BREAKING: Locking You Up For Unlocking Your Phone? White House Responds to 114,000 Consumer Petition





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Published on Mar 4, 2013

Watch additional 10-minute interview with Derek Khanna on Democracy Now! today at http://owl.li/ikYT2. 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, which can subject users to up to five years in prison. Khanna talks to Amy Goodman minutes after receiving the call from David Edelman, White House senior advisor on Internet policy. Khanna 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.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Derek Khanna, you were just on Democracy Now! talking about the penalty you could face for unlocking a cellphone.

*DEREK KHANNA:* Yes, yes.

*AMY GOODMAN:* You just got a call from the White House.


*AMY GOODMAN:* Can you explain, first, what unlocking a cellphone means, and what they said?

*DEREK KHANNA:* Sure. So, unlocking your cellphone is a pretty simple technique where you hook your phone to a computer and change some settings on the device to allow for you to use a SIM card from another provider. It's actually a pretty simple technique used by a lot of people, including international travelers and our soldiers overseas.

So we were launching a, we had a website petition with We the People for the White House's website. And our petition got over 100,000 signatures.

And I just got a phone call from the White House, and the White House has come out in favor of reversing the decision of the librarian of Congress to make unlocking your cellphone for personal use lawful. Additionally, I was told that the FCC is seriously going to be investigating the unlocking issue, and as well as competition in the wireless industry in general.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly to me, I was told that the White House will be spearheading their own legislation to permanently fix this issue, to create permanent exceptions to the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] through law. As they said on the phone, they found the situation to be quite outrageous and had been reading the articles quite closely.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Who called you?

*DEREK KHANNA:* It was a friend of mine who works in the technology department of the White House. I think it's Office of Technology.

*DAVID ISENBERG:* Who was it? Mike Stebbins?

*DEREK KHANNA:* I think it's Michael Edelman [David Edelman], is his name.

*AMY GOODMAN:* And how did they know that you were working on this issue?

*DEREK KHANNA:* Well, this is an issue that I've been engaged with for some time. I wrote about four issues on this, including the leading one in _The Atlantic_. I had emailed with the White House back and forth to let them know that this was going on, to see if this was something they wanted to weigh in on. So this is something that I've been trying to build as broad a coalition as possible on.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Can you explain exactly what unlocking a cellphone means?

*DEREK KHANNA:* Sure. So unlocking your phone allows for you to use a SIM card from another provider. So you can pop a SIM card out if you have an AT&T phone, and then you can use a SIM card for perhaps a T-Mobile phone. So it's a very common and simple technique that basically means that you alter the settings on the phone.

*AMY GOODMAN:* And what were the penalties that you faced for doing this? And how did it end up happening that you actually could go to jail for five years for doing this? How is it dealt with in other countries?

*DEREK KHANNA:* Well, as far as I'm aware, we're the only country that has such a crazy law. In Canada, for example, they require all their phones to be unlocked by law. In our country, it's against the law to unlock the phone. So quite?

*AMY GOODMAN:* And you can get locked up.

*DEREK KHANNA:* Exactly. So you can go to jail for five years or a half-a-million-dollar fine, which is a pretty crazy situation.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Anything else you want to add?

*DEREK KHANNA:* I just want to thank you for having me on the show this morning. I'm sure going on _Democracy Now!_ and getting a phone call from the White House 12 hours later is a common occurrence.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Twelve? I thought it was three.

*DEREK KHANNA:* Three hours later. Three hours later.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Thanks so much.

*DEREK KHANNA:* Thank you.

*AMY GOODMAN:* Derek Khanna. And Derek, your organization is?

*DEREK KHANNA:* I'm a visiting fellow with Yale Law School, and I have a new website, fixcopyright.com.

Democracy Now!, an independent global news hour that airs weekdays on 1,100+ TV and radio stations Monday through Friday.

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