Derek Khanna

Since that time I have helped spearhead a White House petition on this matter. That petition on cellphone unlocking, currently at over 110,000 signatures, appears to be the first petition to achieve the 100,000 threshold for a White House response (until recently the petition threshold was 25,000). This accomplishment demonstrates that people are interested and willing to mobilize on this important issue. This show of force of over 100,000 people makes it clear: the people will not stand for laws that impede their personal liberty and stifle innovation that are enacted as a result of crony-capitalism.

Support has come from an unlikely group of allies. Among the many actors, Vint Cerf (co-creator of internet), the National College Republicans, and the Tea Party Nation came out in favor of reversing the ban on unlocking.

People have asked me to specifically address what this means and what can be done. When the White House weighs in on this matter - and considering they answered a petition to build a Death Star I think they would have to address an issue of this serious nature - it will then be incumbent on Congress to act to address this problem. In my Atlantic piece, The Law Against Unlocking Phones is anti-Consumer, anti-Business, and anti-Common Sense, I explained:

“We must ask ourselves: "What specific limitations upon our personal freedom and liberty are we prepared to accept in the name of achieving the goal of protecting intellectual property?" Some limitations may be sound, and Congress should debate them on the record. Obviously, we do not have the right to copy books, movies and music and sell them. But other restrictions are invasive and have nothing to do with protecting intellectual property (like unlocking and jail-breaking your phone or adaptive technology for the blind to read). Restrictions upon the use of technology should receive strict legislative scrutiny because of its impact upon innovation and our personal freedom.”

This is a problem of Congress’s own making – now they should fix it. On February 21, 2013, when over 100,000 people petitioned their government for redress on this issue, it is well past time for Congress to act.

To those who want to get involved to support property rights, innovation and the free market – ask your Member of Congress:

1) Why do the blind have to ask for an exception to use adaptability technology for e-books? Why is developing, trafficking, or selling that technology still illegal? As a stated in my previous piece, “Can you imagine a more ridiculous regulation than one that requires a lobby group for the blind to come to Capitol Hill every three years to explain that the blind still can't read books on their own and therefore need this exception?”
2) In a world where we can't unlock our own phones - who really owns our phones?
3) And most egregiously, ask them, for our thousands of service members who deploy abroad and have to unlock their phones to use them in theater, why are they criminals for unlocking their own phones without permission?

In my latest piece for the tech blog Boing Boing, Taking on Real Reform in a Post-SOPA World – Let’s Start With Cellphone Unlocking, I prepared a letter for Congress:

That we should have to petition our own government to remove these items from a “technological blacklist” is very unfortunate. If you want to stand up for property rights and against crony capitalism, you can sign the White House petition until Saturday night at midnight here.


Derek Khanna

"Derek Khanna is a Yale Law Fellow with the Information Society Project, columnist and policy expert. Until recently he was a professional staff member for the House Republican Study Committee, where he authored the widely read House Republican Study Committee report “Three Myths about Copyright Law.” The report on copyright reform was praised throughout the tech community as being "brilliant" and a "breath of fresh air" and received praise from various conservative organizations. Derek has spoken at the Consumer Electronics Show as a technology expert and will be speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Derek was referred to as a “rising star” in the party by David Brooks in the New York Times. Mr. Khanna continues to be a major thought leader on technology issues and disruptive innovation." He can be found on Twitter at @derekkhanna.


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