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Sen. Wyden’s Internet-Freedom Agenda

Having led the fight, sadly unsuccessful, against renewal of a warrantless wiretapping law, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has a 2013 agenda of cyberspace freedom:

  • Access to the Internet—meaning, net neutrality and more. “Internet service providers, wired or wireless, must be barred from practices that discriminate against specific content,” he said. The FCC’s order on Internet openness is a good start but doesn’t go far enough, because it doesn’t apply to mobile wireless access. For 96 percent of the population, they have one or two wireline ISPs to pick from. If one of those providers slows Internet connections to favor particular content, “they should face the antitrust laws,” said Wyden. “The antitrust laws should be strengthened to ensure major ISPs can’t use their market dominance to pick winners and losers.”
  • Wyden has introduced recent legislation on data caps, and he’ll pursue that in the next Congress, as well. If ISPs need to manage congestion, that’s fine; but data caps “shouldn’t be used to create scarcity in order to monetize data,” said Wyden. “Entrepreneurs need the freedom to compete, and that begins with an Internet connection.”
  • Software patent reform. “Congress ought to begin a review of software patents’ contribution to the economy,” said Wyden—or lack of contribution. “How are you promoting innovation if you stand behind a law that allows a few lines of code to be patentable for 20 years? Software is different from many new innovations in America. It is a building block, a set of instructions, that we ought to be able to build on and improve.”
  • Privacy, including ECPA reform and more care with our “cybersecurity” laws. “It is especially troubling that the documents Americans leave lying around on their kitchen counter receive more protections than the content Americans store in the cloud,” he said. To that end, we need a need a pro-privacy update of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which governs when law enforcement can get access to e-mail communications. That’s an issue which is receiving more attention following last year’s Petraeus sex scandal, which was discovered when the FBI snooped through the CIA director’s Gmail account.
  • “Cybersecurity shouldn’t be done in such a way that it exposes the private communication of the American people to government and corporate snoops,” said Wyden. Unfortunately, cybersecurity legislation, which poses real privacy threats, is one issue where Wyden’s views seem to be in the minority. The CISPA cybersecurity bill received strong support from both parties in the House, and Wyden said today that he was one of only a few Democrats in the Senate who opposed it.
  • Fighting for content that ought to be shared. It’s time to push back against “the maximalist approach” to copyrights and patents, said Wyden. “Rightsholders are too eager to scare off challenges to the status quo, and this perpetuates stagnation,” said Wyden. His own father was an author who knew the importance of copyright to his living. But maintaining a proper balance between rightsholders and protecting innovation is the key. To that end, Wyden proposed to penalize false representations (like bogus DMCA takedown), strengthen fair use, and provide “real due process when you have seizures of property.” (That’s a reference to the website seizures done by ICE and DOJ, which haven’t worked out that great in the case of music blog Dajaz1 and the Rojadirecta sports-streaming site.)

Well worth pursuing and well worth supporting.

Via, Ars Technica, Senator Wyden lays out “digital freedom” agenda.

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