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Obama to Sign Bill Making Phone Unlocking Legal

unlock phones legal

If have been on the edge of your seat since December, as our government decided whether or not it should be legal for you to unlock your phone and take it to a carrier of choice, you can sit back and relax. Patrick Leahy, a senator from Vermont, announced today that the House “unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that would restore the ability of consumers to more easily transfer their cell phones to other wireless carriers, just one week after the Senate approved the same measure.” That’s good news! In even better news, President Obama has already confirmed that he will sign this bill. So yep, this is a done deal. 

With that out of the way, I should remind you, as I did in December, of a couple of things here.

First, “unlocking” in this situation has nothing to do with the bootloader of your phone. We are talking about SIM unlocking your phone, so that you can take it from one carrier to another and see it connect properly to the new carrier’s network. Again, this has nothing to do with bootloaders. Yo, bootloaders – not the issue here. Bootloaders, nope, nothing doing in bootloader land here. Umm, did you know that this has nothing to do with bootloaders? Well, it doesn’t…have…anything…to…do…with…bootloaders.

OK, not that we are settled there, let’s talk the second point.

As I mentioned when this situation got really wild, this doesn’t mean that you can freely unlock anything you feel like unlocking and then take it from carrier to carrier. There are still restrictions here. Remember, the CTIA (a group that represents the carriers in the US) struck a deal with the FCC that still made unlocking a process that the carriers have control over. In other words, you need to fulfill your contract or pay your phone fully off, follow the procedure set forth by your particular carrier to get an unlock code, etc. But hey, unlocking being legal is still a major step in the right direction. Just know that this doesn’t include tablets just yet. That is still an issue on the table.

Freedom. ‘merica. Friday. Happy hour.

Restoring the Library of Congress’s former exemption so that consumers may unlock their phones consistent with their contracts. Once every three years, the Library of Congress
undertakes a rulemaking under 17 U.S.C. 1201(a) to establish exemptions to the DMCA’s prohibition on circumventing technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. From 2006 to 2012, the Library granted an exemption for cell phone unlocking that allowed users to change wireless providers after complying with their contracts. In its 2012 rulemaking, the Library did not recognize an exemption for new cell phones purchased after January 26, 2013. The Library’s decision prompted a strong public reaction: a petition on the White House website opposing the Library’s decision garnered over 110,000 signatures. Senators Leahy, Grassley, and others introduced bipartisan legislation to address this issue in March 2013 (S.517), and the House passed its own version in February 2014 (H.R. 1123). S.517 was reported out of the Judiciary Committee with a bipartisan Managers’ amendment by voice vote on July 10, 2014, approved by the full Senate on July 15, 2014, and approved by the House on July 25, 2014.

Allowing consumers to obtain help in unlocking their phones. In addition to reinstating the Library of Congress’s prior exemption authorizing cell phone unlocking in certain cases, S.517
ensures that consumers who lack the technological savvy to unlock their phones themselves can authorize others to do the unlocking for them. The involvement of such third parties is limited to
unlocking phones to allow owners or their family members to connect to their chosen wireless network.

Instructing the Library of Congress to determine whether other wireless devices should be eligible for unlocking. Other wireless devices, such as tablets, are of increasing importance to
consumers. In recognition of that growing importance and the potential for consumer harm if used tablets cannot be taken to a new network, S.517 directs the Librarian of Congress to determine
whether such devices should also be unlockable. That determination will be part of the Librarian’s next triennial rulemaking under the DMCA, which is set to begin later this year.

Otherwise preserving the status quo. S.517 addresses the specific question of permitting consumers to unlock their cell phones to use on their chosen wireless network consistent with the terms of their contract. The legislation creates no new obligations for cell phone manufacturers or wireless carriers, such as how a carrier may choose to process unlocking requests or provide unlocking codes. While there are larger ongoing debates about Section 1201 of the DMCA, as well as other aspects of phone unlocking, those issues are not addressed by the bill. The bill takes a narrow, targeted approach to protect consumer choice and promote competition in the wireless industry.

Via:  Patrick Leahy | The Verge
  • tdurden64111

    For once in my life I mean this “#ThanksObama”

  • Scuba Steve

    Sweet!! Now when my Conservative friends ask me “what has Obama ever achieved?” I have something to tell them.

  • Gene

    Keep your gov’mit hands off my cell phone!! Oh wait… LOL

  • Mickey A Valentine

    Should have made it an American right haha ha ha.. Ha… Verizon:(

  • JordenHaddowulp

    My Uncle
    David recently got an almost new silver Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Sedan by
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  • Keith

    FYI this will be up for review by… 2016… by the same position that ruled it illegal. SO we’re not out of the woods just yet, but at least for a year and a half or so.

  • Hartiganaid

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  • Steven Berger

    CDMA unlocking please #verizon #wantNexus 😛

  • preciousbwallace

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail

    ✒✒✒✒✒✒ Jobs7000.Com


  • Jack

    Funny democrats are the ones who stopped it in the first place.

  • barbarawhite44

    what Kathleen replied I am inspired that you can profit $9750 in one month on the computer . you can try here



  • Shashwat Black

    so happy that I can now unlock my bootloader and not worry about getting arrested.

  • wardlilia

    Riley . I
    just agree… Peggy `s article is cool… on saturday I got a great new audi
    after having earned $8096 this past 4 weeks an would you believe ten-k lass
    month . it’s definitly my favourite work I have ever done . I started this
    10-months ago and right away started making a cool more than $84, per-hr .



  • DJyoSNOW

    Well my menu key is tweaking on (on) after I trail skated (#rollerDerby #note3) and once rooted I’ve disabled them…. Problem solved. So wawawa to vzw for giving a f. (yes I know that was exactly the read up but still…)

  • TalonDesigns

    So, what I understand is that this has nothing to do with the bootloader? /s

    • TalonDesigns

      I had to.. Noone else did. 🙂

  • jeurydr20

    Does this mean sprint can’t refuse to unlock one of their phone’s?

  • Tristan Morris

    Unfortunately, no amount of legal shenanigans will allow me to get my N5 onto Verizon. Stupid Verizon.

  • Mike91270

    It took 6 years but it has finally happened..something good i can say about Obama.

  • globalissues

    He also needs to increase foreign aid

    • 213ninja

      Increase? Are you serious?

  • martytoo

    Even a broken government is right twice a year.

  • Nayners

    And you thought that Verizon phone branding was huge and ugly now…

  • Julian Coronado

    Wait I’m confused. Does this mean I can buy a phone, not originally sold from Verizon, then switch it to Verizon? Example is the Nexus 5, or 6 since I’m waiting for it.

    • A phone still has to support the proper bands, have the correct radios, to work on a network. Not all phones even have the capability to work on all networks. For example, most Verizon phones will work for the most part on AT&T, because they have global GSM band support. But AT&T phones won’t ever work on Verizon because they don’t have CDMA radios in them. CDMA is the 3G network tech that Verizon uses.

      The Nexus 5 doesn’t support Verizon’s CDMA network.

      This bill is only talking about allowing phones to be unlocked, but it doesn’t mean they will work everywhere.

  • austin

    one of the few things i have supported with his administration.

  • Disqus_n00b

    Another useless law. The easiest way to stop locking down phones is to not purchase locked down phones. If locked phones don’t sell, they will go away.

    I do not want the govt involved in telling carriers/manufacturers what capabilities phones require. They’ve ruined enough industries already.

    • Lee McLaurin

      Please shut up. I guarantee you have no problem with the government telling women they can’t have choice in whether or not to have an abortion.

      • Disqus_n00b

        Thanks for the civility. Not sure what the abortion topic has to do with issue at hand.

    • Todd

      Lay off the red Kool-Aid, it’s rotting your brain.

    • Hacker

      Actually I agree with you 100%. We keep buying phones regulated by the companies. These companies are ISPs and nothing more imho. More people should buy non-contract phones to keep them from constraining the consumer.

    • Chris

      Get over it

  • velocipedes

    Why don’t they just nullify the law that makes it illegal? Good grief. Makes you wonder what else might be contained in this new law.

  • Cael

    Now let’s make throttling illegal!

  • KSlice

    This is cool, but we still have a Bands Issue don’t we? I would love to get something like an Nexus 5/One+ and take it to Verizon. It will mate perfectly with my throttled Internet!

    • Menger40

      That, and Verizon will still be able to refuse to activate a device on their network.

      • Mech_Engr_09

        We should have sent seal team 6 in after the execs at Verizon instead of bin laden.

    • tdurden64111

      Bands’ll make her dance.

  • Menger40

    Thanks, Obama!

    For real this time, though.

  • Before you guys go shooting guns off in the air as sign of celebration you have to either a) Own the phone, b) have completed the contract

    • Menger40

      It’s a Friday, we don’t need any extra excuse to go shoot guns in the air. Woooweee!

      • Pedro

        ‘Murica! Texas!

  • Hacker

    Now if only consumers could install whatever software they want on their phones…

    • Chris

      We need stable devices first

  • jasenm

    Most productive thing he has done in office.

    • Jeremy Buro

      Make that the ONLY productive thing…..nuff said

      • Bryan Mills

        He hasn’t killed thousands of Americans.

        • EnterTheNexus

          But he has killed innocent civilians in the Middle East and spied on his own people.

          • King Lo

            So have the last 6 presidents.

        • Doc John

          Obongocare has already killed thousnads. And its just going to get worse.

          • Chris M

            How is that exactly?

          • EnterTheNexus

            Seriously man. Wow. How politically unaware could someone be. GOP retardation at its finest.

      • You’re an idiot, nuff said.

    • niuguy

      *most productive thing congress has done.

      • velocipedes

        Neither the President nor Congress are ‘productive’ in the economic sense.

        • P J

          The less “work” done by government, the better for the country. They are great at taxing, spending, regulating us, destroying jobs and lining their pockets.

          • Yeah because we see how great deregulation worked in 2007/2008.

      • Bryan Mills

        Everybody blames Obama, but they’re too blind to not see it’s congress.

        I cant wait til this suing creates political suicide for the GOP.

        • fish1552

          SOMEONE had to be the dick and make a technology thread about specific party partisanship.

        • Ping

          Congress has one of the lowest approval ratings ever recorded. I think people blame Congress every bit as POTUS for being incompetent.

          Here’s a source, just to head off whatever retort you might have.

        • Pakmann2k

          And in his early years when he controlled both houses? What exactly got done then? Gitmo? Nope. All troops home? Nope. Anything he ran on? Nope.

          But sure, it’s only been 10yrs, blame congress.

          I’ll toss in a hint of what a politician looks like. Clinton got a gun bill to pass with a republican majority. I don’t care who you are, that is the power of a good statesman. Do you know how many strings you have to pull and how many wheels you have to grease to pass a gun bill with any republican votes? Clinton passed the harshest bill ever and did it chocked full of a republican led house. Obama is an idiot child that has no idea how to get anything done. It is because he doesn’t know how to play the game. And yes, it is a game.

          Look what you made me do. Your trolley trollerism made me make a political comment on my favorite tech site.

          • David Foggia

            The question is: when is it GAME OVER *morphs into Stephan segal*

          • James

            The problem is America and its government as a whole, it’s broken, the president is a bobble head that just takes the heat.

          • Kisuk3

            Your grammar is broken.

          • Lee McLaurin

            Bull. Clinton wasn’t a black guy. And Obama never really had control of both houses. Blue dog democrats were almost always voting with republicans. Senator Joe Lieberman caucused with the democrats, but he was an independent. Most of the policies that this president put forward are things that republicans have stood for until Obama presented them, then they opposed them just to destroy him. The republicans made it their strategy to oppose anything he put forth to kill his presidency (this is before he presented ANYTHING). This meeting was held on the night of his first inauguration. They created such a hatred for him among their base, that now they CAN’T work with him or the base will turn against them. Here’s Newt Gingrich admitting to it. h**ps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd0fVf5CsCc The following link lists all the things republicans USED to stand for but they NOW oppose because Obama stands for them: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/06/08/24-policies-that-republicans-supported/

            I HATE to get into politics on this board, but I get so sick of people parroting bull without thinking about what they’re saying. All I here is “Obama this and Obama that”.

          • Preach!

          • schoat333

            Careful, you’ll be called a low info/educated voter for posting those kinds of facts….

        • Tyrone

          Oh goodie, Bryan, the tech and political genius weighs in. Gotta love low info voters.

          I will return in November to see how this suicide impacts the GOP seats. LOL!

        • Carlos

          Pathetic.. we are in an economic mess. We have the lowest employment participation rate, highest deficit, we are the laughing stock of the international community, obamacare is a mess, NSA spying is out of control, our borders are out of control, he fails to enforce laws on the books, ignores the supreme court rulings and because the GOP congress threatens to sue (which is their only recourse) and You think its their fault? ………Please stop voting…. ok… please stop…

          • BillySuede

            mmhmmm… your facts are wrong.

          • Lee McLaurin

            The Republicans ran and won on jobs, jobs, jobs. When is the last time you heard them mention jobs or introduce a jobs bill? When Obama came into office in 2008, the US was bleeding between 600,000 and 700,000 JOB PER MONTH. We have stopped bleeding and have had 45 straight months of job growth. Osama bin Laden was captured under Obama. He got us out of the war in Iraq. Sadam Hussein is gone and dead. The AXA or “Obamacare” as you call it, is a success even though it started out as an embarrassment. Republicans put on this show, but when they are being interviewed these days, you can’t pay them to say they want to repeal it. Now, many republicans have realiced the raw deAL they get by not implementing it that theyou are changing their tune. We don’t have the highest deficit. As a matter of fact, it is at the lowest level in 10 years http://www.businessinsider.com/deficit-to-gdp-falling-obama-chart-2013-10.

            You don’t know what you’really talking about and you’re really repeating Fox talking points without thinking.

    • How about taking off your Limbaugh-branded visors and see the world for what it really is.

    • Jerryme

      Obama for president!

  • Ryan N

    “Thanks Obama…”

    But really.

  • jer85008

    Good news for ATT/T-Mobile customers.

  • Hacker

    Phones == computers…. this shouldn’t have been a debate.. end or story. How would you like your home ISP to say, hey guys, that $2000 computer is not a pre-approved piece of hardware for our ISP service, you have a buy a pre-approved computer. (i.e. Verizon today with smartphones)

    • MistaButters

      But you don’t buy your computer marked down and sign a two year contract with your home ISP.

      So not the same.

      • Hacker

        That’s the fault of the consumers and competition unfortunately. Competition should be out there making phones (i.e. Oppo and others) that make it easier for people to go to any carrier they want. Consumers for buying phones that come with heavy restrictions on what carrier and what services they can use.

      • Hacker

        I still believe ISPs should not be able to dictate what hardware is available for their service. And that is the overwhelming majority today unfortunately.



    • jasenm

      Suck on our coverage. 😉

      • Chris


    • Edward

      Verizon phones are already unlocked…

      • patt

        Tell that to Nayners 😉 he is still living in year 2000 ;D

    • Nayners

      HA! Suck on CDMA! Where you gonna take your phone to? Sprint?! LOL

      • patt

        Hahha you sir got owned! Our phones are factory unlocked for every carrier but Sprint hah! Cannot believie so many people still not know this 😀

        • Nayners

          You see, that’s the point. Who wants their Verizon phone on Sprint?

          • patt

            Who actually cares about Sprint ? Lol.

            So how is it that you didn’t know that VZW phones are sim sim unlocked ?

          • Nayners

            Just stop. You’re now confusing yourself. Enjoy your CDMA phone.

          • patt

            So what you’re saying is iPhone 5S from VZW or note 3 for example are not sim unlocked right? And i can’t take them to T-Mobile ? 😉

          • King Lo

            Verizon phones carry GSM bands so that they can be used for international carriers. If unlocked they can be used on AT&T, T-mobile or any other GSM carrier. They don’t carry the CDMA bands that sprint uses.

            Im not sure if youre trolling or not but I hate to see ignorance.

          • Chris


          • Chris

            Maybe those who do have good service with sprint.

      • Glass

        I unlocked my Note 2 and carried it over to At&t. Most modern VZW phones have both CDMA and GSM.

        • patt

          when I had S4 while in the US and w/ Verizon sim inside I could not change APN… changed sim card and I did it easily (Orange Poland) apns.

          So you sure you unlocked it? LOL

          • ;P

            Yep its unlocked. Before I did anything, I could insert a 3rd party sim and it would work, for the most part. I could get basic messages and phone calls to work, but things like multimedia messages and data wouldn’t work(varied by the carrier). Since the proper unlock, I can change the APN to whatever I want, and I’ve gotten things like MMS and data working.

      • Chris

        cdma is 3G so it doesn’t really matter as 4G is am GSM tech.

      • Verizon LTE is not CDMA… I can take my Verizon phone and use it with a T-Mobile or AT&T SIM with no issues.

        • Aaron

          Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Verizon is still using 3G for phone calls and SMS, and Verizon’s 3G is CDMA. So until VoLTE is nationwide Verizon phones will still be locked to Verizon.

          • You are correct about the first part, you need CDMA for voice and SMS, but you can take your Verizon phone and use it on AT&T, T-Mobile, etc. without issues. They come carrier unlocked.

      • leimeisei

        You’re apparently unaware that Verizon 4G phones are dual-band and can be used on both CDMA and GSM nets…

    • Bryan Mills

      Hahahaha suck on that throttling!

    • Chris


  • David Foggia

    Could not be happier that unlocking the bootloader is now legal. Thanks Droid Life!

    • booted out no more!

      Yup! Kellex makes it cwystal-ka-weere! Bootloaders are now unlocked in time for the weekend! Par-TAY, y’all!

    • Carlos Lopez

      I’m not sure if that’s sarcasm or not since its never been illegal to unlock the bootloader. This is so you can unlock it and take it to whatvmever carrier supports the phone

      Edit: whatever*

    • Hah best comment of the day. 😛

      • David Foggia

        Does this mean I win the next major contest by default?

        • Jason Downing

          Hah worst comment of the day. 😛

          had to.

        • jonzey231


    • CaptM

      Was wondering who would be the first to mention (and how fast it would take) about unlocking the bootloader. 🙂

    • David Foggia

      Cue “working at the carwash” song!

    • Bob


    • Chris

      Droid life had nothing to do with it bud.

    • creed

      I just came hear to find out how I get my bootloader unlock code from Verizon for the S5. Anyone know?

  • Michael Sahaid

    Why should he have a say in what I can and can’t do with my phone?

    • MistaButters

      Because there are laws that dictate what you can and can’t do with your phone, and uhhhh, the president makes and/or approves laws?

      • Michael Sahaid

        But its my phone. I’ll dictate what I can and can’t do with it. I paid for it with my hard earned money.

        • MistaButters

          Well so long as your phone works on American cellular networks, it is regulated by the FCC. But keep on keeping on.

    • Oh god!! Another one.

  • tiev

    Do it already. I want to unlock my cursed phone.