The EFF clarifies legality of jailbreaking and unlocking in the US

By , Jan 29, 2013

Unlocked iPhone

The big news this week, aside from the new 128GB iPad and the impending jailbreak, has been that unlocking your phone became illegal in the US on Saturday. Law-breakers face a fine of up to $500,000 and/or 5 years in jail.

Well today, the folks over at the EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) commented on the new regulations and have broken down what they really mean for us end-users. There’s both good news and bad news…

For starters, let’s go over the new law: Unlocking a phone bought after January 26 without your carrier’s permission violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) regardless of whether or not the phone is under contract.

The good news, as noted by the EFF, is that the legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up, and will be through 2015. Unfortunately, though, that shield doesn’t work for jailbreaking or rooting tablets like the iPad.

And now for the bad news:

“While we don’t expect mass lawsuits anytime soon, the threat still looms. More likely, wireless carriers, or even federal prosecutors, will be emboldened to sue not individuals, but rather businesses that unlock and resell phones. If a court rules in favor of the carriers, penalties can be stiff – up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case where the unlocking is done for “commercial advantage.” And this could happen even for phones that are no longer under contract. So we’re really not free to do as we want with devices that we own.”

As we previously opined, the majority of the threat seems to apply to third-party vendors. The lucrative business of unlocking has become popular over the past few months, but it appears that the risk now outweighs the reward.

What’s scary, though, is that peril still exists for the average user. The RIAA, for example, (Recording Industry Association of America) has used DMCA laws to go after students and house-wives for downloading illegal music.

Creating and defending the next round of exemptions will start in late 2014, and will be ruled on in 2015. At that time, the unlock ban will be reviewed. Until then, feel free to sign this online petition that calls for a reversal of the law.

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • Mohammad Ridwan

    Everyone sign the petition..

  • http://twitter.com/sharmanhall sharmanhall

    Sign the petition & Share on Facebook, Twitter…
    Let’s get this thing rolling!!

  • http://twitter.com/angel0pez Angel Lopez

    Sign the petition & share on my two Twitter accounts!

    I hope we can make it!

  • http://twitter.com/PhilBeez86 U Kn0w What 1t 1s

    Signed

  • jilex

    now i want to know more about the shield for jailbreaking and rooting.. but for the time being, i signed, i’m not livin’g in the USA, but i want everyone to do as they want with their phones without worries

  • Miltos P.

    How can they find if I unlocked my iPhone using Ultrasnow?

    I’am thinking of unlocking my iPhone using Ultrasnow in the country that I will visit soon. Is it still possible to find me?
    By the time ill come back to the US I will restore and activate the iphone with my ATT card..

    • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

      What version of iOS and iPhone do you even have? Ultrasn0w has not worked for current versions in quite some time……

      • Miltos P.

        iphone 4, 6.1

      • Ryanacker

        it does not work for iPhone 4 on 6.1 unless you unlocked it at the earlier firmware on ios 4 and kept preserving your baseband on up to ios 6.1

      • Miltos P.

        my baseband is 4.12.05

      • Albania

        You can’t unlock it with ultrasnow then.

  • pawfyd

    USA, your laws are getting dumber everyday. Wasn’t this country about freedom in the past?

    • ridonkulous

      Once you fully understand our current presidents goals, then you will have the answer to your question.

      • JoshuaHulgan

        I fail to follow how this involves Obama at all…

      • ridonkulous

        You do know where this petition is hosted, correct?

      • Guest

        Yeah, I see that.
        Kinda off the subject…
        What freedom are we missing that Obama has taken away?

      • ridonkulous

        The freedom to NOT purchase health care WITHOUT penalty.

      • iphone4sgamer

        I don’t see your point, the US Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare as constitutional,the decision in which even the conservative chief justice Roberts sided with the court’s liberal faction. He quotes
        “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a
        financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, also
        backed by the court’s four liberal justices.
        “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
        He determined that the cost of buying mandatory insurance is a tax that Congress has a right to enact.

      • KewlDewd

        Except that Obama and company were insisting the whole time that it was a penalty, not a tax. Why? Because Obama promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. Then when it needed to be a tax to be considered constitutional, they’re cool with it. So he got his health care abomination…I mean plan passed, but had to break one of his biggest promises to do it. Which apparently doesn’t matter to him much anyway as millions of people saw their taxes increased and take home pay decreased starting this month.

      • Kurt

        having the option to do something before and now having to do it, is taking freedoms away. that is just 1 single case. you dont get it do you? ahhh cnn generation

      • Kurt

        he can declare Marshall law at any moment he wishes. he changed it to where it doesnt have to be during war time. he also has the right to take over pretty much any industry, including water/food. he has taken some religious freedoms. stop watching msnbc ‘dude’

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=49402594 Marlber ‘Malberto’ Cruz

        That sounds down right ridiculous, where is this info cited from?

      • Kurt

        may sound ridiculous and well I didn’t believe either. But he signed it early in 2012. Not sure which month. Just do a quick search. You’ll find. It was widely reported on all major newspapers. It’s scary to read it and see the power he alone holds but I don’t think he will ex resize thy option. But he should not have this power. It’s wrong.

      • JoshuaHulgan

        oh wow you edited your comment…
        Is that a rhetorical question?
        Of course I see where its hosted. What does that have to do with your original insinuation?

      • Kurt

        he doesn’t

      • Kurt

        you do know the particular lobbyist under obama who are behind all this? no? ohh, perhaps msnbc, cnn, abc news all suck and you should switch to something better

      • JoshuaHulgan

        Someone’s getting an unhealthy dose of Fox News…

      • Kurt

        Fox is reliable. It like CNN msnbc abc news. All liberal crap

      • JoshuaHulgan

        MSNBC is pretty liberal I’ll give you that.
        Just as Fox is incredibly conservative.
        I really don’t think either is good place to be getting unbiased information but I disagree wholeheartedly with Fox’s constant assertion that out of all news sources they are the sole entity pursuing the truth. They have an agenda and its easy to see that.
        To each his own I guess since this isn’t really the forum.

      • iphone4sgamer

        I totally agree 100 %

      • iphone4sgamer

        It was talk like a pirate day, and Obama’s campaign tweeted a gag photo of him sitting down with a pirate. The picture was taken in 2009 for the White House Correspondents Dinner of that year.

        “Fox and Friends,” however, falsely reported that the photo was taken
        recently in 2012. The morning show showed the picture with the caption “TOO BUSY FOR ISRAEL: President finds time for pirate, Letterman.”
        Co-host Steve Doocy said the picture showed “what President Obama hasbeen up to,” adding that he made sure “he didn’t forget to mark International Talk Like A Pirate Day.” Later, Brian Kilmeade said, “This pirate got a sit-down in the Oval Office yesterday.”
        Media Matters reported that the Drudge Report was first to post the pirate picture with the headline “But No Time For Netanyahu…” and surmised that “Fox and Friends” probably took after the site’s framing.
        Later, the show acknowledged that it had gotten the timing wrong, tweeting: “The picture we aired this morning of the President & the pirate was from 2009″
        So tell me Kurt how is Fox “News” as reliable as you claim it is to be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fourinchworld Michael Scott Allen

      We gave that up for fear in 2001….

  • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

    Signed this yesterday and shared on my FB page. These laws are so ridiculous.

  • Yan Kar

    signed, soon we won’t have rights to anything, Thanks the freedom of Obama.

    • http://www.facebook.com/zacksloane Zachary Sloane

      oh please, like this was OBAMA’s fault. I’m so damn sick of all you right wingers crying like Obama himself is wrecking this country. He’s done more to fix it in the last 4 years than anyone else can. All the repub’s do are cock-block him at every turn. It was your party that jacked up the country to begin with.

    • Kaptivator

      Got a question…lf Democrats are giving away the kitchen sink with Obama phones, welfare, etc…and Republicans are trying to keep the rich richer and wanting to cut spending, decrease welfare and give tax breaks only to the top 10%…Why would you think that its Obama? I’m not republican or democrat, but I just have to know your reasoning behind the statement. I may not understand but to me the companies don’t want you to lock your phone because that means you can take it to another company and since its unlocked…you wont need to buy a phone from them and you probably wont need a contract, so you may be able to get a cheaper cell phone bill…Or am I missing something? Please don’t take it as sarcasm..I’m dead serious.

  • ridonkulous

    Then I suppose I should get my $200 back from ATT when I’m done with THEIR phone…..

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      of course not..

    • Guest

      What is going on with this comment? It’s getting thumb ups so freaking fast on my eyes!

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      You would have to give the phone back though. When you pay $200 AT&T takes care of the other $300+ for the full cost of the phone. That’s why it’s technically their phone but you get to have it as long as you promise to use their service. Once your two years are up you would have paid back AT&T the money you owe them for the phone by using their service. That’s how subsidized phones work. Apparently several other people don’t understand that since you got so many upvotes.

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        Sounding like a true AT&T salesman.

      • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

        XD I assure I’m not. This applies to all subsidized phones on all carriers.

  • Andrew

    Wait, so unlocking an off contract phone through AT&T is still fine? Then I’m totally ok with this. If you want to pay for an unlocked phone, more power to you. But if you want a subsidized cost then don’t try to go around it. Wait two years and get it unlocked. Or just use sprint or Verizon. Aren’t the iPhones unlocked by default?

    • Chris

      But it isn’t always (I would say even usually) people trying to “get around” anything with the carriers.
      If you buy a subsidized phone from AT&T then decide to unlock it that should be your choice. You will still have your contract with AT&T so they get their money. If you cancel your contract you will have the large fee that AT&T charges and paying that is basically paying the extra money they knocked off the phone in the start. So no matter what you can’t take advantage of AT&T.
      Now lets say you want to travel to another country. AT&T wont unlock your phone for you. They want you to pay the roaming fees. But most people will just buy a cheap phone while they are out of country and put a pre paid sim in that phone. If unlocking is legal I can just unlock my iPhone and use it with the pre paid sim. AT&T will still charge me my monthly bill, just like we agreed when I signed my contract. They are still getting their money only I am able to use my device (that I am paying for, not ripping off AT&T in any way) however I see fit.
      And that is how it should be. Consumers should be able to do as they please with their goods they have purchased. If the phone carriers don’t like it I would say they need to stop selling the phones to people and only start leasing them. Then they would have the right to tell me how I use it. I am not buying it I am only leasing. Of course that would never happen cause then people would drop the phone each year to move to a new model.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    So the iPad jailbreak that will be out on sunday is illegal???????????? the hackers have not commented on this or indicated that they will not make it..

    • http://www.facebook.com/zacksloane Zachary Sloane

      no, the Jailbreak’ing is still legal. It’s UNLOCKing it that is not. Jailbreaking appears to be legal for another 2 years.

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        Lol, the US actually made a law that jailbreaking a tablet is illegal. Sounds stupid, but that’s US law for you.

      • http://twitter.com/ytos86 Yaseen AlSuwaidan

        actually , it is illegal

        “Unfortunately, though, that shield doesn’t work for jailbreaking or rooting tablets like the iPad.”

  • FrankensteinBlack

    Why not just buy an iPhone unlocked from Apple directly?

    • http://twitter.com/Konahamarue ElementalXTC

      It sounds so simple because it is. After living in Europe for 4 years and having to buy unlocked phone, I’m used to it.
      I went on eBay and bought a iPhone 4 and Galaxy Note 2 for about $1K. It sounds expensive but I’m a traveler and have Tmo back in the US. $30/month for 5gb data & 100 mins

  • SilveR RevliS

    Ok. The unlock is illegal, but what about jailbreaking for example my iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 5th Gen, and iPad 4 16GB on IOS 6.1 and further? Oh by the way stop worrying about negative stuff and watch the movie on netflix called “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” Thanks!

    • SimonOrJ

      As the article states:
      “the legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up, and will be through 2015. Unfortunately, though, that shield doesn’t work for jailbreaking or rooting tablets like the iPad.”

      Meaning that jailbreaking iPhone and iPod Touch is legal, while jailbreaking iPad doesn’t work the same way as jailbreaking the smaller devices.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arditsr Ardit Lale

    Wow cool !! Now we have to wait just 5 years that jailbreakers make unlocking and jailbreaking possible in our iDevices

  • http://www.facebook.com/siggen Sigurd Bøe

    Yay for the United States of the Patriots Act!!!
    The rest of the world is laughing and crying at the same time,
    We love you like our retarded younger brother.
    I mean, really, we love you for all its worth, but you are our big dumb strong retarded younger brother.

    Fly’s away while I watch US television, and movies.

  • intelxtreme

    i signed create muiltiple accounts so it can sign quickly

  • http://www.facebook.com/josue.saravia.18 Josue Saravia

    Please sign …. Petition!

  • Liam Mulcahy

    iWant to jailbreak the iPad mini… Too bad

  • http://www.deltecenterprises.org/ Deltec Enterprises

    So, I can’t jailbreak my iPad?

  • pawfyd

    It seems I was right about the US nowdays. It’s censorship everywhere, no freedom anymore. Even our comments were deleted for this reason. :S

    Sorry for replying to you, but I had no other place to do so. :P

  • Roddisq

    In some other countries (I live in one of them) all cell phones must be unlocked regardless of contract. If you have a contract, and want to change network, just pay a fine which is agreed before hand and you are done.
    US is going backwards in laws to protect its citizens….wake up people..

  • Serendipity Seraph

    This is plain wrong. I will sell my iDevices immediately if I have no more freedom than this. I won’t carry any computational device that sucks up money, spies on me and criminalizes my attempts to use it as I see fit.

  • Serendipity Seraph

    Why is an iPad under different and more restrictive rules than an iPhone? Jailbreaking a tablet is actually even more worthwhile than a phone for many people.