52 GMT
    Californians will now need to take extra care to steer clear of cyclists. 
    Californians will now need to take extra care to steer clear of cyclists. 
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and Midwest Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.