In a blog post, AT&T clarified its policy on unlocking devices, saying it will release your phone as long as you have fulfilled the terms of your contract and as long as they have the unlock code. How generous: you are free to wander the wild world of carriers once your contract is up.
The post explains that normal people have never really had anything to worry about with phone unlocking. If you have a contract, you have to finish it or pay to get out of it, but if you do that you're free to go. The company claims its position is totally consistent with the White House's statement earlier this week.
AT&T's policy is reasonable given that it can bar your from unlocking your phone. But that AT&T is cool with unlocking in some cases only underscores that the rules on unlocking have never been tighter. In the fall, the Librarian of Congress decided to remove various DMCA exemptions for cellphone unlocking. The ruling went into effect in late January, which made it illegal to unlock your phone without a carriers permission.
Now, even if it doesn't affect AT&T customers, the company still calls the ruling "reasonable," which it's really not. President Obama's statement, which is very similar to the AT&T policy, is a little closer to fair, but unlocking your property should never be anyone's choice but your own. [AT&T]