Apparent block on mass-unlocking of AT&T iPhones hits resale industry

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Companies that specialise in buying and selling used iPhones are reporting that the methods they use to unlock handsets to allow them to be used on any compatible network are no longer working for AT&T models.

AT&T models are in greatest demand for companies reselling iPhones overseas, as the frequencies used are compatible with many foreign networks. But the WSJ says that something changed early in October, and no solution has been found since then. One reseller, run by Louis Ashner, says it is being forced to close.

“The market is gone,” Mr. Ashner said, who said he was on track for $1 million in revenue this year. “We are closing up.”

Business owners throughout the U.S. used-smartphone market are reporting the same problem, and like Mr. Ashner none of them knows exactly what went wrong. Whatever changed, AT&T appears to be at the center of it …  Read more

Following White House statement, lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking

Following a statement from the White House on Monday confirming it would support “narrow legislative fixes” to make unlocking cellphones legal again, several lawmakers have announced plans to introduce legislation. According to a report from The Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights Senator Amy Klobuchar have confirmed they will introduce bills in support of the legalization of cellphone unlocking:

“I intend to work in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to restore users’ ability to unlock their phones and provide them with the choice and freedom that we have all come to expect in the digital era,” Leahy said in a statement.

The Judiciary Committee, which handles copyright issues, would likely have jurisdiction over any bill to legalize cellphone unlocking.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, said she plans to introduce her own bill this week.

During a recent panel discussion on Capitol Hill, other lawmakers voiced their support for the legislation, including Representatives Darrell Issa and Jared Polis, while The Hill reported the Federal Communication Commissions’Jessica Rosenworcel “encouraged Congress to re-examine the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

The decision was made by the Library of Congress in October to make unlocking cellphones illegal, and that policy officially took effect in January. Following the White House’s statement in response to a petition with over 110,000 signatures, the Library of Congress issued a statement and agreed that “the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context.” Read more

EFF clarifies (somewhat) legality of unlocking and jailbreaking in the US

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With a likely new iPhone jailbreak coming this Superbowl Sunday and unlocking phones’ DMCA exemption expiring this weekend, a lot of us don’t know where they stand with regard to the law. If you are in Canada, for example, the government is moving toward passing laws that require carriers to unlock phones and cap early termination fees. Must be nice.

In the ‘Home of the Free’, things got a lot murkier with the expiration of the DMCA exemption last weekend. So, does that mean you can jailbreak? How about carrier unlocking? The Electronic Frontier Foundation says:

First, the good news. The legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up – it’ll protect us at least through 2015. The shield for unlocking your phone is down, but carriers probably aren’t going to start suing customers en masse, RIAA-style. And the Copyright Office’s decision, contrary to what some sensational headlines have said, doesn’t necessarily make unlocking illegal.

So, Jailbreaking is cool. At least for another few years. Enjoy your Superbowl jailbreak.

Carrier unlocking is murky, but it appears that phones bought before last weekend are fair game for unlocking. Go nuts!

But, new phones? It sounds like the risk is on the “unlockers” or the people who do the unlocking.

More likely, wireless carriers, or even federal prosecutors, will be emboldened to sue not individuals, but rather businesses that unlock and resell phones. If a court rules in favor of the carriers, penalties can be stiff – up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case where the unlocking is done for “commercial advantage.” And this could happen even for phones that are no longer under contract. So we’re really not free to do as we want with devices that we own.

What’s interesting is a cottage industry has formed around unlocking done by actually getting the carriers to unlock your phone. For instance, friend of the site, ChronicUnlocks is still in operation in the United States, and we’re hearing nothing but good things from readers who’ve bought unlocks. The site says:

Read more