U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is taking a bit of heat this week for saying that a $113,277 grant given to Rochester's International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) is wasteful spending. He named it as one of a hundred "unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority projects" that the federal government spent money on in 2011. He released his annual report on wasteful spending in this report.
A software developer who goes by the nickname of "T Rizk," who thinks Congress will make the wrong decision on the SOPA anti-piracy bill, has decided to create a work-around before the bill ever becomes law. That work-around is a Firefox plug-in that he has named "DeSOPA." It basically unblocks sites like The Pirate Bay by reverting the blocked site back to its raw IP address.
While the battle over SOPA rages in the House (to resume with another markup hearing on Wednesday), the Senate's version of the bill, Protect IP, will not have an easy path to passage either. Today Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) renewed his vow to block the bill "to the bitter end." Because the rules are different in the Senate Wyden has a whole toolbox of tactics he could employ to keep the bill from ever coming to a vote.
Today, a group of 83 Internet inventors and engineers sent an open letter to members of the United States Congress, voicing their opposition to the SOPA and PIPA bills that are under consideration in the House and Senate. Vint Cerf, co-designer of TCP/IP; Jim Gettys, editor of the HTTP/1.1 protocol standards; Paul Vixie, author of BIND, the most widely-used DNS server software; and Elizabeth Feinler, director of the Network Information Center (NIC) at SRI International are just some of the names that have signed this letter.
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):
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.
While he seems to be all alone in Washington, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says that he will fight to the bitter end against the PROTECT IP Act, a controversial online copyright bill backed by Hollywood movie studios, the Chamber of Commerce, pharmaceutical makers and a group of 40 senators. Wyden feels so strongly that the bill is bad news for Americans that he has promised to filibuster the PROTECT IP Act if it reaches the Senate floor without serious changes by the end of the year.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller is taking aim at critics of the Federal Communications Commission's net-neutrality rules that were published on Friday afternoon in the Federal Register.
"Americans want the Internet to stay free and open," Rockefeller said. "After a long, deliberative process, the FCC came up with balanced rules that promote transparency and prohibit discrimination. I am disappointed that my colleagues want to use a legislative short cut to unravel these rules."
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.
The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing on privacy and data security for June 29, but has not revealed the witness list at this time. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) has held several hearings this year on privacy issues, cybersecurity, and do-not-track legislation. He has also pressed the Federal Trade Commission and App store owners such as Google and Apple to do more about protecting the privacy of children when it comes to mobile apps.
A bill that proposes a felony charge to anyone that "illegally streams copyrighted content online" has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today and will head to the full Senate for a vote. The bill, S. 978 (or "Commercial Felony Streaming Act"), brings the penalties for illegal streaming in line with the penalties for illegal downloading. What used to be a misdemeanor will now become a serious crime if the law gets passed. In other words, illegal streaming could get you a five year sentence in jail. Websites that offer illegally streams of copyrighted content 10 or more times during an 180-day period can be prosecuted if the bill becomes law, although it is unclear how the bill deals with individual streamers.
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.
In late March four United States Senators voiced outrage over iPhone and Android apps that alerted users to local DUI stops being conducted by the police. It bothered them so much that the four got together and penned strongly worded letters to the CEO's of both Apple and Google asking them to ban these apps from their respective marketplaces.
Three months later and one company has complied with the wishes of Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.). According to revised app developer guidelines uncovered by Mac Rumors, section 22.8 offers an addendum:
"Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected."
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:
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.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has placed a hold on the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968), ensuring that the bill will not make it to the floor of the Senate for a full vote. This news comes from Ars Technica, who also received a lengthy statement from Wyden's staff on the particulars of the Senator's action this week. The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved in committee by both political parties, gives the U.S. government the power to blacklist and isolate web sites allegedly trading in counterfeit or pirated materials.
A similar bill was put on hold by Wyden last year because he said it went too far in dealing with copyright and patent infringement on the Internet. The new bill gives the government the ability to blacklist or shut down a web site it believes is engaging in illegal activity, compel advertisers to sever relationships with accused sites and tell search engines to remove sites from their index.
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."
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is not happy with Sony's revelation today that user data and credit card information may have been stolen from PlayStation Network users (thanks to gellymatos). He is so unhappy that he has sent a letter to Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America. In his letter to SCEA, Blumenthal noted that SCEA failed its customers by not informing them sooner.
"When a data breach occurs, it is essential that customers be immediately notified about whether and to what extent their personal and financial information has been compromised… I am concerned that PlayStation Network users’ personal and financial information may have been inappropriately accessed by a third party,"
The full letter can be found below:
Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) this week introduced the "Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011," which they claim will establish a "baseline code of conduct" for how personal information is used, stored and distributed online.
"Americans have a right to decide how their information is collected, used, and distributed and businesses deserve the certainty that comes with clear guidelines," said Sen. Kerry in a statement about the new bill. "Our bill makes fair information practices the rules of the road, gives Americans the assurance that their personal information is secure, and allows our information driven economy to continue to thrive in today's global market."
The bill gives consumers notice of data collection and opt-out capabilities, while requiring companies collecting the information to provide adequate security and set limits on distribution.
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.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and The Guild's Felicia Day kicked off a Monday SXSW session schedule by getting straight to the point about internet freedom. Like a wet blanket on a camp fire, Franken warned attendees that the days of unfettered internet access may soon be over.
"The party may almost be over. There's nothing more motivated than a corporation that thinks it's leaving money on the table," said Franken. "An Open Internet: The Last, Best Hope for Independent Producers." Franken continued, "They're coming after our freedom and openness on the Internet. Net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time."