'Unlocking' Your Cell Phone Is Now Illegal

'Unlocking' Your Cell Phone Is Now Illegal
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Anytime you sign a contract and get a new cell phone from a wireless provider like Verizon or AT&T, that phone is 'locked' into service with that particular provider.

The phone will only work on that provider's voice and data network, unless you 'unlock' it—a fairly simple process that enables that phone to work on other wireless networks.

Now, the process of 'unlocking' a cell phone is illegal. According to a recent decision by the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, unlocking a mobile phone violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law designed to fight digital copyright infringement.

Those who violate the law could face civil action from their wireless phone carrier or criminal charges if they modified phones for commercial gain.Most major wireless carriers do offer unlocked phones for sale, but they will cost you significantly more than a phone purchased under contract. For instance, you can buy an unlocked iPhone 5 from Verizon for $649. With a 2-year Verizon contract, the phone will only cost you $199.