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Programmers and Lawmakers in New Documentary on Internet Policy "War"

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 3 2013

Several Members of Congress will appear along with the late Aaron Swartz in an upcoming documentary titled War for the Web, which is set to examine the recent policy debates over the Internet with a focus on digital privacy, CISPA, net neutrality and SOPA, as the The Hill and Cnet have recently reported.

The film's producers spoke with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), currently running for Senator, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who have all engaged in a variety of Internet policy issues over the last year.

Other people appearing in the documentary include Vint Cerf, Susan Crawford, Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld and Michael Copps, former Democratic commissioner at the FCC, according to the Hill.

The director and producer of the film is J. Cameron Brueckner, partner and lead filmmaker for a production company called Cloak and Dagger Productions, along with producer Ben Caspi and head writer Michael Wooldridge.

In addition to a fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the film has an advisory board of industry representatives and is being sponsored by the International Documentary Association, according to the Hill.

Production and research on the film started two years ago after Wooldridge became interested in Internet infrastructure following news of a disruption in an undersea cable in 2008, the Hill reported. The filmmakers conducted their interview with Swartz in July 2012. The producers hope to conduct more interviews with legislators in June -- Woodridge told Cnet he would be interested in speaking with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

According to Cnet, the producers have gathered about 24 hours of raw footage, and hope to have a rough cut by the end of the year.

The filmmakers have already released clips of some their interviews online. In the excerpt with Markey, the Congressman talks about his 36-year service on the Telecommunications Committee and his first computer. He says he has an iPhone, but declines to reveal the homepage of his browser.

"The goal of all of all of my bills was to take something that I saw as a cartoon when I was a kid, the Dick Tracy two-way wrist-TV," he says, continuing, " ... and we're not fully there yet, but we're getting very close to having all of these technologies be brought into the lives of every American."

"And so the goal was to have PC-TV, that was my goal back in 1988/89, I always said I wanted to take the PC and merge it with the television. But now it's gone far beyond that," he also says in the clip.

In another excerpt, Blackburn recalls that her first computer was an HP, a "big old thing," and describes the mainframe computers of her college days. Asked about her goal for the Internet in America, she emphasizes the need to "make decisions that make it possible for the private sector ... to build out this footprint and then serve that footprint well ... [so that] they have the ability to say, 'this is the broadband service that we have, it's good for economic development.'"

Another excerpt features Aaron Swartz. The late programmer and activist discusses the First Amendment implications for the Internet.

"What's worrying about these sort-of copyright police is that they want to prevent recombination," he says, suggesting that all creative works draw on existing language and stories. "They want to have the law come in and say recombination is illegal, you have to get a license for every single thing you use. Well, if you do that, you stifle creativity."

"Imagine if every word you used, you had to call up the person who came up with that word," he says at another point in the clip.

"Every time you do something, you have to ask permission ... that's the opposite of a free country. The idea in America is, unless it's specifically outlawed, you get to do it."

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