Petition Legalizing Unlocking Phones Goes to The White House

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It’s official.  A White House petition to make unlocking cell phones legal has passed the key 100,000 signature mark, requiring the White House to issue an official response.

The petition was created by San Francisco resident Sina Khanifar after he received a cease and desist letter from Motorola in 2005 for selling software to unlock Motorola cell phones.  The letter said that he was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and could face up to five years in prison and half a million dollars in fines per incident.

“I believe in the fair doctrine policy – once you’ve paid for something, you should be able to do whatever you want with it,” Khanifar said.

The petition was filed with the White House’s “We The People” online registry and was short 20,000 signatures five days ago.  However, in recent days, the petition gained momentum with help from a Tweet from the most popular Anonymous account on Twitter, YourAnonNews, and from a post on Reddit.  The two sources helped push the petition over the necessary 100,000 signatures required to elicit a response from the White House.

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Khanifer said he didn’t expect this much feedback from the petition.  He also said that he thought Anonymous was interested in consumer rights, so it would make sense that they would support it.

The petition takes issue with a decision by the Librarian of Congress which made it illegal to unlock a newly purchased phone.  As of January 23, 2013, users unlocking phones would be in violation of DMCA.  Many consumers disagree with the new policy because they believe once they buy a phone, they should be able to do whatever they want with the device, including unlocking it in order to switch carriers.

One of the reasons the petition barely met its goal is due to a change by the Obama administration, which recently raised the number of signatures needed to elicit a response from the White House from 25,000 to 100,000.

Now that a response is required, Khanifer is hopeful the government will make the right decision.

“Hopefully they’ll give a meaningful response and work to make unlocking and jailbreaking phones and tablets permanently legal,” he said.  “I’ve also started http://fixthedmca.org to help us get more people involved in the movement.”

If you want to sign the petition, you can go here.


— Cassie Slane

Cassie Slane is a technology and consumer products expert and appears as an electronics guest on QVC and Philly's Fox 29 Channel. She has been a producer and writer for major media outlets including Bloomberg News, CNBC, and CNN.




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