Here's a bit of news that might come as a shocker. Apparently, as of January 26th (tomorrow), it will be illegal to carrier unlock your phone in the United States. This means that there will be legal repercussions (such as fines and possibly jail-time) for anyone who unlocks their mobile phones to use on a carrier it was not intended for.

Now, to be clear, this does not make it illegal to unlock your bootloader or to root your device. Furthermore, it will not be illegal to purchase a factory unlocked phone outright and use it on other networks. Also, your carriers can still unlock, or give you permission to unlock your device. Basically, this new law only prohibits the process of unlocking your phone with a software action that allows your device to run on similar but different than original networks. Additionally, the ruling will let you arbitrarily unlock smartphones purchased prior to January 2013.

Supposedly, the reason for this is to curtail criminals from stealing devices, unlocking them and re-selling them on multiple networks. Of course, as frequently happens, when making things more difficult on criminals, some laws also make things more difficult for regular users who have no intention of doing anything criminal.

Update: Here's an interesting quote from AndroidAuthority with some additional detail on the matter,

In a statement to TechNewsDaily, Christopher S. Reed from the U.S. Copyright Office clarified that “only a consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of software on the handset under the law, may unlock the handset.” However, the Librarian of Congress had clarified that software in smartphones and other devices will remain the intellectual property of the developer. Meanwhile, users are only granted rights and licenses under the EULA. As such, it will no longer be within fair use to break network locks because you don’t own the phone’s software in the first place.

Let the rancor begin...

Thanks for the tip, AndroidIsTheTruth!

Source: Phandroid