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February 07, 2013

Unlock At Your Own Risk

By Robbie Pleasant, TMCnet Contributor

While the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress recently ruled that unlocking one’s cell phone is illegal, this might prove a difficult ruling to uphold. According to a survey from, one of the leading coupon code websites in the U.S., at least a third of Americans have no intention to pay it any heed, and will continue to do with their handsets as they please.

Out of those who responded to the survey, only 43 percent had unlocked a cell phone before, and over half of them had done so in order to use an international SIM card to use the phone while abroad. A quarter did it in order to sell the phone, while the remaining quarter had other reasons, such as wanting to change the SIM card or give it to a friend.

Whether or not they unlocked their phones, though, most respondents do not agree with the ruling about cell phone unlocking. Most felt that way because they believe that consumers should have the right to do with their cell phones as they please. Others had more financially motivated reasons, claiming that handsets are too expensive without being able to unlock them, or wanting to switch providers more easily.

Either way, about a third of them said that they would continue to unlock their phones, whether or not it was illegal. Another 12 percent would also at least consider it, depending on the situation; for example, if they were selling it, or wanted to switch SIM cards, they’d be tempted to unlock it in spite of the ruling.

“With the amount of money that Americans are spending, not only on their handsets but their contracts with the top carriers, it came as a bit of a surprise that the US Congress has voted to make unlocking cell phones illegal; with consumers facing up to thousands of dollars in fines if they continue to do so,” said Mark Pearson, chairman of, in a statement.. “The ruling has obviously annoyed American consumers so we were curious to discover whether or not they were going to continue to unlock their phones or simply purchase unlocked phones online instead. Over a third of respondents admitted that they would continue to get their phones unlocked, even if it meant that they would be committing an illegal act.”

I’ve found that people are more willing, and in fact likely, to commit minor acts of rebellion if it benefits them. The illegality of unlocking phones will also be difficult to uphold, since it’s difficult to tell when someone has unlocked their phone, at least without committing a gross violation of privacy. I am of the belief that the ruling should be re-evaluated, because whether or not it changes, people will still do as they please with their phones.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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