Under pressure from consumer advocates, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law on Friday that once again allows consumers to unlock cellphones without having to obtain permission from the original wireless provider.
An exemption had existed for unlocking cellphones under current copyright law, and exemption that the US Copyright Office, under pressure from wireless providers, let lapse in early 2013.
This left consumers in the lurch, unable to switch providers without going through the often cumbersome unlocking processes that some providers offered.
The solution, at least a temporary one, was to re-introduce into law the previous exemption, and this was achieved through a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). A bill that was signed into law on Friday by President Obama.
"Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace," said Sen. Patrick Leah.
The new law is only effective until the US Copyright Office re-examine exemptions, most likely in late 2015. This exemption also only apply to cellphones at the moment, but the bill directs the US Copyright Office to also look into extending the exemption to other devices, such as tablets.
The CTIA, a group that represents the major wireless providers, cautiously welcomed the new changes.
"Even though the vast majority of Americans enjoy upgrading to new devices once their contract terms are fulfilled, we recognize that some consumers may want to unlock their devices to move to another carrier," the group said via a statement.