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Copyright Used to Make Unlocking a Cellphone Illegal; Where Did It All Go Wrong?

by on25 January 2013 3954 times
despd

If you never thought that Copyright was out of hand then you might be interested to know that Copyright laws are being use to stomp on your right as a consumer to choose the mobile carrier you want and take any devices that you might own with you. The mobile phone industry (hand in hand with the carriers) is trying to put the baseband locks on a phone into the realm of copyrighted material. The way they are doing this is by claiming that the locks protecting the baseband are the same as those found on a DVD or Blu-ray disk. Since they have convinced the US lawmakers that this is so we now find that unlocking your phone (any phone) is illegal and punishable by a minimum of $2,500.

But wait it gets worse from there. Apparently if the carrier in question pushes their luck they can get $500,000 and 5 years in jail. This means that it is now a worse crime to unlock your phone than many violent crimes (in some states). We would love to know the logic that was used to convince law makers in the US that any of this makes sense. We are still wondering how they got around the fair use laws and the fact that a phone is a purchased object and that unlocking the baseband do not allow replication of the device or any other software on it. It simply gives the owner of the phone (who paid for it) the option to choose the carrier that he or she prefers.   

Maybe one day someone will decide to file a suit against the major carriers and the mobile phone makers charging them with price and contract fixing. After all by locking a consumer into a contract and forcing them to buy a new phone to change carriers it is borderline anti-consumer. This has been in discussion in Congress ever since the launch of the iPhone when it was felt that by Apple signing an exclusive agreement with AT&T it created a form of cartel and allowed AT&T to set their prices for service higher than others due to demand.

In the end your right to use your own purchased hardware in the manner of your choosing is being taken away in order to feed corporations that do not want you to change your contract. This feeds their revenue stream and also keeps the phone makers happy as you have to buy a new phone every time you change carriers. We have said this before and it bears repeating; someone needs to remind Congress, the White House and other government agencies who they actually work for and maybe, just maybe they will stop trampling on consumer rights. Then again we saw something like this happening right after the elections; the politicians in power are not worried about their jobs anymore. It is too bad they cannot be fired in a more normal way for failing to do what they promise. I guess there will be a lot of Felons starting tomorrow when unlocking a cellphone becomes illegal…

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Last modified on 25 January 2013
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