According to a change in the DMCA, a U.S. copyright law, jailbreaking cell phones is illegal since february 4th. That is, unlocking the limitations set by the carrier so the cell phone can work with other mobile carriers will be punishable by law. This is an unprecedented new situation that could have serious consequences on open-source operating systems such as Android. According to the new legislation, if the owner of a device unlocks it, he/she would be committing a crime.
The main problem with this measure has to do with the legal responsibility that the user has with the cell phone. Although the cell phone belongs to the user, he/she maintains a relationship with the carrier that cannot be broken. If users unlock their cell phones, the carrier can press charges against them, and they will be forced to pay a fine of anywhere between $200 and $2,500 dollars. In addition, if someone unlocks their cell phone and then sells it, they would be committing a criminal act punishable by a fine for damages of up to $500,000 and five years in prison, if it is a severe case.
The purpose of this measure is to deter the sale of stolen phones, rather than limit users’ freedom with their phones. Users can always buy unlocked phones directly from the carrier. The serious thing about the situation is that it is a repressive system that could negatively affect the open philosophy of Google and Android, which allows users to install and modify their devices to suit their needs and create the best user experience possible, even if that means changing companies.
Unlocking and modifying ROMs is how many users update and maintain their old cell phones, the majority of which the carrier has forgotten about. It is a problem that Android faces, and given the different versions of the operating system, the majority of hardware companies don’t adapt to the new technology, but rather directly release new cell phones with a more modern operating system.
In other countries, such as in Spain and other parts of Europe, unlocking phones still hasn’t caught the attention of cell phone carriers, perhaps because it isn’t very common. Nonetheless, there are stores that are dedicated solely to unlocking phones. Only time will tell whether or not this legislation will eventually affect Spain, and other countries in Europe.