'Jailbreaking' phones now illegal
BATON ROUGE - Before last week, if you wanted a top-flight smart phone on a plan that didn't support it, "jailbreaking" your handset was the way to go.
"It unleashed the full power of the technology. So it allows the user to use all the features that the cell phone makers put into the phone," said David Clark, III, a Baton Rouge man who has seen a "jailbroken" phone.
It allows you to switch providers, get a phone at a discounted price on web sites like eBay, or install third party apps.
"Jailbreaking" was a fairly common practice that anyone can learn to do, simply by watching a YouTube tutorial.
"You can plug your phone into any computer, go to one web site, press 'start,' and 15 minutes later, your phone is jailbroken," Clark, III said.
Now, it's illegal, according to the Library of Congress, which ruled that under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, users have a license to use the software, not own it.
Service providers say unlocking phones was an issue primarily when the iPhone was an AT&T exclusive, and users would sign up for a plan, unlock the phone, then break the contract.
The grace period to switch providers and keep the same phone ended last Saturday, and with it, the opportunity for some people to own high-end phones.
"That's unfair to, say, a college student, who can't exactly afford, maybe they have Verizon and want to switch to Sprint or another service, and they have a phone, but they can't afford to buy a new phone," said Clark, III. "It's unfortunate for these people, who, at this point in time, might be in a situation when they can't do that."
The penalty for unlocking a phone and switching services is up to five years in jail and a $500,000 fine.