Petition to make unlocking phones legal again passes 100,000 signatures; White House now required to respond

Petition to make unlocking phones legal again passes 100,000 signatures; White House now required to ...

A White House petition to make unlocking cell phones legal again has passed the 100,000 signature mark. Passing the milestone means the US government has to issue an official response.

There were also at least two pushes that made this possible. On Tuesday, the most popular Anonymous account on Twitter, YourAnonNews with over 900,000 followers, pointed out that there were only five days left to sign the petition. At that point, just under 20,000 signatures were needed. On Wednesday, a second push came from Reddit, at a point where there were just under 10,000 signatures needed.

It’s early Thursday morning now, and the petition has managed to get the 20,000 signatures it needed in just two days. The first 80,000 signatures took 26 days. Either way, the six figure mark has now been broken:

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Back in late January, a new US federal policy stating certain mobile phones could not be unlocked legally went into effect. Citizens doing so would be in violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The US Copyright Office says only owners of the software, which in almost all cases means the companies that make mobile operating systems like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, can unlock handsets. Many consumers disagree as 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.

A petition was quickly launched in response. One of the reasons the petition only met its goal now 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.

Although this was mainly done to cut down on the number of “joke” petitions (see Death Star example), it has also had the effect of seriously cutting down on the spirits of those pushing to address serious issues. In the last few days, however, we’ve seen a huge acceleration in signatures as Americans realized the final 100,000 mark was achievable.

It was a close call, as the petition would have expired two days from now on Saturday.

For reference, here’s the petition’s full description:

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.

Hopefully the Obama administration will give a response worthy of 100,000 signatures.

Update at 3:00PM EST: Sina Khanifar, the man who started the petition, wants to continue the fight against the DMCA. If you want to help, sign up at

Image Credit: Trevor McGoldrick/Flickr

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