A petition to make unlocking cellphones legal again has crossed the signature threshold on the White House’s We The People petition site, meaning that it will receive an official response.
Back in January, unlocking new cellphones became illegal via decision from the Library of Congress. It’s still legal to unlock phones purchased before January 26th, but doing so on any device purchased after that cutoff mean you could run afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The basis for the reversal of U.S. federal policy was that only software owners (mostly Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.) shoudl have the rights to unlock handsets.
Of course, many consumers strongly disagree and feel as though it’s their right to do whatever they want with a device once they’ve made the purchase. And that’s the feeling behind the petition.
Here’s the full petition, simply titled “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal”:
The Librarian of Congress decided in October 2012 that unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the DMCA.
As of January 26, consumers will no longer be able unlock their phones for use on a different network without carrier permission, even after their contract has expired.
Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.
The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.
We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.
The petition currently has 101,000+ signatures, which means that the White House is required to respond. In mid-January, the White House upped the signature threshold to 100,000 from the previous 25,000, in the hopes of weeding out “joke” petitions and make the process a little more credible.
Before this move, there were dozens upon dozens of petitions that hit their goal but were sitting in limbo, waiting for responses.