It didn't take long for one misinformed and overzealous lawmaker to help get a poor developer's app removed from Apple's store. The app in question, " Driver License," allowed users to create a mock driver's license to entertain and amuse friends. But Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) didn't see the fun in it, and was concerned that it could be used to create a license. Apparently the Senator believed that this program was so sophisticated that a terrorist could download the app and make a fake ID on the fly for some nefarious purpose.
It looks like the Writers Guild of America West has some concerns about SOPA. In a recent post on the trade group’s site, they wrote about a recent visit to Washington D.C., where they met with various lawmakers and other trade groups about SOPA and other legislation they think is important such as Net Neutrality and the ATT/T-Mobile merger. From the paragraph about their visit to the House of Representatives (I’ve highlighted the important stuff for emphasis):
While we're likely not going to post every letter we get from readers who receive some sort of response from their elected representatives concerning SOPA and Protect IP, the following response received by ECA president Hal Halpin from congressmen Jim Himes (D- Connecticut’s 4th District) is worth reading - only because it strikes a balance between thinking free speech and rights (like due process and fair use) should be protected with copyright holders' interests.
As we mentioned last week Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa introduced an alternative bill to SOPA and Protect IP that would put the power of fighting so-called rogue web sites into the hands of the International Trade Commission. The OPEN Act (which stands for Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act) focuses on interrupting the flow of funds to web sites that are proven to be trafficking in counterfeit goods or copyright materials.
While some in the U.S. House and Senate would love to jam SOPA and Protect IP through the legislative process, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have drafted an alternative proposal that would make use of existing trade laws and the International Trade Commission to deal with counterfeit goods, piracy and the "rogue web sites" that deal in those things explicitly. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is circulating a proposal that would use trade laws to battle online piracy as an alternative to the controversial bills currently pending in both chambers of Congress.
If you want to know why your favorite senator or congressional representative is supporting Protect IP and SOPA, all you need to do is follow the money. First where is the money coming from? Big media, of course. The Sunlight Foundation does an excellent job of gathering all the info on this topic in one easy post.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is taking up arms against the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and they want your help to do it. The advocacy that supports internet rights and freedom of speech online says that these new bills are "a threatening sequel to last year's COICA Internet censorship bill" and that this legislation "invites Internet security risks, threatens online speech, and hampers Internet innovation."
In a strange twist of fate or because of some sort of cosmic alignment of certain planets, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul actually agree on something: they both think that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act, are bad ideas. The latest SOPA opponent is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), but Paul has been against it from the start.
A new article over at TechDirt penned by the Entertainment Consumer Association's Vice President and General Counsel, Jennifer Mercurio, explains why the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP are bad for everyone - especially gamers. Mercurio lays out what this means to everyday internet users when it comes to video performance and fair use in the first paragraph:
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's (R-Texas) effort in the Senate to kill the FCC's net neutrality rules has failed. The Senate voted, 46-52, against moving forward with a resolution that would have overturned federal regulations enacted in 2010 that govern anti-competitive behavior online.
"It's time to push back" against federal agencies that are overreaching their authority and enacting burdensome regulations, she argued before the Senate voted on a motion to proceed.
This week the White House will launch what it calls the "Digital Promise Initiative," a gathering to promote breakthroughs in education and learning technologies. The event revolves around the national center created by Congress to advance breakthrough technologies that will improve America's education system will be launched on Friday, September 16, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 10 a.m.
California Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto, CA) has unsuccessfully sought controls on violent videogames in the past, so it should come as no surprise that he is "disappointed" and shocked at the Supreme Court Decision to uphold the Ninth Circuit Court ruling on Brown v. EMA.
"I am disappointed the multi-billion dollar video game industry will continue to go unchecked in its ability to profit from selling heinous depictions of violence and sex to minors," Baca wrote in a statement issued Monday.
"Unfortunately, the industry is still not doing enough to provide parents with accurate information regarding the content of many games," Baca said, ignoring the ESRB and the latest Federal Trade Commission report that said that the videogame industry had the best record when it came to keeping mature rated content out of the hands of children.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) introduced a bill yesterday called "The Broadband Affordability Act of 2011." The bill would deliver high speed Internet access to lower income households to close what she calls the "the digital divide." Matsui introduced an identical bill in 2009. She is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Matsui said that low-income Americans need access to affordable high-speed internet as much as anyone else, to succeed in our modern and connected society:
"Income should not hinder the ability of hard-working American families to attain broadband services that have become a necessity, not a luxury in our technologically driven economy. If you don't have it, you are simply at a competitive disadvantage," Matsui said in a statement.
Yesterday House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) detailed the Republican tech agenda, a one-page list of priorities for Republican lawmakers in 2011 and beyond. While Republicans loathe regulations that stymie productivity and put a burden on businesses, they don't seem to have a problem with regulations on consumers' lives when it comes to flying, purchasing goods, legislating morality, or doing things on the Internet. In other words, regulations that punish the everyday citizen are cool, but regulations that keep corporations in check - like net neutrality - are bad.
The bullet points of the Republican tech agenda are mostly conceptual and non-specific at this point, but here they are:
The new head of the U.S. Copyright Office says that illegal video streaming should be a felony. The new Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante spent her first day testifying at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, giving her approval to the IP Enforcement Czar’s recommendation that the government should stop treating illegal streaming offenses as "unauthorized performances" and start classifying it as a serious crime, or "unauthorized reproductions and distributions." The White House backs the IP Czar's recommendations. This would turn illegal streaming into a felony - up from a less serious misdemeanor charge.
Pallante said the following before the House Judiciary Committee hearing:
How do you give money to politicians without actually giving them a big fat check directly? Write a check to a charity they are closely associated with. That is just what AT&T has been doing, and it is getting the attention of the public and media outlets.
AT&T has given a substantial amount of money to charities connected to several lawmakers including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), who just happens to be the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission. A charity associated with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), who just happens to be on the Senate Appropriations Committee. AT&T also gave a generous contribution to a charity associated with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), the No. 3 House Democrat. His daughter, Mignon Clyburn also happens to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission.
Earlier this month a congressional subcommittee looking into the PlayStation Network outage and data leak asked Sony Computer Entertainment America chairman and Sony Corp. executive vice president Kaz Hirai to testify. He declined at the time. While Hirai didn't make it to Washington D.C. his company provided a detailed list of answers that - at least temporarily - pacified lawmakers. Now with the PSN back online, Sony had decided that it will comply with the request from House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.
Ken Johnson, an aide to subcommittee chairwoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), told The Atlantic magazine that Sony Network Entertainment president Tim Schaff, is scheduled testify before the subcommittee next week.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has decided that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a key investigative body of Congress which he chairs, will investigate FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker's jump from the FCC to Comcast-NBC Universal.
In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Friday, Issa said that Baker's departure has “generated questions” because of her recent vote to approve the Comcast and NBC merger.
Issa said that Baker's own statements about the process which led to the job offer leads him to believe that "it does not appear [Baker] violated any of her legal or ethical obligations in accepting a position with Comcast.”
Still, he thinks an investigation is still warranted “because only a short time has passed since the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, it is imperative that the public can trust the integrity of the process."
Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on Wednesday proclaimed the company's strong opposition to new legislation that calls for shutting down access to file-sharing websites that offer allegedly copyrighted material. The new law proposes that the government blacklist these sites, take them offline, and demand that search providers such as Google delist them from their search indexes.
Schmidt argued that laws such as these set a very “disastrous precedent” for destroying free speech all over the world.
"If there is a law that requires DNSs [domain name systems] to do X, and it's passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it, then we would still fight it," Schmidt told reporters at a London conference. "If it's a request, the answer is we wouldn't do it. If it's a discussion, we wouldn't do it."
Sony is having a busy news day today. First, a story has been circulating that the company has hired yet another security firm to help it with its investigation of the PlayStation Network security breach. According to GameIndustry.biz, Sony has retained Data Forte, a company led by a former U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service officer. Security firms Guidance Software and Protiviti consultants are also involved in the investigation.
Congress wanted Sony to come to Washington D.C. to answer questions. Yesterday several members of Congress demanded answers - in person - from someone at Sony. Today the company in the midst of a security nightmare politely told lawmakers "no thank you."
"Sony declined to testify because their internal investigation is still ongoing," an official in Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack's office told Kotaku this morning.
Congresswoman Mack and Congressman G. K. Butterfield wrote a letter to Sony Computer Entertainment of America (addressed to Kazuo Hirai) on April 29, days after Sony detailed the security breach of the company’s PlayStation Network. Both are members of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. While Sony may have declined the "offer," Sony Computer Entertainment of America spokesman Patrick Seybold said that Sony is cooperating with the committee.
Sony has one more thing to worry about: Congress's Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. The group's chairperson, Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-Ca.) sent a letter to Sony Chairman Kazuo Hirai asking the company to answer a series of questions related to the PlayStation Network security breach. The committee wants a reply to the letter by May 6.
The group of lawmakers want answers to questions about when the security breach occurred, if Sony knew who was responsible for the attack, and when the company notified law enforcement. The letter also asked Sony to explain what it knew about the type of data that was stolen and if it included any credit card information. Sony has been saying publically that it has not been proven that credit card data has been stolen, but it also said that nearly 10 million users might be at risk. A mixed message to be sure.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) raised concern this week about how long it is taking the Federal Communications Commission to get net-neutrality regulations on the books. The agency passed the new rules in December. Walden added that he is not excited to have the rules enacted but is nonetheless curious about what is taking the agency so long.
"I’m curious as to why it’s taken the FCC so long to file their network-neutrality rules in the Federal Register. It’s not that I’m eager to have their rules proceed, but it does raise some questions," said Walden, the top Republican on the Communications subcommittee.
He also questioned whether the FCC is following the proper procedures and if the delay is in some way a tactic to derail a GOP effort to repeal the rules using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Walden's repeal measure is scheduled for a full House vote on Friday.
According to Public Integrity, the broadband and wireless industries contributed $81,500 to members of a key House subcommittee after the Federal Communications Commission approved new net neutrality rules in December of last year. Since 2009, large U.S. broadband and wireless companies have donated nearly $1.3 million to members of the subcommittee.
Almost two months later the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s communications and technology subcommittee passed a "resolution of disapproval" of the FCC’s pro-consumer rules. In theory, net neutrality rules block telecommunications companies from charging a higher fee to move certain data faster on the Internet or discriminating against high-bandwidth sites.
Silicon Valley Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA.) says that seizing web sites and web domains tramples on due process. Speaking at length with Ars Technica, Lofgren takes aim at the administration's efforts to take down web sites that allegedly engage in illegal activity like file-sharing, copyright infringement and counterfeit goods.
Lofgren starts by saying that ICE doesn't have the authority to do what they are doing, that they are trampling on due process because the seizures are almost instant, and that - in some cases - they have violated the first amendment rights of some domain owners. Here is more on that from Lofgren:
House Republicans today took the first small step towards overturning the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules. On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology voted 15-8 to pass a resolution that kills the FCC rules. The resolution will now go before the full House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where Republicans will have enough votes to get it passed. The resolution will make it to the House floor in the next couple of weeks.
House lawmakers will examine the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules again next week, but as the Washington Post points out, the Republican-led effort to overturn the rules or pull funding from the agency will be an uphill battle. Experts say that the chances of Congress killing Internet access rules that prohibit blocking and slowing of Web traffic are pretty slim.
On March 9, the House subcommittee for communications and technology will examine the FCC's net neutrality rules a second time. The focus of this hearing will be to overturn the FCC's rules.
When taxpayers hear the term "pork barrel spending" they think of ridiculous projects getting an earmark from appropriations secured by their elected representative in the congress. Yes, if you read only the briefest descriptions of these earmarks you might think it's all a big waste of your tax dollars. After all, do we really need to be spending money on researching yoga and condoms when every state in the country is running deficits and the federal government's level debt is out of control?
If we go by the brief summary descriptions of many of these projects then the answer would probably be "yes." The problem is that many of these "silly-sounding" projects are actually important studies that lead to medical breakthroughs. This in turns leads to advanced medical techniques and technologies, or just a better understanding of how certain diseases and medical conditions can affect human beings.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed an amendment that essentially halts the use of any funding by the Federal Communications Commission to implement the Net Neutrality rules order it approved in December of 2010.
The amendment was approved by a 244-181 vote. The amendment was sponsored by Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore), and tacked on to legislation to fund government agencies for the rest of fiscal year 2011.
"If left unchallenged, this claim of authority would allow the FCC to regulate any matter it discussed in the national broadband plan," Walden said.
If this amendment fails, Republicans in the House and the Senate will push a "resolution of disapproval" under the Congressional Review Act. This gives lawmakers a limited amount of time to try to block the FCC's net-neutrality rules.