"In our world, we don't honour unlocked handsets," said Chris Langdon, Telus vice-president of Network Services. "Unlocking a cellphone is copyright infringement. When you buy a handset from a carrier, it has programming on the phone. It's a copyright of the manufacturer."
The issue of locked vs. unlocked cellphones is an important one, particularly in light of the recent introduction of wireless number portability (which theoretically facilitates consumer movement between providers) and the possible introduction of anti-circumvention legislation that could indeed render unlocking a cellphone a matter of copyright infringement. At the moment, I think the Telus position is simply wrong. Leaving aside the fact that many cellphones are available unlocked (or unlocked by the carrier after the initial contract expires), I am not aware of anyone who has argued that conventional copyright law would prohibit unlocking a cellphone and Canada does not [yet] have anti-circumvention legislation.
In the U.S. there was concern that unlocking a cellphone would violate the DMCA by constituting a circumvention of technological protection measure. Last fall, the U.S. Registrar of Copyright established a specific exception to permit users to unlock cellphones without fear of infringement. The exception covers:
Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.