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President Barack Obama said he’d sign the phone unlocking bill into law, and he did Friday.

This comes 19 months after advocates launched a petition calling for a law enabling consumers to legally unlock their cell phones after their wireless contract runs out.

Now Americans can hook their phone up to whatever damn carrier they want, as long as they’ve paid for the device in full.

The new law represents a major legal smackdown on the wireless carrier’s clingiest business practices.

After a good deal of the normal Washington posturing, lobbying, revising, and general wrangling — including a questionable maneuver by the cellphone industry lobby to water down the bill — the Senate’s “Unlocking Consumer and Wireless Competition Act” passed in both houses of Congress and then headed for the president’s desk.

The new law provides an exemption for cell phone unlocking to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

It’s important to note that the unlocking exemption that is being reinstated will only last until the Librarian of Congress’s next rule-making, scheduled to happen in 2015. The Librarian of Congress, by law, makes a ruling on exemptions to the DMCA every three years.

While the law is only a temporary guarantee of that right, it’s an important win for consumers.


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