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‘Unlocking Technology Act’ introduced to fix DMCA

Two Bay Area congresswomen have helped introduce a bill that would permanently guarantee consumers can unlock their cell phones, tablets, and other mobile communications devices in order to switch carriers.

H.R. 1892, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, would give consumers new avenues to unlock their devices and media under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in ways that don’t infringe on copyright.

“This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who introduced the bill Wednesday, said in a news release. “Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there’s little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kent.; and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., are the bill’s co-authors.

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act currently forbids sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works – such as “jailbreaking” a tablet to run third-party apps, going around digital rights management for archiving or disability access purposes, or unlocking a cell phone – regardless of whether there is any actual copyright infringement.

The U.S. Copyright Office can add restrictions or remove exemptions under Section 1201 every three years; it created an exemption for cell phone unlocking in 2010, and then took it away again in 2013, making cell phone unlocking illegal once more. Most other proposals in Congress would just extend the prior cell phone unlocking exemption for another three years.

This new bill would make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier. It also would allow the use and sale of tools – like software apps – that enable unlocking for uses that don’t infringe on copyright. The president would be required to ensure that international trade agreements reflect the new law.

Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Lofgren bill would create U.S. Science Laureate

The nation would have an official Science Laureate – a renowned expert in a scientific field who would travel the nation to inspire future scientists – under new legislation coauthored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

The idea of the bipartisan legislation, cosponsored in the House by Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and in the Senate by Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is to promotes science education and celebrate scientific achievement – a key goal as the nation emphasizes the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to produce a more skilled workforce.

EinsteinThis new honorary position would be appointed by the president from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and serve for a term of one to two years. The laureate would be empowered to speak to Americans on the importance of science broadly and scientific issues of the day; the position would be unpaid, and the scientist would also be encouraged to continue his or her own important scientific work.

“Scientists like Albert Einstein or Sally Ride can capture the public’s attention and inspire Americans if they are given a platform to speak from,” Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “As our society becomes ever more technical, a role model for how important scientific advancement is for our nation’s future will help us. The Science Laureate can serve that role, as an accomplished individual to engage Americans on the importance of science in our lives and who can encourage our students to be the innovators of tomorrow.”

The legislation is supportred by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society; the STEM Education Coalition; the American Chemical Society; and the Hands-On Science Partnership. The original cosponsors of H.R. 1891 include Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, another member of the House Science Committee.

Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Under: education, U.S. House, Uncategorized, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

MoveOn targets Bay Area officials’ offices today

Activists are descending today upon the offices of federal officials across the Bay Area, and across the nation, to deliver petitions urging the protection of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits from cuts proposed by President Obama.

Organized by MoveOn.org, it appears there’ll be gatherings at noon at the offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in Oakland, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, Rep. Eric Swalwell in Pleasanton, Rep. Jackie Speier in San Mateo, Rep. George Miller in Concord, Rep. Zoe Lofgren in San Jose, and Rep. Jared Huffman in San Rafael.

“I supported President Obama for reelection, but I won’t support him cutting Social Security,” said Frank Burton of Castro Valley, co-organizer of the event at Swalwell’s office. “Seniors depend on Social Security, and the cut in the cost-of-living adjustment is based on false logic. Seniors need the full cost-of-living adjustment because of huge increases in medical costs every year.”

Clark Sullivan of San Francisco said he helped organize the event at Pelosi’s office “because most people collecting Social Security are already starving for several days at the end of the month.

“Cutting benefits would increase the already unacceptable level of human misery for Americans who have paid a lifetime of taxes to support Social Security,” he said. “The Social Security Act has been one of the most successful federal programs ever enacted and is more solvent than it ever has been. There is no need to tamper with its current success.”

Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 15 Comments »

Zoe Lofgren sued by fellow Dem over censure

Rep. Zoe Lofgren has been sued by another Democratic House member who claims he was wrongly censured for ethical violations while Lofgren chaired the Ethics Committee.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., also names House Speaker John Boehner and a slew of Ethics Committee members and staffers. Boehner wasn’t yet Speaker in December 2010 when the House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel, but does now have the power to remove the action from the Congressional Record.

Rangel’s lawsuit claims Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Jo Bonner, R-Ala., then the Ethics Committee’s ranking Republican, “knowingly deceived” the House before the vote, “knowing then that their statements were false.” Evidence was withheld that could’ve helped clear him, he claims.

Lofgren specifically “deceptively misrepresented what had occurred during the proceedings before the committee” when advising the House that Rangel’s “pre-vote proceedings were conducted fairly, honestly, without bias and according to the law, when she knew this was not so.”

Lofgren declined to comment Tuesday.

Per the Associated Press, the committee found that Rangel had underpaid the IRS for 17 years by failing to pay taxes on income from a rental unit in a Dominican Republic resort, had filed misleading financial disclosure reports, had set up a campaign office in the Harlem building where he lived that had been designated for residential use only and had used congressional letterheads to solicit donations for a center named after him at City College of New York.

It was only the 23rd time in the House’s history that a member was censured, the most severe punishment short of expulsion.

Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Under: U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Swalwell raised big money in 2013′s first quarter

One of the Bay Area’s House freshmen was among the region’s top fundraisers in the first quarter of 2013, according to newly filed Federal Election Commission reports.

Eric SwalwellRep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, raised $262,810 in the first three months of the year, leaving him with $222,932 cash on hand as of March 31.

On its face, that’s more even than the $207,030 that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, collected in individual contributions to her campaign committee. But Pelosi also transferred in more than $136,000 from her Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund, which itself raised $671,400 in the first quarter. (Now THAT’s some serious scratch; don’t mess with the big dog, Congressman Swalwell.)

Still, Swalwell’s first-quarter fundraising outstripped that of every other Bay Area House member including Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who raised $214,000 while already in full campaign mode due to the challenge posed by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.

Swalwell might also face a fellow Democrat in 2014: state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who like Swalwell had hoped to succeed Pete Stark in the 15th Congressional District but chose not to run against him last year. Corbett, who’s favored by many of the same local Democrats who had backed Stark in 2012, raised $16,201 in the first quarter of this year and had $114,963 cash on hand as of March 31.

Here’s a readout of the rest of the greater Bay Area delegation’s first-quarter haul, looking only at their principal campaign committees:

    Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: $69,482 raised, $29,804 cash on hand
    George Miller, D-Martinez: $79,253 raised, $215,537 cash on hand
    Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: $45,240 raised, $571,704 cash on hand
    Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz: $32,650 raised, $70,731 cash on hand
    Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: $50,186 raised, $319,929 cash on hand
    Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: $34,728 raised, $976,878 cash on hand
    Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: $95,152 raised, $116,503 cash on hand

Posted on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, campaign finance, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Zoe Lofgren introduces Refugee Protection Act

Rep. Zoe Lofgren and U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced bills in the House and Senate Thursday that they said would improve protection of refugees and asylum-seekers coming to the United States to flee persecution in their home nations.

Their Refugee Protection Act would reform the expedited removal process for asylum seekers pursuing their claims before the Asylum Office of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill requires the immigration detention system to adhere to basic humane treatment for asylum seekers and others with access to counsel, religious practice, and visits from family.

It also strengthens the law so those with actual ties to terrorist activities will continue to be denied entry to the United States. But the authors say it will protect innocent asylum seekers and refugees from being unfairly denied as a result of overly broad terrorism bars that over time have inadvertently swept in those who were actually victimized by terrorists.

“Americans have long been a compassionate people, offering a safe harbor to victims of devastating calamities and survivors of tortuous, brutal regimes,” Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in her news release. “The legislation we’re introducing today not only continues that proud tradition, it makes several needed improvements to ensure we can help those seeking freedom from persecution and oppression abroad.”

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Her bill is cosponsored by Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; John Conyers, D-Mich.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt. The Senate version is cosponsored by Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; and and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

“The Senate will soon turn to comprehensive immigration reform and the changes to the refugee system contained in this bill are a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system,” said Leahy, D-Vt. “As we address the many complex issues that face our immigration system, we must ensure that America upholds its longstanding commitment to refugee protection.”

Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Zoe Lofgren to present award to Aaron Swartz

Rep. Zoe Lofgren announced today that she’ll present the 2013 James Madison Award to the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz “in honor of his dedication to expanding access to public information in the digital age.”

Aaron SwartzSwartz’s family will accept the award, named in honor of President James Madison and administered by the American Library Association, which recognizes those who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know. Lofgren, D-San Jose, will present the award at a ceremony Friday night at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

Lofgren received this award last year for her congressional work in protecting and advancing the freedom of information, and is now drafting “Aaron’s Law” legislation to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the wire fraud statute to protect other Internet users from outsized liability for everyday activity.

Swartz – a longtime crusader against Internet censorship – was charged with two counts of wire fraud and 11 CFAA violations, carrying combined penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines plus restitution, for downloading millions of academic journal articles from a subscription-only service without authorization. He hanged himself in January in his Brooklyn apartment at age 26.

UPDATE @ 5:05 P.M. THURSDAY: Lofgren regrets she won’t be able to attend after all “because of a personal matter,” her office announced a short while ago.

Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Under: Internet and politics, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Zoe Lofgren offers bill to limit domestic drone use

A new bill coauthored by a Bay Area congresswoman would establish due process protections for Americans against government-operated unmanned aerial drones in U.S. airspace.

H.R. 637, the Preserving American Privacy Act by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, would also forbid law enforcement and private drones from being armed with firearms or explosives while operating within U.S. airspace.

“The expanded use of drones on U.S. soil raises serious Constitutional and civil liberties issues that Congress needs to address,” Lofgren said in a news release. “These devices should be used in a safe, open, and responsible manner. This bill would ensure that drones follow strict guidelines to protect Americans’ privacy while still realizing their practical applications for science, border security, public safety, and commercial development.”

Said Poe: “Just because Big Brother can look into someone’s backyard doesn’t mean it should. Technology may change, but the Constitution does not.”

The bill would require that government agencies must obtain a warrant to use drones to collect information that can identify individuals in a private area, and get a court order and provide public notice beforehand to collect information that can identify individuals in defined public areas. Those requirements would be subject to exceptions for emergencies, border security and consent, however.

The bill also would forbid privately-operated drones from being used to capture images or sound recordings of people engaging in personal activities in certain circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2013
Under: Civil liberties, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 13 Comments »

Lawmakers react to Obama immigration speech

Here’s how some of the Bay Area’s members of Congress responded to President Obama’s call for immigration reform today.

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security:

“Today I heard the President call for our country to take up the great work of comprehensive immigration reform. He voiced his full support for many of the principles I have worked to advance my entire life both as a Member of Congress and before that as a young immigration lawyer. Like the President, I believe we have an historic opportunity to fix the nation’s broken immigration system from top to bottom in a bipartisan fashion so it works for families and our economy.

“I’ve never forgotten my immigrant roots. My grandfather immigrated to America from Sweden, walking off the boat early in the 20th century with little more than a strong desire to make a better life in America. He didn’t finish school and always spoke with a heavy accent. But he was so proud of his U.S. citizenship that he hung his framed certificate on the wall. With a lifetime of hard work, his family built better lives for themselves and their children to pursue the American Dream, and today his granddaughter is a Member of Congress. Immigration forged our country into the great nation that we are today, and now more than ever it will be key to driving the United States forward in this new century.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“I am encouraged by the momentum to address immigration reform. As a nation of immigrants we need a comprehensive plan that promotes equity, long term growth and economic well-being. I will continue to fight for a plan that strengthens families, builds the American workforce and provides a roadmap for every American that aspires to citizenship.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“I applaud President Obama for his extraordinary leadership in this momentous effort to forge long overdue comprehensive immigration reform. Yesterday, a Senate bipartisan working group released an unprecedented set of core legislative principles to resolve our broken immigration system. Today, President Obama advanced this promising and historic moment, outlining a vision that embraces our nation’s long-standing traditions for protecting all families, including same-sex partners, and accepting the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

“Under the President’s leadership, we are on the verge of reform that will bring millions of people out of the shadows and honor the dreams of brilliant and hard-working students, youth who are essentially Americans without social security numbers. Our country nears the possibility of greater technological innovation and economic prosperity, where persons with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will be allowed to join our workforce and advance our nation’s global economic competitiveness.

“There is no question that our broken immigration system has torn countless families apart and brought great fear and pain to our communities. There are currently over 4.55 million people, including 1.96 million Asian and Pacific Islanders, in the family immigration backlog waiting unconscionable periods of time to reunite with their loved ones. Asian American and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately impacted by bureaucratic immigration delays. Families in my district, particularly those from China, India, and the Philippines, suffer from the most extreme backlog, often waiting decades before receiving a green card.

“There are tens of thousands of LGBT families in immigration limbo throughout the country, prohibited from sponsoring their partners for residency. Judy Rickard, a constituent from my district in California, and her same-sex, bi-national partner are being torn apart by unjust immigration laws. Judy and others face an unequal reality compared with heterosexual couples.

“Next month, to address an outdated, inefficient, and discriminatory immigration system, I will reintroduce the Reuniting Families Act, a bill that reunites families by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses, children, and same-sex, bi-national partners as ‘immediate relatives,’ and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration. This legislation will reduce visa backlog and relieve families from prolonged and unnecessary separation and heartache.

“As Immigration Taskforce Chair of the Congressional Asian and Pacific Caucus (CAPAC) and LGBT Caucus vice-chair, I offer my utmost gratitude to President Obama for calling for the reunification of all families, regardless of sexual orientation, and the elimination of discrimination in immigration law against same-sex partners. We must never forget the teachings and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We must never cease to protect the rights, visibility, and equal treatment of the most vulnerable among us. Our nation will be made stronger through reform that is comprehensive and inclusive, humane and just.”

More after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Immigration, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Lofgren crowdsources domain-name seizure bill

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is crowdsourcing a plan for a bill regarding domain-name seizures for copyright infringement.

The forthcoming bill is a reaction to concerns over “Operation in Our Sites,” a program by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeting websites that distribute counterfeit and pirated items.

Lofgren, who serves on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, issued this statement today:

“During SOPA I saw firsthand the Reddit community’s strong dedication to free expression. Because of that dedication, I thought I would attempt an experiment: crowdsourcing a legislative proposal on Reddit. The goal of the legislation would be to build due process requirements into domain name seizures for copyright infringement. I’d like your thoughts on the proposal.

“Although I am considering introducing a bill on domain name seizures for infringement, that does not mean I accept the practice as legal or Constitutional. Nonetheless, since these seizure actions are occurring, I thought it worthwhile to explore a legislative means providing appropriate protections for free expression and due process. While I promise to carefully consider all recommendations, I can’t, of course, promise that every suggestion can be incorporated into a bill I’d introduce.

“The goal is to develop targeted legislation that requires the government to provide notice and an opportunity for website operators to defend themselves prior to seizing or redirecting their domain names. The focus would be on government domain name seizures based on accusations that a website facilitates copyright infringement and not, for example, accusations of obscenity or libel. Feedback and input should also take into account any legitimate concerns that notice or delay might reasonably lead to destruction of evidence, threats to the physical safety of an individual, or other unintended negative consequences.

“So, Internet policy experts and free speech warriors: How, specifically, would you suggest accomplishing these goals? I look forward to reading your thoughts and input!”

Click here to access Lofgren’s Reddit post and offer your suggestions.

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012
Under: U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »