Unlocking smartphones

Pat Pilcher writes at NZ Herald:

Every once and a while a law is passed that really gives you pause for thought. One such example is an inexplicable piece of legislation about to come into force in the US that will see smartphone users unlocking their phones with the permission of their mobile service provider running afoul of the law.

This bizarre situation came about because the US government applied the same sort of loopy wisdom that you’d associate with walkshorts, cardigans and the public sector.

In a nutshell they worked out that smartphones could contravene the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Bizarrely this then resulted in laws being drafted so that while it is legal to jailbreak smartphones, it will become illegal to jailbreak tablets and even more annoyingly, illegal to unlock phones without permission from the telco you bought your phone from.

How ridiculous.

Whilst most telcos would argue that there is a solid commercial reason for this legislation, in that they’re wanting to ensure that the cost of a subsidised and heavily discounted handset is recovered from the duration of the customers mobile contract and don’t want the customer exiting their plan prematurely.

If they do, then you may have breach of contract. That is what they do in NZ – you have to pay more to change providers early on if you got a discounted handset. There is absolutely no need to have this as criminal law.

This is almost an abuse of law making powers. It will I am sure be widely ignored.

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