Unlocking a cell phone is now legal in the US

November 25th, 2006

unlock your cell phoneIt is now legal in the US to unlock your mobile phone, the one you paid for and own, to allow you to use it with a different mobile phone service provider. Well, it will be starting on Monday and for 35 months.

As reported by The Register and others, the US Register of Copyrights has recommended six exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) including the right to unlock a cell phone.

“Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.”

The exemptions become effective on 27 November 2006 and will only remain in effect for three years. The last set of expemtions were defined in 2003 and are expiring, including the right to determine what web sites a ‘commercially marketed filtering software application’ is blocking. Apparently, exemptions can expire if no one agues for them. Not all proposed exemptions are taken up, of course. Ars technica reports a number of rejected proposals, including these:

Proposals against space-shifting, playing DVDs on Linux, bypassing region coding on DVDs, bypassing copy protection on legally purchased computer software, audiobooks distributed by libraries, all works protected by DRM that prevents backups, and all works protected by a broadcast flag.