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The Baltimore Sun

New law on 'unlocking' cellphones

WASHINGTON (AP) - It just got a little easier to swap cellphone providers.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law on Friday making it legal once again to unlock a cellphone without permission from your wireless provider, so long as the service contract has expired.

Copyright law prohibits circumventing digital locks on technological devices. But for several years, cellphones were granted an exemption by government copyright lawyers as a way of making it easier for consumers to change carriers and recycle old phones. Then under industry pressure, the Library of Congress -- which oversees copyright law -- agreed to let the exemption lapse as of January 2013, infuriating consumer advocates who say phone owners should be able to do whatever they want with a device once a contract expires.

"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 Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judicairy Committee and co-sponsor of the bill.

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