A petition requesting the United States government legalize the unlocking of cellular phones received more than 100,000 signatures.
The supporters of the initiative are now waiting for the White House to respond to the issue.
The federal government implemented a policy that prohibits the unlocking of mobile phones in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Enacted in 1998, law prohibits the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to evade digital rights management or measures that control access to copyrighted works.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office only owners of software are allowed to unlock cellular phones. This means only Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) have the authority to unlock the devices because they own the operating systems powering the devices.
In October last year, the Librarian of Congress decided to remove the unlocking of cellular phones from the exceptions to the DMCA in October last year, citing that carriers are selling unlocked devices. Consumers are no longer allowed to unlock their devices effective January 26.
A consumer from San Francisco California created the petition in response to the decision of the Librarian of the Congress. The consumer emphasized that the policy reduces consumer choice and forces them to pay expensive roaming fees to make calls while traveling outside the country.
To date, 100,839 people signed in support of the petition asking the White House to overturn the policy of the Librarian of Congress and to champion a bill that would permanently legalize the unlocking of cellphones.
The petition reads:
“The Librarian of Congress decided in October 2012 that unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the DMCA.
As of January 26, consumers will no longer be able unlock their phones for use on a different network without carrier permission, even after their contract has expired.
Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.
The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.
We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.”
The initiative was pushed using twitter and Reddit. In just two days, the petition managed to get 20,000 signatures needed to move to the next phase and pass the 100,000 required signatures. A popular Anonymous twitter account with 900,000 followers was very helpful in creating awareness about the petition.
The petitioners are hoping that the Obama administration will respond to their petition. They believe that consumers have the right to unlock their own devices and switch carriers because they bought it.
Any petition that acquires more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days will receive an official response from the White House.