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Unlocking of Carrier-tied Smartphones to Be Illegal Starting Tomorrow, has Nothing to do With Bootloaders

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Back in October of last year, news broke over a change in the legality of unlocking smartphones that were attached to carriers or purchased on-contract. The Librarian of Congress decided that as of January 26, you are no longer allowed to unlock your phone unless given permission by the carrier you purchased it from. Well, there are some ways around that, but for the most part, you are locked onto the carrier you bought your phone from until your contract is up. We should point out that this has nothing to do with “unlocking” the bootloader of your phone. 

So let’s be clear about a couple of things here. First, unlocking a phone in this instance, has nothing to do with rooting or bootloaders – we’re talking about SIM unlocking your phone so that it can work on another carrier. If you want to hack the hell out of your smartphone and unlock its bootloader, feel free to continue to do that for the foreseeable future. Second, you can buy plenty of phones that are already unlocked – like the Nexus 4, which can be used at will on whatever carrier you choose. Third, if you are under contract with say AT&T, but you want to unlock your phone to take it over to T-Mobile, you can ask for permission to do so. I would assume then that AT&T has some sort of policy to decide if they will allow that, and will then provide an unlock key or something to get you on your way. Fourth, this doesn’t affect most Verizon phones (other than the iPhone 5 which comes unlocked on Big Red), as they haven’t ever really been in the business of unlocking, like AT&T and T-Mobile with their GSM networks and phones. There are some exceptions in there, though, as many of their newest phones are global-ready and will work on other carriers if unlocked (DROID DNA for example). Fifth, if you buy phones at full retail, not on-contract, they may come unlocked already.

Why is it that the Librarian of Congress has made this move? Their logic runs off of the idea that they don’t think you should take advantage of a carrier subsidy (cheap phone on contract) and then turn right around and ditch that carrier for another. They also feel that you have plenty of options out there for unlocked phones that don’t involve carriers.

Last, if you are super upset by this news, feel free to join this petition.

This news isn’t all exciting for those who like to purchase phones cheaply from this carrier and plan to unlock it to take it over to that carrier. With that said, I’d say this probably won’t affect most of you, especially on Verizon.

Via:  TechNewsDaily

Cheers Beaver, Robert, and Tom!

  • Cant_think_of_a_name

    I don’t really understand the necessity of this ruling and what the carriers are trying to accomplish. The contract has an early termination penalty which would cover the cost of the subsidy by the carriers. Is this what big business do when they can’t compete, lobby to get the government involved to squash the competition? Why not entice your customers by giving excellent service?

  • There is very little the carriers can do to stop any consumer from unlocking the phone. Also this new legality law makes nearly no change. The carriers have it figured out pretty nicely. If you buy the phone to use with another carrier you still have to pay early termination fee, covering the cost. Otherwise you are stuck with 2 years of monthly payment which still covers the cost.

    I currently have tmobile, after using a phone for one year, I can call and they will give me the unlock code no questions asked. It makes no sense to use their world service at $1.99/min or $14.99/MB when I can take out sim card and use local prepaid plan for significantly lesser cost.

  • NemaCystX

    I guess P3Droid can’t have his Droids running on AT&T anymore

  • droidman101

    For those looking for a suitable comparison, it’s like buying a house and not being able to refinance a mortgage.

  • droidman101

    Forget the new restriction. Forget how stupid it is. What I want to know is who the hell gave the LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS this power. Seems a bit random when there’s the FCC which was made to regulate communications and communication devices.

  • Sam Yoon

    There is a company out there that pays their users for referrals that sign up.
    You can easily get your service free and even make money every month.
    $49 for unlimited voice, text and data.
    Check them out in solaveidotcomforwardslashsamy2012.

  • intellectual propery lawyer

    From experience: A carrier can “reposes” a phone. Unless you buy the phone out right without a contract. You are in a sense renting to own. Until you buy out the contract or fulfil the contract the device remains property of the carrier. Read the fine print of your contracts. You will find a whole bunch of things the carrier can do you didn’t think they could.

    On the issue of DMCA still allowing bootloaders to he unlocked. There are ways around all these laws. Companies are smart and well represented. Ponder this: DMCA says you can unlock. Why no “official” unlock for the ATT one X? Why did Samsung and Verizon just impale their users of the note2 who do so? Hmm. DMCA can be easily gotten around. So until a giant sues ATT, HTC, Samsung, or Verizon all these DMCA laws are irrelevant. It says you can but doesnt say anything about carriers, manufacturers bricking your phones if you do haha. See were I’m going with this?

  • Zebelious

    This is a clear case of lobbying at its best in “United States of Business”. As long as one making the agreed monthly payments there is no reason to try to have control over the product. Greed is the only logic behind this law, period.

  • Bob N

    So does this mean that it is illegal for me to use my off contract bionic on T-Mobile?

  • So, even after I buy the phone, it still isn’t mine? Let me think for a moment who is protected? Carriers Now who is handicapped? Consumers, But it is the consumers who give money to the carriers so that the carriers can lobby for this?

    • Tim242

      If you bought it subsidized, you haven’t “bought” it until your contract is up.

    • Philip A. Kaiser

      Your question is further scrambled by a question. When is the line drawn on when you actually own it? If you paid retail, with no contract, you should own it at that moment. If you paid $100 up front and then signed a 2yr contract, you technically haven’t paid for it until the contract date has ended, so I guess 2years is when you own it. But…. If you cancel your contract and pay the ETF, does that fulfill the amount owed thus entitling you to the device? If not, can I return the device and get my original $100 back? Why not? If I have no phone, no contract, no service, and a locked device now, I should be entitled to my money back. I happen to watch a lot of Judge Judy so I know what I am talking about…. lol

  • This is step 1. Step 2 is something like returning the phone at the end of your contract. Step three is a Foxcon labor camp.

  • Butters619

    And……unlock code purchased.

  • Elliot

    Just FYI, all Verizon LTE phones are already SIM unlocked, provided that there’s a compatible SIM card, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from using a phone like the DNA with an international carrier if you have the right SIM cards.

    • Tim242

      Not all LTE phones. Verizon has the Note 2 APN settings hidden. You have to have a custom ROM to use another SIM.

  • Steve Tu

    I’m curious how that interacts with the results of the linked class action suit. I was able to call AT&T and unlock my Atrix 2 last month. http://www.attlockinglawsuits.com/

  • Even though this doesn’t affect me personally (GNex/TMobUnlimited)

    Based on principle just go sign the petition already:


    It took me less than a minute to do so.

    We’re still 94K+ signatures short as of this posting of mine..

  • Daistaar

    i don’t see why this would be done. ETF will easily cover most subsidies..

    • JohnGaspardo

      Multinational corporate fascism only benefits those with vested interest ie not you.

  • pussification

    And next month they ban assault rifles, you lazy fuxs. Who voted for that puzzy. F U

    • i did 🙂

    • B.

      What? Really? lol… this cat made it about Obama. lolololololololololololololololo

  • dwboston

    What a ridiculous ruling. I don’t know how many times it needs to be said: the two-year contract is for the service, NOT the phone. The phone subsidy is the “something of value” the carrier gives in exchange for the two-year agreement. The phone is your property, not the carrier’s.

  • Wait, if you bought a subsidized (horrible idea) phone on contract from a carrier and you’re still paying for the contract through its term, why the hell can you not do whatever you want with the phone, including using it on what-the-hell-ever carrier? Its not like the phone is on rent or something! As long as you’re paying the monthly fees, the carrier is still getting its money, why the hell are they arsed about what you can or cannot do with the phone? Oh well, its America!

    • thats like saying you want to lease a car and modify it, that just doesnt cut it buddy and it violates the contract

      • There could be an arse-up clause in those phone contracts (‘cos you know.. its America!) but please tell me how this is equivalent to a car lease. I’m curious. Then again, modification is not the issue here, that’s legal. The issue is not being allowed to use it on another carrier which just baffles me.

        • its not your phone, just like leasing a car, the car isnt really yours, so you cant use the phone on another network just like how you cant use a chevy small block in a toyota prius or use a prius motor in a camaro, ect.

          • SmartConsumer

            This is nothing like leasing a car, just think it through for a minute and you will see. This is more like BUYING and car, from Chevrolet, with a 2 year maintenance package and then the dealership saying that you will go to jail if you go to Ford dealership for an oil change.

  • Kenny B

    This jus makes me want the Nexus 4 even more.

    • Jonathan Williams

      That, along with the fact that its sold out except for almost twice the price.

  • Tim242

    Call me crazy. But, if you buy a phone on contract with subsidy, why would you want to take it to another carrier? What gives you the right? You got it subsidized! If you want it unlocked, buy it full price.

  • Jmich

    The biggest advantage to unlocking a phone sim is overseas travel. With an unlocked sim, you can simply purchase sim cards at any european kiosk and be good to go. No need to get the Global plan for $7.00 a minute etc…. If your in GB, you buy a $20 sim, if you go to France next, by a France $20 sim

  • Steve Benson

    This is another reason to only buy unlocked GSM straight from Google. Screw the carriers and their egos.

    • i would do it if i could go to Tmobile and not have any speed differences

  • CDMA

    What is this unlock word?

  • Brent Cooper

    What if I buy a carrier tied phone off contract? As in pay full retail price. Then is it illegal?

  • Crediblecurtis

    Just another law showing how many corrupt politicians there are I’m sure they’re got a fat check from the wireless companies on that one.

  • lrohenaz

    Disobey this law.

    “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”

    – Thomas Jefferson

    “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”

    – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Drop your carrier, flash to a prepaid network.

  • >> Their logic runs off of the idea that they don’t think you should take
    advantage of a carrier subsidy (cheap phone on contract) and then turn
    right around and ditch that carrier for another.

    What advantage? If I do that, they are going to charge me a termination fee that’s higher than the subsidiary they pay out!

    • JohnGaspardo

      Well aren’t you cute trying to use logic and reason…That’s multinational corporate fascism for you. Money talks and money walks.

    • Philip A. Kaiser

      If you buy a Galaxy SIII with a good deal, you will pay $100 out of pocket. Then pay the ETF ($350) and you now have a Brand New Galaxy SIII for $450 which is $150 cheaper than they sell if you just buy it outright. (which is $600)

      On ATT, you can buy one for $550 outright or pay $425 if you buy and cancel. Save $125.

  • yay for nexus 4

  • imns

    Isn’t the point of the high early termination fees for the carriers to recoup the subsidies from the phones if the contract is cancelled early?

    Granted, I could always sign up for a new contract, get a nice new phone then switch it out for my old BB Storm which hasn’t seen the light of day in years. Then I could see Librarian of Congress’ point but even then, why would I do that – I would still be forking over money every month for a contract/service I don’t need.

  • sirmeili

    “Why is it that the Librarian of Congress has made this move? Their logic runs off of the idea that they don’t think you should take advantage of a carrier subsidy (cheap phone on contract) and then turn right around and ditch that carrier for another.”

    That is why they have ETFs. To cover the cost lost when this happens. That is also why smartphones have a higher ETF than dumb phones.

  • Not a fan of the law, but it doesn’t really bother me too much. I’m on VZW so I’m pretty much stuck anyway.

  • JoeInMO

    Somebody is VERY confused! The Librarian of Congress simply archives historical document and has ZERO authority to issue any rules or even interpret any rules. It’s not a position that would have anything to do with cell phones. I think this is just some internet rumor gone wild OR they have somehow associated the Librarian of Congress with some other entity. This is like saying your local Chamber of Commerce has decided to increase gasoline taxes… they have nothing to do with each other.

    • JohnGaspardo

      The constitution says the president can’t make laws but he gave himself the power to blow you off the map for any reason or no reason. Multinational corporate fascism sure blows.

  • Spider210

    If I want 1 phone and 2 carriers for full nationwide coverage I should be able to have that right!

    Where is this country going!

    • Jonathan Williams

      To the courtroom?

  • possomcrast1

    The thing is the subsidies really aren’t much when you consider:
    1: the components don’t cost anywhere near the “suggested retail price”
    and 2: The carriers make much more back in their monthly charges.

  • danofiveo

    I don’t see the point on either side of this argument. If you buy a subsidized phone, don’t you have a new contract obligation and an ETF if you go somewhere else? In other words, isn’t it a moot point, or am I missing something?

  • Rawheat200

    I smell a DEEP discount on bad esn phones being sold on ebay…

  • enigmaco

    These carriers are starting to tun into psychotic ex’s give me a break I paid for the phone I will do with it whatever I please.

  • Jon

    this is a bit off topic but bare with me…I dumped Verizon along with all of our 4 family lines. We went to T-Mobile. We all left while still on contract, by selling our unlimited data lines on E-bay. The lines each sold for between $125-$179. We then went to T-Mobile pre-paid plans and purchased used phones on craigslist, and swappa.com.

    Where this ties back in with this article…two of the phones I purchased were AT&T Samsung Galaxy Notes. Why did I purchase AT&T version and not T-Mobile version? Because the AT&T versions were readily available on the used market and less expensive, and I was able to simply call AT&T and ask them to give me the unlock codes…which they did and it only took 3 minutes on a phone call. Also the AT&T Note can simply be flashed with a T-Mobile radio and works just fine on T-mobile HSPA+ (4G).

    Now I do take issue with any carrier that would use some rule or law to not allow a customer to unlock their phone. My wife and I also happened to travel to Europe for new years and we used one of the unlocked phones in Spain and Amsterdam with a SIM card. Even if we were on contract, we would have needed to be unlocked to use the phone in Europe. Or what If I was visiting a city and my carrier of choice reception sucked balls…and I just wanted to use another carriers SIM for a few days on a pay as you go plan?

    So there are still totally legit reasons as to why someone would need a phone unlocked that don’t involve jumping ship from a carrier. And isn’t that what the early termination fee is for anyway? I don’t see how a carrier looses any money here. They have their assess covered.

    I’m very glad to have left Verizon and to have the freedom now of switching carriers as I please. Our family is saving over $100 per month, and there are way more hardware options once your no longer tied to Verizon. Food for thought.

    • superdry

      As I mentioned in one of my posts, I think you’re fine if you buy phone used or full MSRP since you’re not tied to the carriers.

      But, your second point is interesting regarding overseas since a carrier can make boucoup bucks on roaming charges.

  • GT33

    Carrier is not being taken advantage of though, that’s why they charge ETFs

  • jtdouglas

    Librarian of congress? Really? What jurisdiction or standing does Billington have in this matter? I’m 98% sure his opinion has no weight whatsoever – and surprised that no one else is asking the same questions.

    • JoeInMO

      The Librarian of Congress has no rulemaking authority. This must be some kind of internet rumor.

      • boybert

        You’re wrong

    • boybert

      The DMCA grants the LOC rulemaking power in regards to works or classes of work to be exempt from DMCA protection.


  • Alan Wolf

    I am confused from what I understood this was already technically illegal. When you puchased an unlock code from any of many sources that offer unlocking service they are either hacking into the carriers network to obtain the SIM unlock code from their system, or they were soliciting an employee of the carrier to obtain that information from the system for them which is a breach of contract. The only legal way to SIM unlock was always to have the carrier provide you the IMEI/SIM unlock code either as a courtesy while in contract or when your current contract is complete. So not sure whats changed with this law…

    • JRomeo

      the Librarian of congress decided that it would be legal a while ago. but then the Librarian changed their mind, and now its illegal. apparently the librarian’s opinion becomes law.

  • alphathirteen

    Come on… you can’t buy the Nexus 4. I’ve been trying since mid December.

    • Heh true. 😛

    • JRomeo

      My friend just bought one yesterday at a tmobile store.

      • alphathirteen

        I guess I should clarify, I’ve been trying to buy one from Google. I’m already prepaid, so I don’t want to pay $200 extra.

        • JRomeo

          They’re available in the google play store today, go go go go buy one before they sellout again.

          • alphathirteen

            You’re awesome. Thanks!

  • Wow.. wayt o go US government. Just another shining example of why this country is in the toilet. Too many people making laws about crap they just dont understand (or are getting paid from lobbiests to not care)

  • superdry

    Regarding buy phone’s full retail, outright say from ATT or T-mobile. They might come unlocked, but, if they don’t, you can probably ask them to get it unlocked or get it unlocked via other means (local cell store that offers such services for example) and you shouldn’t run afoul of the law. That should be correct right?

    • chris125

      the only thing is how would those stores know you bought it full price? I could see a lot of these places closing down because they dont want to risk breaking the law and getting fines/into trouble

      • superdry

        Either ask in-store (from a t-mobile or ATT store) after buying the phone (or call customer service as soon as possible?) or if you go to a 3rd party, show the receipt you used? But, yea, you’re right, some 3rd party stores might not want to risk breaking the law if you can’t prove your not under contracr or you bought it full price.

        This whole thing seems to be geared towards people under contract than people who aren’t.

  • picaso86

    The government and carriers keep screwing us – SMH!

  • T4rd

    Good luck enforcing this. This really means nothing to anyone who does what they want with the phone anyways.

  • Tom_Cullen

    “Cheers beaver”… I’ll toast to that!

  • cgalyon

    What if you buy your phone outright, for example I bought a Note 2 that I am using with Verizon. There’s no contract attached to that phone, can I unlock it and take it where I want?

    • EvanTheGamer

      Good question…anyone know the answer?

  • I’d bet money that if you walk into a store and ask if you can unlock the phone they’ll either say no or have no guidelines on how to handle such a request lol

    • chris125

      I know before with verizon you had to have an active account for 60 days I think before they would sim unlock your device( iphones/world phones)

  • Famouz Starz

    1st all the apple law suits now this!

  • lol

  • monkey082506

    I saw something about this yesterday…thought it was a joke. Guess not.

  • George Fayad

    Whether it affects me or not isn’t the point. This is no different than saying I can’t put a Chevrolet motor in my Ford.

    • Detonation

      But your car is not under contract to, say, drive on a certain road, and you’re not getting a subsized discount on the car to do that.

      • This is exactly the point. They are saying that you can’t take advantage of a carrier discount and then ditch that carrier immediately for another.

        It still sucks, don’t get me wrong. That’s just their logic.

        • Alex Farra

          The carriers don’t seem to care though because they have ETFs so why are these idiots trying to fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed.

          • have you actually seen how expensive it is to buy a new phone without a contract? most ETF’s would barely cover half the cost of most smartphones. if you take a GSIII at around $600 new and subtract say $250 for an ETF, the carrier still has to eat about $350 of the retail price if a customer cancels their contract (and that’s on top of the money the carrier loses from a cancelled service contract.) people forget just how much money they’re saving when a carrier subsidizes a phone and that subsidy is exactly why carriers have 2-year contracts.

            i totally agree that phones sold at full cost should always come unlocked: you pay the total cost outright, and the phone is yours alone. but when you get an expensive phone at a highly subsidized cost, you actually won’t pay off that phone until well into a 2-year contract. part of the cost of your monthly on-contract service goes to paying off your phone (that’s why no-contract phones are more expensive, but the service is cheaper: you’ve already paid off the phone.)

            in other words, say you walk into your wireless provider’s store, renew your contract for 2 years and walk out with a GSIII for $200. even though you have the phone in your possession, it is NOT paid off and as far as the law (and your wireless carrier) is concerned, you are NOT the sole owner of that phone until you’ve been on that contract long enough to pay it off. otherwise that would be like putting something on layaway, paying 10% down but then grabbing the item and walking out of the store instead, proclaiming that the item is your property. sorry, that’s not how business (or life) works. paying only part of the cost for something doesn’t automatically make that thing your property.

            every time you make a monthly payment to your wireless provider (on contract), part of that is a monthly installment to cover the cost of the phone. the cost of it is rolled into your bill and it usually doesn’t show up as a separate charge, but make no mistake that part of that money is going towards paying off your phone.

            none of this stuff is really all that new, and has likely been in most peoples’ contracts already. most people have probably just never bothered to read their entire contract.

          • Alex Farra

            ETF’s are $350 not $250 on Verizon and AT&T and a GS3 for $200 is $600 off contract so $200 + $350 = $550 then the $30 activation fee they charge so it comes out to $580 for a $600 phone so there really not eating much. And yes I buy phones off contract all the time so I do know how much they are off contract.

          • summit1986

            Not to mention on T-Mobile, the unsubsidized price on a Nexus 4 is $550 but only $350 direct and unlocked from Google. The carrier numbers are almost always inflated.

          • Nadora

            I agree with everything except that most carriers do not offer cheaper service if you bring your own retail bought phone (may it be bought from the carrier directly or another source).
            So why does this law still apply to me? Why is it illegal for me to take my own phone where ever I want to go? The carrier has no right to deny unlocking my phone. If they want me as a customer they have to earn my business through marketing, service etc like any other business.

          • Srini

            I stopped reading when you said ETF is 250, phone is 600 so carrier foots the bill for 350. Several things you overlooked:

            1) where is the 199 or 299 that the buyer pays for the phone?

            2) ETF is not 250 if you recently checked.

            3) what about the account setup fee of 50$ everytime you change carriers? Isnt that put in place to check carrier dumping?

            So yeah, I stopped reading when i saw youe math in the second line.Cheers.

          • RiseofTerror.com

            Total Cost if I leave AT&T with my Galaxy S III with ETF, Connection Fees, Cost of Phone – 358.99 Currently. The math is right. ETF is $325 – $10 per month of Service, had it two months. $49.99 for the phone on Black Friday. Connection/Setup fee Waived.

          • Srini

            you forgot to add $200 for the phone. Blackfriday connection/setup fee waiver is not the norm. Its probably from a third party that is willing to take those risks for commissions from the carrier.

            Talk about 200 + 358.99 = 558.99 + 40 for connection setup = ~600$.

            The math IS wrong.

          • RiseofTerror.com

            If you look, it appears that a Fee Waiver is pretty much the norm, if you ask for it. At least with AT&T. Also I didn’t pay $200 for the phone, why would I add it? I bought it from an authorized AT&T Dealer. It’s being subsidized somehow, by Best Buy or AT&T or otherwise. Also when I bought my HTC Inspire back in the day it was $0.00. So no, I’m not going to include the price of a phone that I never pay in the math. I don’t necessarily agree with the change to the law, especially if someone buys their phone outright, it should be “unlocked” regardless. But my point is that I could leave AT&T for much less than if I bought the phone from somewhere else, currently.

          • JRomeo

            This is why we should all buy the Nexus 4 which currently sells for $299 or $349 off-contract, and unlocked.

        • Jon

          But that’s what the early termination fee is for. If you leave, they nail you with the fee. So carriers aren’t taking any risk here at all. There is a sufficient penalty already for leaving a contract, and there is no reason to lock down the hardware other than to annoy customers.

        • michael arazan

          The carrier made up the rules, people found a legal way around their rules, the carrier uses lobbyist to manipulate the government in their favor to get what they want. Ain’t that America, for you and me. Thomas Jefferson just rolled a bit in his grave

      • chris125

        even if you buy it full price from a carrier it falls under this though

      • But the carriers already have substantial financial penalties in place to recoup their losses. There’s no need for this.

      • And? They already have an early termination fee in place to deal with someone who buys a subsidized phone then cuts and runs to another carrier.

        Or they could reduce the subsidy of a phone to limit the loss. Or … stop subsidizing phones altogether. Works in Europe.

        Wasting time and our money to create a law to keep a shoddy business-model afloat is ridiculous, any way you spin it.

        • Mike

          In general, “it works in Europe”, isn’t something an American should say. This is ‘Ummerica!

    • Your car has no particular contract associated with it. Yes, this law is dumb. But under contact, anything goes as long as you’ve signed the contact. You signed the paper, you are under contract to do or not do whatever it says you can and can’t do. Once your contract is up, you can do whatever you’d like. Yes it sucks, if you don’t like it, don’t sign a contract.

      • George Fayad

        As I understand it, the law applies to out of contract phones purchased from a carrier.

        • Ugh, that would suck if it also applied to off contract phones that you bought through a carrier.

        • JRomeo

          the article which you just read (abovementioned) says “you are locked onto the carrier you bought your phone from until your contract is up”

    • New_Guy

      Actually, if your car was under a lease, which is more comparable, you could not be permitted to remove the engine or any other non-wear-and-tear item. You even have to replace the original stereo and sound system if you decided to upgrade it…

      Therefore, the law actually makes sense. not that i like it, but it makes sense.

      • JRomeo

        Does the law really make sense? let me give you a better example. Lets say you signed a lease on a new car from a car dealership, and that car dealership also happens to own a radio station. they make extra money on that radio station by selling radio ads or whatever. anyways the new car you have on lease comes with a radio in the car in which the radio inside that car is LOCKED onto a specific radio station (the station the car dealership owns), and you are not allowed to use any other radio station, too bad if you don’t like the music or their crummy adverts. anyways if you choose to break the contract (yet still keep the car) you must pay a hefty ETF fee which will result in you being freed from the dealership terms, and you remain with the device (i.e. the car) in your posession and you’re allowed to tune into any radio station you feel like.

        • Jeff Tycz

          If you signed a lease an in the lease it says you only have access to this certain station then yes it does make sense. I dont think you understand that if you are under a contract with someone they can do whatever they want as long as it says so in the contract, thats how contracts work. You wouldn’t sign a contract with a company to do “X” amount of work for that company and then think you can do whatever you want would you?? This is basically the same thing. Now if you break out of that contract (ETF or contract is up) then yes you should be able to do what you want since that contract is void

          • the service is the lease – not the phone

          • yes it is, you didnt pay it in full

            its like buying a car with a loan, the bank loans you money and in return you dont get to own the car, the bank does until you pay off the bank

            you are just the registered owner on the vehicle

            same thing can be applied to buying subsidized phones, you put a down payment of 30% so you are only 30% owner while the phone company is 70% owner and when you payoff your contract, you become 100% owner of the device

          • New_Guy

            Perfectly analogous.

          • JRomeo

            I wish that was true, even after you payoff the contract, or do the ETF, you still do not own your phone. it is still illegal to unlock it, even after contract is ended: http://www.slashgear.com/eff-clarifies-laws-behind-unlocking-and-jailbreaking-phones-29267197/

          • JRomeo

            Actually, let me correct you on that one. If you break the contract as you mention “(ETF or contract is up)” then no, you are not free to do what you want, because according to the law, you cannot unlock your phone, EVEN IF you are no longer under contract: Source: “Even for phones that are no longer under contract, it’s still illegal to unlock them” http://www.slashgear.com/eff-clarifies-laws-behind-unlocking-and-jailbreaking-phones-29267197/

        • New_Guy

          Intensely extrapolous

      • NYCLawyer

        That’s a poor analogy. You are not leasing the phone. You are purchasing it. Verizon retains no right to repossess the phone. They hold no security interest in it. You can buy your phone today and sell it tomorrow. The Carrier has the right to establish the terms of the same and has the right to enforce their contract by purely civil means. Because this law makes it ILLEGAL to buy a phone from one carrier and then unlock it to use on another, the carriers are using the threat of criminal prosecution to enforce private civil contracts between citizens.

        • Jeff Tycz

          If you bought the phone under the subsidized price you are not purchasing the phone outright, verizon is footing the bill for the rest of the full retail so why would you have the right to unlock it anytime before your contract is up??

          • NYCLawyer

            I’m sorry that you don’t understand the idea of ownership. The reason that you have a termination fee is to collect the subsidized amount. However, as soon as you take possession of the phone, you own it. It is not subject to a licensing agreement (like a CD or MP3), not subject to re-possession like a car or construction equipment that is subject to Title 9 of the UCC). You have the right to drive over it with your car or throw it off a cliff, or just leave it on your nightstand. You have to pay for it, of course. But if you breach a contract in the United States, you don’t normally go to jail for it. Now you can. Think about that.

          • antinorm

            Thankfully, it’s unlikely that anybody will actually go to jail for this (IANAL, of course). I’d be a little more worried about that if the MAFIAA was behind this.

          • NYCLawyer

            You are right, it is unlikely, but the DCMA, which this is part of, clearly makes this (basically, changing phone carriers!) a criminal act, and although the primary relief are civil penalties and sanctions, including attorney’s fees, the fact is that if a prosecutor wanted to, he could seek a prison sentence, and the law clearly supports that position. You can also lose the right to vote (as a felon!), the ability to qualify for a variety of jobs, etc. and for what? Changing phone carriers!!!!!!!

          • New_Guy

            NYC, you neglect the fact that leased vehicles can be purchased as well. The purchase price is measured as a function of time and miles. Not much different than your subsidized phone etf. And apparently, the carriers and officials of the legal system disagree with your conclusion. The analogy is sound.

          • Lawrence Hitchens

            your silly analogy is getting overtly annoying.

          • If the analogy is sound, I should be able to lease a car, sell it the next day, and keep all the profit without any consequences. At least admit that the analogy has some holes in it dude…

          • Sean O’Connor

            I think it is much more equivalent to financing a car, rather than leasing. OP may be confusing the difference. However, if you pay off the rest of your car loan, which is the same as paying a termination fee, I can guarantee the dealer couldn’t care less if you sold the car the next day, even if you somehow magically managed to do it at a profit.

            Some carriers have flat rate ETFs, but many of them pro-rate to the length of your contract. Both my last AT&T and Verzion phones had discounted ETFs since I was near the end of my contracts. Hence, the similarity to paying off a loan.

            In many other countries, if you don’t take the subsidy, you can get an equivalent amount off your bill every month instead. I really wish it worked this way in the US instead.

          • I’m not talking about ending the contract though. Just selling the phone. I could sell my phone right now, keep all my profit, and not have to pay any fee to anybody. Of course, I would need to buy or obtain another phone to use with the data I’m purchasing from my carrier.

            If I was financing a car and sold it, I would not keep my profits, I would need to pay off the loan – because I do not own the car. The bank owns it. On the other hand, I own my phone, and nobody else does. These analogies do not hold up…

          • calculatorwatch

            “NYC, you neglect the fact that leased vehicles can be purchased as well. The purchase price is measured as a function of time and miles. Not much different than your subsidized phone etf.”

            This statement is the most telling in this whole argument. By the analogy, if you are leasing the phone (buy it subsidized) and you decide to buy it (pay the etf) you should then be to get a new motor (unlock it) without any consequences.

            The only problem with this comparison is that the etf is a flat rate so people can pay it right away and get a discount on their phone. Simple solution: start the etf at the difference between the subsidized price and the retail price and decrease it by 1/24th of that amount after each bill. All they need is a change in policy, not a whole new law to solve this problem.

            Of course the carriers don’t wanna change their policies because they make plenty of money when people get fed up with them with 6 months left on their contract and have to pay $350 for essentially nothing…

          • Jeff Tycz

            And I am sorry that you do not understand that just because you own the phone does not mean you own the software, you just lease the software just like you lease every OS,Game System etc when you buy it. Just because you buy the device does not mean you own the software and the code behind it. When you sign a contract you agree that your phone is locked and out of your control. So again I say if you get the phone on contract you have no right to unlock the phone until the contract is up or you buy it at full price. I hope you really are not a lawyer because you might want to look into going back to school

          • NYCLawyer

            Wrong again, You do not lease the software. Show me in your contract where you lease your software. If it isn’t in the contract, it doesn’t exist. It’s fiction like your intelligence. You license the software. That is not that same thing as a lease. If you lease a car and don’t pay for it, the company takes it away.
            You are right, though, with regard to the license – if you don’t pay your bill, you lost the right to use the software (they take your service away). But they shouldn’t have the right to use the criminal process to force you to continue to pay.
            Your analogy fails. Period.

          • Tyler Cameron

            Software has nothing to do with it. Unlocking a phone is simply a damn code. You’re not making any modifcations to the software whatsoever. You’re simply putting in a software code

          • michael arazan

            You pay $200 for the phone with contract subsidized, then you’ll have to pay $350 for the ETF, all that just to save $100 for a subsidized phone?
            How many people are doing this to be that big of a deal?

            I’ve seen people get a subsidized iphone, keep using thier old android phone and sell the iphone for $3-400 profit on ebay. And that would totally be legit as long as the people buying it stay with the same carrier which won’t matter because iphones are unlocked..

          • Lawrence Hitchens

            because if we leave we pay a ridiculous early termination fee. and they don’t foot the bill, lol. these carriers don’t pay a quarter of what the retail MSRP is. That’s why they can drop prices whenever / however they wish. This ohone isn’t selling well so we’ll make it subbed, discounted or free. We only spent $600 on it. yeah, right, picture that.

        • no this is exactly spot on

          you dont own electronics anymore, you only lease them
          that computer you own, you dont really own it, you license it, the tablet you bought last week, you dont own that, you license it

          the data you put on that device is your data, but the phone itself isnt yours

          • Lawrence Hitchens

            i can promise you that both my PC and my phone are mine, by law. there is nothing the OEM, ODM, retailer or authorized retailer can do about it.

          • no they are not, the hardware is but the software that is used to run the computer isnt unless you code your own OS from scratch, just read the TOS

        • New_Guy

          Just pay attention to your next subsidized phone purchase. Trust that you will sign an agreement in correlation with this law that will most assuredly contradict your rational. Again, I’m not saying that I like it, I’m saying I can see why it’s happening.

      • Lawrence Hitchens

        Yeah but we didn’t get the phone on lease, we got it on sale. And that’s what early termination fees are for, so they still win.

    • Wireless Industry employee

      As long as you purchased your phone at a discounted cost it makes perfect sense. According to the contract you sign, at least for the major four carriers, you are leasing the phone. It is there property and they sell you a phone at a discounted rate and make up the money throughout the contract. Most companies do not have the resources to enforce this so they charge you an early termination fee for the contract. This law gives them the ability to enforce.