The government and iPhone Unlocking: A shift in policy?
The federal government has started to take an active interest in curbing the freedom of individuals to modify, alter and change their iPhone. However for the average user who is interested in jailbreaking their iPhone then how this is viewed under the law is not widely known.
In the past few years there has been a marked shift in the policy of the government from a laissez-faire attitude to the cell phone world to one where they are actively getting in involved. However is jailbreaking actually illegal in the US or is this just a scare tactic on behalf of the cell companies?
Finding an iPhone jailbreak from the various online services that offer this facility is easy for the end user and according to the law as is, the act of jailbreaking is technically not illegal the minute. Through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) the process of jailbreaking an iPhone will remain legal until at least 2015 when it is up for review again (somehow jailbreaking an iPad is deemed as being against the law).
The confusion comes when we speak of unlocking. The two things are actually quite different; unlocking an iPhone 4 means you can use the cell phone on any network you please whereas jailbreaking is opening up the source code and allowing you to customize the device itself.
Last year the U.S. Library of Congress ruled that unlocking an iPhone was against the law if the device was bought after January 26th 2013 and while it can still be done legally through cell carries it is illegal for a third party to offer this service if they are based in the USA. In many respects the federal government has went out of its way to curb freelance unlocking services however they have left unlocking alone – up until now.
Even though the law isn’t likely to be changed before 2015 there is an active movement in Congress and at a more local level to outlaw unlocking entirely. Until now there has been no significant polling on what the public things of this movement however it is likely that unlocking would receive widespread support among the iPhone crowd and cell users in general.
So, will we will a major shift in government policy in regards to unlocking the iPhone 6, or any other model for that matter?
Certainly there won’t be any change this year meaning that sites like this will still be allowed to promote unlocking. If anything it will be 2015 before we see a shift in policy and even then any polls with a small sample size have shown opposition to making unlocking illegal. The government, at the minute, have no real desire to make itself any more unpopular than it already is for a lot of people and leaving iPhone unlocking alone would be a sensible move.
The law might be on the side of cell phone carriers when it comes to unlocking however as far as unlocking goes there is no real desire on the part of the government to change its position even if certain members of Congress and local politicians are unlocking trying to change the law.