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Monday, March 4, 2013

  • "After Aaron": Late Activist’s Campaign for Open Internet Continues at Freedom to Connect Conference

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    We broadcast live from the Freedom to Connect conference, a national gathering to promote Internet freedom and universal connectivity. It comes as the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act has been reintroduced in the House, calling for a "cybersecurity" exception to existing privacy law that would give immunity to companies that hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Last year at this same conference, Aaron Swartz, the late cyber-activist, computer programmer, social justice activist and writer who committed suicide earlier this year, gave the keynote address, in which he described the battle to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Swartz took his own life at the age of 26 just weeks before he was to go on trial for using computers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to download millions of copyrighted academic articles from JSTOR, a subscription database of scholarly papers. JSTOR declined to press charges, but prosecutors moved the case forward. Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and a million dollars in fines for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. After his death, federal prosecutors dropped the charges. We are joined by Darcy Burner, who opens today’s conference with her "After Aaron" address. She worked with him on several projects, including ProgressiveCongress.org, which she formerly directed, as well as the Progressive Congress Action Fund. She is also one of the biggest self-described geeks to run for U.S. Congress, having run for office three times in Washington State. [includes rush transcript]

  • GOP "Rising Star" Derek Khanna Fired After Penning Controversial Copyright Reform Memo

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    The Freedom to Connect conference has attracted people from across the political spectrum, including Derek Khanna, a "rising star" in the Republican Party, who has worked on both of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns. Khanna wrote a policy brief for the Republican Study Committee entitled "Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix It." In it, he advocated lighter penalties for copyright infringement and an expansion of fair use, arguing that current copyright law hinders progress and runs against constitutional principles. The day after it was released, the committee retracted the report, reportedly after pressure from the entertainment industry and politicians. Khanna then lost his job. He joins us to talk about why copyright reform transcends partisan politics. [includes rush transcript]

  • 5 Years in Jail for Unlocking a Phone? Petition Led by Former GOP Staffer Prompts Probe of New Ban

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    UPDATE: The White House called Derek Khanna just hours after his appearance on Democracy Now! to say it’s coming out against the cellphone unlocking ban.

    WATCH our EXCLUSIVE interview with Khanna minutes after he received the phone call from the White House at the Freedom to Connect conference.

    READ the White House response to the petition against cellphone unlocking.

    In late January, it became illegal for cellphone users to unlock their phones for use on a different carrier. "It’s a very weird law or regulation that now makes it illegal for us do this really commonplace technology with our own devices," says former Republican staffer Derek Khanna. He helped spearhead an online petition against the ban, which has drawn more than 114,000 signatures, gathering wide support from several political corners and prompting an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. We speak to Khanna and Darcy Burner. [includes rush transcript]

  • Municipal Broadband Networks Bridge the Digital Divide as Telecom Industry Tries to Block Them

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    As many as one in 10 Americans cannot get Internet connections fast enough for common online activities such as watching video. Many communities have responded to this digital divide by creating their own municipal broadband networks as an alternative to the slow services offered by cable and telephone companies in order to gain equal access to education, healthcare and even jobs. One example of success is Thomasville, Georgia, which has been connecting people for more than a decade. But these efforts could soon be blocked. Some 19 states have passed laws to stop these communities from making such investments, and Georgia could be next. We are joined by Chris Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He recently co-authored a report, "The Empire Lobbies Back: How National Cable and DSL Companies Banned the Competition in North Carolina." Catharine Rice is the president of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, which represents Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. She led the effort to block an industry-sponsored bill on municipal broadband investment in North Carolina, which passed last year after Republicans came to power in the state, including a longtime friend of the Koch brothers, Art Pope, who is now the governor’s budget director. [includes rush transcript]