EFF speaks on the illegality of unlocking in the US and what it means for end users

EFF speaks on the illegality of unlocking in the US and what it means for end users

As of just a few days ago, unlocking your iPhone, or any other wireless device for that matter, is no longer legal. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has stepped forward to clarify exactly what that means and who it ultimately will affect. As it turns out, it isn't necessarily the end user that would be violating the law.

According to a report by 9to5Mac, it's actually the unlockers themselves that will most likely be affected according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

More likely, wireless carriers, or even federal prosecutors, will be emboldened to sue not individuals, but rather businesses that unlock and resell phones.

Basically, wireless carriers and big business aren't going to go after the end user. If you purchased an unlock from a site on the internet and you're walking around with an illegally unlocked phone, the odds of you getting in trouble for that are almost invisible. The liability would mainly lie on the company that provided the unlock to you.

Carriers such as AT&T will unlock your iPhone for you once you've fulfilled the commitment term of your contract. This can be done by completing the full term or upgrading to a new iPhone or other device, which in turn would allow your older iPhone to be unlocked legally.

As for jailbreak, that's still legal under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act).

The legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up – it’ll protect us at least through 2015.

It's also worth noting that any device that was purchase before the new rule went into affect is still fair game. So if you've purchased an iPhone or other mobile device before that date, you're still legally entitled to unlock it, whether that's officially through your carrier or any other outlet.

Source: 9to5Mac

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

More Posts



← Previously

How to OTA (over-the-air) update to iOS 6.1 on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Next up →

New Apple TV with smaller dimensions makes an appearance via FCC filing

Reader comments

EFF speaks on the illegality of unlocking in the US and what it means for end users


I fail to see why they need this. I mean if you are in a contract and unlock it and switch to another carrier you get hit with an ETF, and seeing how those didn't away I don't see why the carriers care.

This is retarded, I bought my device and if I want to unlock it I have the right to unlock it, it is mine and only mine. It does not belong to the manufacturer, or the network I am currently on, it belongs to me. Once I purchase that device it is mine and no one can tell me how to or not to use it, as long as I am not harming anyone. I can do whatever I want to it, If i want to smash it, modify it physically, modify it on a software level, I can do that. Government regulations on stuff that doesn't matter is whats wrong with this country now a days, instead of regulating derivatives and the mega banks they want to regulate everything else.

I think you got a little too excited to jump the gun on this topic before you thought about what you wanted to convey. You could consider the purchase of ANY subsidized phone, which is tied to a two-year contract, as a loan of sorts. If you were to buy a car using a loan, the car may be your responsibility, however you do not get the title (aka the OWNERSHIP rights) until that loan is paid off. The same is true of your subsidized phone while under contract: you own it after two years (or whatever the contract term is), at which time, the phone is "officially" paid off.

It is a completely different story if you bought your smartphone, outright, at full price, thus eliminating the need for a two-year contract, and this ruling is irrelevant to you. And, as Allyson pointed out, as an end user, this means almost nothing to you anyway.