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.
Update 2: Because it seems there is some confusion regarding this "new law," we thought it prudent to share some additional info that might clarify it to some degree. Here's a quote from the CTIA Blog that puts things in a simple perspective:
While this section of the DMCA, and the Library of Congress’ process for reviewing requests for exemptions, may be difficult to follow, the business practice behind the decision to protect the software used to “lock” a wireless phone to a carrier’s network is really no different than in selling a car.
If the car is fully paid for, the owner simply transfers the car’s title to the purchaser as soon as payment is received; however, if there is an outstanding loan on the car, the finance company has to be paid before the owner can transfer the title to the purchaser. In other words, until the loan is paid, the finance company has a “lock” on the transfer of the car to a new owner.
That’s all that is happening here: consumers who pay the full price for a phone can take that phone to the carrier (or carriers) of their choice. However, if a carrier subsidized the price of the phone in exchange for the consumer’s agreement to use the phone on that carrier’s network, the consumer can only transfer the phone to a new carrier once the terms of the contract (or the carrier’s unlocking policy) have been satisfied.
Let the rancor begin...
Thanks for the tip, AndroidIsTheTruth!