White House petition to legalize mobile unlocking reaches 100K goal. Anonymous, EFF and Congressmen have expressed support.

by: J. Angelo RacomaFebruary 21, 2013

Mobile lock

I almost thought we’d never make it. After almost 30 days, the White House petition to lift the ban on mobile unlocking has reached — and surpassed — its 100,000 signature goal. This means government will be compelled to at least make an official response to consumers’ requests to make mobile unlocking legal. Now whether the White House does agree with us, we would have to wait. But at least we have made our voices heard through this “We the People” initiative.

In fact the petition is now at 101,106 and the number of signatures seems to be growing at a faster rate now that it has breached the minimum.

As a brief backgrounder, recall that mobile phone unlocking has been rendered illegal by the Librarian of Congress as a violation agains the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. This particular issue is set for review once every three years, and until January 2013, unlocking your phone’s network-lock was actually allowed by law. But after January 26th, unlocking is already a violation of the DMCA. While I have argued before that networks are not likely to prosecute everyone who unlocks their phone, this might make software unlocking tools a bit more difficult to access given that they are now illegal.

See also: White house petition to make unlocking legal still needs 28K signatures. Only 5 days to go!

Sina Khanifar, who initiated the petition last January, got in touch with us earlier today to share that a few big names (and no-names) have signified their support for the petition. These include hacking collective Anonymous, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a few members of the U.S. House of Representatives, among others.

As to Sina’s motivation behind this petition, we earlier shared that he had once been laid a lawsuit for developing unlocking tools, but he still feels that consumers should have the right to switch networks. He stresses how the principles of unlocking are aligned with the open nature of Android.

As a tinkerer myself, I think its pretty unreasonable that the legality of unlocking, rooting, or jailbreaking your phone gets decided every three years by the Librarian of Congress. I think the fair use doctrine should apply — once you’ve bought something, you should be free to do as you want with it. To fix that, the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions need to be fixed, but the film and music industries will likely lobby heavily against any changes. Thats why I started the petition: to show the White House and politicians that people really do care about this kind of thing.

What’s next? The White House will now have to make an official response to the matter. Now we’re hoping it’s positive, and not a boilerplate “no” answer, since this is a consumer-rights related matter after all, and not an expensive $852 quadrillion Death Star project that could easily be shot down by a one-man starship.

  • “After almost 30 days, the White House petition to ban mobile unlocking has reached — and surpassed — its 100,000 signature goal.”

    Wouldn’t it be “ban the ban on mobile unlocking”?

    • jangeloracoma

      Thanks for pointing this out. Fixed.

  • Yessss!

  • How many Ford dealership mechanics would turn away work on a Chevy? Who wants a chastity belt for their smartphone? Wasn’t it my money? Shouldn’t I have had the option to PAY LESS with the warning such anti-consumer legislation was in the making? These questions and more, I’d be titillated to hear answers to.

    • I blame Divertor…again. Congress should have never learned of his existence.

    • your already paying around 300-400 less for your phone so you were given the option

      • if, by that pure B.S., you mean manufacturers had figured that into the price, you are…well, full of b.s. of the worst kind…here’s why:
        I paid (a mere) $100 (but it was a short-run deal at BB, not ATT, so wait…) for my LGOG just before Christmas…I rooted it, was having my fun, then an app I won’t name anymore ‘fudged’ it up…first time for that for me, luckily, I had two days left on my 30-day warranty at BB, so they exchanged it for me…I paid no more, no less, for that 2nd phone, which was, BTW, still being offered at that low price (for a quad-core anyway)…when I got home, I suddenly (true!) found out via RSS-technews feed that if I hadn’t screwed up the 1st phone, I could’ve kept it legally, rooted, by the same type of grandfather clause that governs many other purchases, rentals, etc.
        not with the 2nd phone, though–now I could go to prison, or suffer the fine of whatever it is (not worried–I’m too pussified to root it again ’til the law gets repealed)…so, one day, a $100 phone is $100…the next, $100, but you can go to prison for rooting the same phone…LG didn’t add or subtract from the phone’s price after the law went into effect.
        so…it doesn’t matter what you pay for your phone…whether it’s the Berlinetta of smartphones, or a regular-issue one…
        X being the $ amt of said phone:
        $xxx.xx before this b.s., $xxx.xx after (except with heavy penal penalty)…go suck an egg.

      • did you even sign the petition…if not, then why bother commenting here…you helping?

  • but some (maybe a lot) of those petitioners don’t live in the US…