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Call The Locksmith!

Laura Mego

If you ever want to unlock your smartphone, you have mere hours left to do it. Effective today—Saturday, January 26, unlocking your smartphone in the US will be illegal.

First, a primer: unlocking your cell phone is different than jailbreaking or rooting it. Carriers “lock” cell phones into their network, effectively forcing you to buy a handset from that carrier if you would like to use a phone on their network. Unlocking your phone allows you to use the phone on another carrier’s network. Jailbreaking allows you to download apps outside of the native app store for a device, add more apps to your home screen, or update the font that your email client uses. Effectively, it breaks the software’s internal limits on what the phone can or cannot do. So, to recap: unlocking allows you to use your Sprint phone on T-Mobile’s network, while rooting or jailbreaking allows you to download an app from somewhere other than Google Play or iTunes, among other things.

Now, to the illegal unlocking. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is essentially an anti-piracy law. Passed in the US in 1998, the act punishes actions, programs, etc. that are designed to get around copyrights. Under the law, the action of unlocking a cell phone to use on another carrier’s network was considered exempt.  In October 2012, that changed. The Librarian of Congress declared that unlocking  a cell phone is circumnavigating the copyright, and would therefore no longer be exempt. A  90 day grace period was provided for consumers wishing to purchase devices and unlock them, but that 90 day grace period ends January 26. Moral of the story: if you want to unlock your phone, you better do it now!

P.S. If you don’t understand the reference in the title, then you’ve never experienced the comedic genius that is Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Rent it NOW. You’ll like it. We promise.

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