All Things D, By Bonnie Cha, January 25
The practice of unlocking cellphones without carrier permission so you can use a device with another network will be illegal starting on Jan. 26.
The new law, which applies to devices purchased after today, came about in October when the Library of Congress’ Register of Copyrights, which determines exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ruled that unlocking cellphones and tablets without carrier permission should be illegal.
In its decision (PDF), the Copyright Office said there is now “a wide array of unlocked phone options available to consumers,” so reversing the unlocking policy would not have an adverse effect. At the time of the ruling, the Copyright Office provided a 90-day grace period, which ends tomorrow.
Unlocking a cellphone usually requires entering a code or using some third-party service to remove restrictions on a phone that lock it down to a specific carrier.
Once unlocked, you can use a handset with any compatible network. Aside from the freedom of being able to move between providers, it’s also useful for those traveling overseas, who can simply buy a local SIM card and pop it into their phone — a cheaper alternative to a domestic carrier’s international roaming charges.