As of tomorrow, unauthorized unlocking of new, on-contract iPhones will be illegal in the U.S.

Due to a ruling by the Librarian of Congress, come tomorrow it will be illegal to unlock a new, on-contract iPhone -- or any phone -- in the U.S. If you bought your iPhone before tomorrow, or if you bought a factory unlocked iPhone straight from Apple, or off-contract, full priced iPhone from carriers, or your contract is over, you shouldn't be subject to any restrictions. Doing it on your own via Jailbreak, however, will be strictly verboten, and likely subject to prosecution by law enforcement and the Batman. Michael Gowen of TechNewsDaily reports:

In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.

No doubt oligopoly networks built on public airwaves appreciate your understanding. Know your laws, your rights, and make your purchasing decisions accordingly.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

As of tomorrow, unauthorized unlocking of new, on-contract iPhones will be illegal in the U.S.

36 Comments

Just had to comment on the irony:

This country has been assassinating private citizens via drones for several years and it takes a ban on unlocking phones for this question to be asked?

For the people who wants to unlock any ATT phones, go google attiphoneunlocking, they unlock any model and firmware. I did mine there.

this is definitely a good site, i bought it about 3 hours ago, and now it's unlocked, first time ever for me to come back to a site and leave a positive feed back.

I have tried two, attiphoneunlocking com was indeed the working one, and surprised me by unlocking my 5 in two hours, thought it was just ads, and iphoneunlockservice com was shit, 2weeks and it's not factory unlock, not worth the money. Didnt bother to try the imeiunlock, since it takes so long that I would probably forget about the unlocking.

None of our private citizens were attacked either.

Anyways, I hope the law gets rewritten to say "So long as the contract is kept active, it's legal to unlock"

Have you been to war? Are you in the military? Then do not compare a phone to Operational Military Strategy and National Defense.

Yes I am in the military. And it annoys me that I'm doing the best to protect this country that I love and my president is killing people without due process. That is not the America that we used to be. Do you remember truth, justice and the American way? We used to live in a country where even the superheroes refused to kill the villains and always turned them into the authorities. Even so, it's still my country and I'm going to serve it the best I can.

If you guys want to unlock any phone with carrier ATT, go seach att iphone unlocking, I believe the first one was the one I used, took me about 2 hours to unlock my 4s

I wouldn't worry about having the Batman stop you from unlocking your phone.
Now I'm not saying I'm the Batman or anything but what I can tell you is that no one has ever seen me and the Batman in the same room together. Ill just leave it at that.

Jailbreaking != unlocking. Unlocking is taking a device that is software locked to a specific carrier and making it work on any carrier the phone can technically use (AT&T vs T-Mobile or VZW vs Sprint forex).

Progressivism's end game; everything that is not mandatory is forbidden and vice versa... Hooray for convenient idiots and the statists they empower due to their bizarre belief that we are always just a few more laws away from utopia.

Progressives want more laws to protect us from moving backwards into a religious state. Conservatives want more laws to protect us from becoming too progressive. Everyone is the same in the world. Except the Flemish, they're just odd.

You may want to do more research on progressivism particularly in regard to religion. You are describing neo-conservatives who would more accurately be identified as moderate progressives. An American conservative (though the word is frequently inaccurately used to describe any non full fledged progressive) would more accurately be identified as a classical liberal considering that is what we were founded on. As for the Flemish, I don't see where their eccentricities have any bearing on our mad dash down the road to serfdom.

Nah. If inebriated or in the presence of attractive women I just smile and nod when confronted with collectivists. If I'm skimming blogs I'm likely trying to waste some time and may as well correct any foolishness.

More work for cops when they pull you over, now they have to check to see if your phone is illegally unlocked.

Lobbyists!! We are in a legal binding contract. Unlocking our phones doesn't rip the contract in half. We have to pay off that phone one way or another. This is incredibly stupid.

What does the Library Of Congress have to do with mobile devices? Content stored on them such as music, videos, ebooks, etc and software to manage or crack those, I can understand. But this? If any federal agency would have jurisdiction over this it should be the FCC as making a cellphone usable on a different carrier is a communication issue, not a media content issue.

Boy I just love the lawmakers telling me what I can and cannot do with stuff I pay hard earned money for. Congrats congress on moving us one step closer to Stalin's dream!

Bah, you sound like a parrot. Get your own soundbite and create your own thought. You already do live in Stalin's dream because you robotically repeat what everyone else says.

Hmm.. the same could be said for you. Why do people feel the need to sit back and watch the government make one law after another taking our rights away. Just because this law doesn't sound THAT bad doesn't mean we should ignore it. It is this attitude that lets the government totally take over our lives.

When you accepted a phone at a subsidized price, you entered into a contract. If you do not wish to be bound by those terms, pay the unsubsidized price.

It says "on contract". Just don't sign a contract and its legal. I'm never signing a contract again. I'll be happy to buy the phone at retail...to also keep unlimited data.

Officer, hey Officer, I know for sure that person has an unlocked iPhone via jailbreak. That is nice sir, call in to make a report over the phone, and our crack iPhone squad will get right on it.

I know it is silly, but just who is going to enforce this? Making something a law is not always enforceable. I can see a reason, but just sounds like "well it look good on paper" type of law. I can see some reason behind it, but could it lead into other things? I can see jailbreaking falling under this type of law, and no matter if you are on team pure, or team jailbreak, you have to agree a good majority of innovation by Apple comes from the jailbreak community. Thank you Alley, you may sit down now, no need to give me a standing ovation, just a little golf clap will do.

Here in Canada we may still be able to unlock our devices however; we are trapped in these damn 3 year contracts while the rest of the world gets 1-2 year terms. Yes the phone is subsidized but why when the world offers a smartphone for $0 on a 2 year term do Canadian carriers gives us $0 on a 3 year term for the EXACT same phone? We should be getting credit on our bills for the first six to eight months for signing up on a 3 year term (I'd say about $30 per month on a $50 plan). Added, if we want a 2 year term, that $0 phone becomes $399 when the phone is valued at $699. And if we want a 1 year term we get charged the full price of the phone (in most cases) with no subsidy... Canada is the worst in terms of the mobile market...