Congress has approved a bill which will make it legal to unlock a cellphone in the United States so you can use it with a different wireless carrier. That was actually legal from 2006 through 2012… but only due to an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) which has been in effect since 1998.
Now the House and Senate have reached agreement on a measure that will make unlocking a phone legal again… once President Obama signs the bill into law. The good news is that’s something he’s already said he’ll do.
Does this mean phone makers or wireless carriers will have to make it easy for customers to unlock their devices? Nope. But you won’t be prosecuted for doing it on your own.
What the measure allows is for you to circumvent “a technological measure that restricts wireless telephone handsets or other wireless devices from connecting to a wireless telecommunications network” or have another person or commercial entity do it on your behalf.
The new measure isn’t necessarily the final word on the issue either. Once it’s signed into law it’ll be legal to unlock your phone in the United States… until 2015 when the Library of Congress reconsiders its rules and decides whether to extend the exemption to the DCMA.
Then there’ll be another review every three years.