Unlocking of cell phone in the USA had been legal for good about six years - the two 3-years exemptions given by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) granted by the Librarian of Congress.
However, last year, the Librarian of Congress did not renew the exemptions and since Jan. 26 2013, the cellphone users are in a legal gray area if they unlocked their cellphone to make it work on a different carrier's network.
Quite obviously, this has created nervousness among users and since February 21, a petition to make unlocking cellphones legal reached the 100,000-name threshold that mandates a response from the White House.
The petition has been sponsored by San Francisco mobile-software developer Sina Khanifar, who was involved in the case that got the original unlocking exemption in the first place. And specially so since Khanifar, co-founder of OpenSignal, a crowd-sourced cellphone coverage service, used to run a company that unlocked phones.
In the meantime, if you want to unlock your phone today, you can request that your carrier do it. AT&T, for example, will unlock a phone that's out of contract and is associated with an account in good standing.
If your carrier refuses to unlock the phone and you decide instead to do it yourself, no one's sure what legal jeopardy you might put yourself in.