White House petition on cellphone unlocking receives over 100,000 signatures

“At 7:37 AM EST on February 21, 2013, a White House petition on cellphone unlocking went over the 100,000 signature threshold on the White House’s ‘We the People’ website,” Derek Khanna reports for Forbes. “This was the threshold for a White House response. Now they will will wait to hear from the White House.”

“On January 26, 2013, the Librarian of Congress issued a ruling that made it illegal to unlock new phones. Unlocking is a technique that allows your phone to use a different carrier. Doing so could place you in legal liability for up to 5 years in jail and a $500,000 fine,” Khanna reports. “This prohibition is a violation of our property rights, and it makes you wonder, if you can’t alter the settings on your phone, do you even own your own phone?”

Khanna reports, “Overall, this is a clear example of copyright law run amuck – the underlying law was created to protect copyright but it’s being applied in a manner that no legislator expected in 1998 when they voted for the bill. The underlying law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), was passed three years before the iPod, six years before Google Books and nine years before the Kindle. Now that it’s clear that the DMCA is being interpreted in a way clearly contrary for which it was passed, it’s incumbent upon Congress to act.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
White House petition lobbies to make cellphone unlocking legal – February 20, 2013


  1. “incumbent upon Congress to act”
    um, aren’t there more important action items this week?
    oops, I’m assuming “act” means to take action, otherwise they are “acting” all the time.

  2. Fuck am I sick of controlling white humans. Anybody know how to either stop the insanity of controlling people and countries other than just killing all of them or another planet we can go to hang out on?

  3. I do not agree with the unlocking process, but the government should not be able to enforce this. What’s going to be next, are they going to tell you you can’t take your own phone you bought with your own money and smash it to bits with a hammer?

        1. Or you can get another phone (at 1/3 the retail price and sell you old phone on ebay, I sold a 4 for >$300 on ebay a few months ago (which AT&T unlocked for me because it had completed it’s contract)
          You if you don’t want $100 and a brand new iPhone every couple years can choose not to do business with them (there are other carriers and MVNO’s who if you buy your iPhone without a carrier subsidy will be glad to put it on their service for $50 (or even $30) a month.)

          What you can’t do is sign a contract where you agree to use a subsidized phone exclusively on a carriers service and then use it on another carrier (unless they agree to that)

      1. Wow, I never thought of it that way! So if I lose my phone or it gets run over by a truck and smashed to bits a month after I buy it, then I still have to pay phone company for the duration of the 2-year plan.
        Wait. What?…
        Oh, right it’s a contract. Just like if someone buys a new car and it gets totaled after the first month — they still have tonight for it.

  4. The carriers’ argument is that locking makes it possible to offer an iPhone for just $200 (instead of the full price of $650). Presumably, locking prevents people from buying $200 phones on the cheap, then bailing out of the contract and unloading the phone for $650 (or thereabouts). While that would be an actionable breach of contract (i.e. the carrier would be able to go after the customer who bailed), the expense of litigating such trivial amount (essentially, around $450) is just too high, so they put up this obstacle (SIM subsidy locking), in order to discourage (since they can’t totally prevent) such breaches of contract.

    Unlocking was never much of a prominent issue before the iPhone, since literally ALL American GSM carriers had policies to provide unlocking instructions upon request, under certain, fairly minimal, conditions. I have unlocked at least ten different phones over the years, some with AT&T, some with Omnipoint / Voicestream / T-Mobile, and it was always immediate, on the spot.

    With the iPhone, AT&T was the first one to stop this practice, and it seems like this has now mushroomed into a widespread policy change with other GSM carriers, so at this point, very few carriers will show you how to unlock their smartphones, even if you have been with them for a while.

    While I can understand if unlocking cannot be allowed until the phone is at least paid off, there is no basis for keeping the phones locked to a carrier once the customer no longer owes any part of the phone value to the carrier. That really has to be changed, and quickly.

    1. Great phone with great features costs a lot of money to develop. I get it. Apple and others have to charge a lot for their phones. But I agree with you 100%, eventually I should be able to unlock my phone when it is paid off so to speak. That’s a scam.

      1. You can unlock you iPhone after the contract is over. I did it over either Apple’s or ATT’s website, I forgot which. Next time I plugged it in to my computer for a sync, it unlocked.

        I recall the days before “bundling” as it was called. It sucked. I paid full price for the phone, and full price for the service.

        If people want to buy an unlocked phone, they should buy one. I want the subsidy, since I’m going to be using somebody’s cell service for the next two years regardless, so I buy a locked phone.

        Now, if the cell co.s are not letting their customers unlock after they finish the contract (like ATT did until recently) then screw ’em. But as of now, ATT will unlock your phone after the contract time is up. I don’t know about the other companies, but I can’t imagine they’d give ATT that advantage.

    2. Have been exclusively on AT&T for a few years now (so I can’t comment on another vendor) but I can tell you they have unlocked several for me and the process is fairly simple. You make an unlock request (there is a page on the website), they review the contract (in a day or two) to see if the contract was satisfied, they email you that your contract was satisfied and that your request has been granted, and you plug the phone into iTunes and restore it. Presto! an unlocked phone.

      Not sure what part of that process you feel needs to be changed.

  5. That’s great. The federal government is trying to collapse the country by doing everything except their jobs as defined by the Constitution that they swore an oath to. Really, this is the most important thing for the Federal Government to focus on at this time. Did one of these idiots run for office stating that they would get these phones unlocked for all those unemployed now homeless and hungry people and their families. Really!

    1. The petition has been signed by ordinary people (like you and me). The “We The People” web site allows people to submit petitions and if enough signatures are collected, the White House promises that they would look at the petition. They do have a caveat there, saying that they’ll do it in their spare time, when it is convenient, and if there aren’t too many such petitions.

      So, I have no doubt that the White House will not really bother much with online petitions at this time, considering their other priorities. At some point in the future, they might look at this one and perhaps push it somewhere appropriate.

    2. If they have so many ‘other’ priorities, how in the hell did they find the time to pass the law making it illegal to unlock?

      If they wouldn’t have done that, we wouldn’t have to waste their ‘precious’ time and drag them away from their oh so important ‘other’ priorities to undo something they NEVER should have done in the first place.

      1. The act is called DMCA. It was passed into law some fifteen years ago, and it regulates copyright, copyright protection and decryption of DRM.

        It was the Library of Congress who ruled on the interpretation of the law as it pertains to the unlocking. The petition wants the government to tell the Library of Congress to change the ruling about unlocking. It does not try to challenge the DMCA law itself.

  6. Regardless of the pros or cons of this issue, the We The People petitions are totally and completely pointless. NOT ONE has ever been acted on. At best, you can hope for a terse response essentially saying, “sorry, but no.” Unless of course you request funding for a Death Star. Then you’ll get a detailed and thoughtful explanation before being told NO.

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