Last Saturday, January 26, marked the first day that it became illegal to unlock your smartphone without permission from the carriers. Of course, many users got upset over the news and for good reason, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has clarified some details about the new laws regarding unlocking and jailbreaking your phone.
The EFF wanted to point out that the entire situation has both positives and negatives. First, it’s still completely legal to jailbreak and root your phone (but not tablets, mind you), and that law will stand through at least 2015. However, unlocking your phone yourself is illegal as everyone says it is, but the EFF note that carriers “probably aren’t going to start suing customers en masse, RIAA-style.”
The EFF says that carriers will be more likely to sue businesses that unlock and resell phones, rather than the individuals, and the charges are stiff: up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case when the unlocking is for “commercial advantage.”
Even for phones that are no longer under contract, it’s still illegal to unlock them, proving ever more that we’re really not free to do as we want with devices that we own. This law will stay put until late 2014, when the next round of creating and defending exemptions will start back up. It’s possible that we could see lawsuits form against the DMCA, but that’s something we’ll have to wait and see on.