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Unlocking Cell Phones in U.S. to Become Illegal January 26

Unlocking cell phones in the United States will become illegal on January 26 due to the expiry of a 90-day window that deemed the practice legal.

During the October of 2012, the Librarian of Congress, which decides the exemptions to the anti-hacking law dubbed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ruled that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be deemed legal in America.

However, it approved a 90-day window that allowed consumers to purchase a phone and unlock it without any legal repercussions. The window, though, comes to an end on January 26.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questions DMCA's right to determine who can unlock a phone. EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz said: "Arguably, locking phone users into one carrier is not at all what the DMCA was meant to do. It's up to the courts to decide."

Unlocking a phone (not to be confused from jailbreaking -- a method to run additional software and instill modified code -- which remains legal) allows it to function on more than one carrier.

While the deadline will make it illegal to unlock cell phones in the U.S., carriers such as Verizon offer devices such as the iPhone 5 as an unlocked smartphone, while AT&T will unlock a handset when its contract has expired.

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