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Some backgroud :

A bootloader is a very low level piece of software that runs first and loads an operating system of some other tool. On a lot of new Android devices the bootloader is "locked", that means that it checks if the digital signature of the installed OS and then only accepts to boot the device. Some phone manufacturers have started to lock bootloaders in order to prevent any system modification whether it is done by a legitimate user or not.

My question :

Android is an operating system based on Linux, and Linux is distributed under the GNU GPL v2 license. The GPL v2 grants some rights to the user, in particular being able to modify a program licensed under it.

As bootloader locks prevent users from modifying an Android phone's software in some ways, is it legal for phones manufacturers to prevent the user from removing the bootloader lock ?

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The Linux kernel is licensed under version 2 of the Gnu General Public License. You can demand the source code they used to build the kernel, but the license doesn't guarantee that you can change and replace any code. That caused some controversy, so the Free Software Foundation came up with version 3, which would require the company to allow users to reinstall changed software. Linux is not licensed under version 3.

There are no license restriction on locking the kernel down on a specific device, and no laws I know of against doing it.

If you want to change and reinstall the Linux kernel, you need to find a phone that will let you do that.

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See Can I use a modfied copy of the Android OS in a commercial application?

Each phone manufacturer is free to modify Android or other software on their phones, and by accepting the TOS (Terms of Service) or EULA (End User License Agreement) for the phone and software when you use it, you are accepting the use of that software under those license terms.

If you don't like the terms - such as the existence of the bootloader, and/or your 1) inability to remove it, or 2) the fact that removing it is against the license - your option is to not use the software or phone.

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    It is not possible to use a TOS or EULA to negate the rights guaranteed by the GPL, as that would be a GPL violation on the part of the manufacturer, who'd lose the right to use the Linux kernel. – David Thornley Feb 6 at 18:32

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