Federal Court Sides with Google in YouTube Copyright Case

A federal judge in New York has ruled in favor of Google’s YouTube in the ongoing $1 billion copyright infringement suit initiated by Viacom. The judge ruled that the video website did not violate copyright, despite its users posting unauthorized video clips from some of the TV giant’s top shows. Viacom first filed the suit in 2007, and the case has been closely watched by those concerned with content distribution and digital disruption. Continue reading Federal Court Sides with Google in YouTube Copyright Case

NAB 2013: Fox Could Turn to Pay TV if Aereo Ruled Legal

Aereo is really stirring the broadcast cable pot these days. In a radical announcement made during NAB in Las Vegas, News Corp. President Chase Carey said the company would consider converting its Fox broadcast network into a pay TV channel in response to the Aereo legal dispute. Broadcasters have taken Aereo to court over its service that basically enables users to rent small antennas to record free-to-air channels. Continue reading NAB 2013: Fox Could Turn to Pay TV if Aereo Ruled Legal

Big TV Versus Big Telecom in Battle for Broadcast Spectrum

While some seem to think our nation is heading toward maximum capacity in broadcast spectrum because of the growing number of mobile devices and high data usage, others say those fears are exaggerated. Either way, as the government plans to auction off broadcast spectrum in an effort to expand wireless services, it pits Big TV against Big Telecom at the Federal Communications Commission and with Congress. Continue reading Big TV Versus Big Telecom in Battle for Broadcast Spectrum

President and FCC Back Consumer Right to Unlock Phones

According to the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission, customers should be able to switch cellular carriers and keep their own phones while doing so. With that support, it could soon be easier for consumers to take advantage of lower rates from competing carriers once the initial contract is fulfilled, and could also mean more price competition and added choices for cellphone users. Continue reading President and FCC Back Consumer Right to Unlock Phones

SHIELD Act: Legislation Hopes to Discourage Patent Trolls

Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) want to put an end to America’s patent troll problem with the newly introduced SHIELD Act, which aims to define patent trolls and distinguish them from honest patent holders. In an effort to discourage those who do nothing more than file patent lawsuits, the bill would create a “loser pays” system for specific types of patent litigants. Continue reading SHIELD Act: Legislation Hopes to Discourage Patent Trolls

CISPA Reintroduced: Activist Groups Fuel Online Response

After Congress reintroduced the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a collection of Internet freedom activists quickly jumped into action. “Among them have been Demand Progress and Fight for the Future, who this week helped 300,000 citizens send a petition against CISPA to the lawmakers behind it,” reports Mashable. Continue reading CISPA Reintroduced: Activist Groups Fuel Online Response

Tech Industry Calls on Congress to Allocate More Mobile Spectrum

  • A team of tech companies including Apple, Samsung, and Nokia has submitted a letter to Congress requesting that it allocate more spectrum for mobile data, reports The Verge.
  • The letter argues the spectrum addition “is timely and relevant” to discuss alongside fiscal cliff debates.
  • “Now is the time to ensure the incentive auctions are as robust and successful as possible at liberating spectrum,” reads the letter. “We should also turn our collective attention on ways to reap the economic benefits of underutilized federal spectrum assets.”
  • “Other signatories include Intel, RIM, Qualcomm, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, and Ericsson, all of which are members of the High Tech Spectrum Coalition,” notes the post. “The group believes that upcoming spectrum auctions won’t meet the demand for wireless broadband, nor will it be possible to ‘engineer our way out of this problem’ with more efficient technology.”
  • The letter asks Congress to urge spectrum holders to “become more efficient, to share with one another, to vacate, or to lease their spectrum.”
  • An earlier report this year also recommended the government consider sharing spectrum with commercial partners, since it’s “increasingly difficult to find desirable spectrum that can be vacated by federal users.”

Editorials Respond to Proposed Legislation Regarding Online Piracy

  • According to an editorial in The New York Times, the House’s proposed Stop Online Piracy Act is too broad as it has provisions to cut off payments from providers such as Visa and ad networks like Google simply by filing a notice of infringement.
  • While the legislation is aimed at foreign websites like Pirate Bay, it could also be used against domestic websites covered by the Digital Milennium Copyright Act that has safe harbor provisions.
  • The editorial asserts that safe harbor provisions should be made available to foreign websites that abide by the DMCA. And a court order should be required before action is taken.
  • A related Los Angeles Times editorial suggests that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act both go to extremes in an effort to protect intellectual property.
  • The legislation could force companies to monitor their users’ behavior “turning them into a private security force for copyright and trademark owners.”
  • Infringement on popular sites like Facebook, Dropbox and YouTube are certainly opening them up to action in spite of safe harbor provisions now in force. The result would be less innovation to create the next YouTube and would have a potentially chilling effect on free speech.

Groups Take Sides in Battle Over Proposed Internet Censorship Bill

  • Nine Internet giants (Google, eBay, AOL, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga, LinkedIn, Mozilla and Twitter) have joined forces to place full page ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and The Washington Times expressing their objection to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act.
  • The measures protect against copyright infringement by requiring “technology companies and Internet service providers to block access to any website that the entertainment industry believes ‘engages in, enables or facilitates’ copyright infringement,” reports Digital Trends.
  • The proposed pieces of legislation “have strong bipartisan support in Congress, as well as backing from the Motion Picture Association of America, a variety of Hollywood union organizations, and even Master Card and Pfizer.”
  • In a related post, The Next Web reports that the Business Software Alliance (BSA) supports SOPA and commends Congress for “curb[ing] the growing rash of software piracy and other forms of intellectual property theft that are being perpetrated by illicit websites.”
  • Member of BSA include Adobe, Apple, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and 24 other tech companies.

Online Piracy: Controversial House Bill Proposed to Block Pirate Sites

  • The Stop Online Piracy Act was introduced in the House of Representatives last week.
  • “While sites that host and distribute pirated content continue to operate around the world, members of the House of Representatives are seeking a new legal method to shutting down access to copyrighted content,” reports Digital Trends.
  • The proposed bill would provide the U.S. Attorney General with the power to order search engines and ISPs to block sites that feature pirated content.
  • The Act is the House’s version of the PROTECT-IP Act introduced in the Senate that if passed, would enable the government or courts to monitor users and remove infringing websites from the global network, even without hearings.
  • Critics have used labels such as the “Internet Death Penalty” and “Great Firewall of America” to describe the proposal.
  • “The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content,” suggests GigaOM. “That might make for the kind of Internet that media and entertainment conglomerates would prefer, but it would clearly be a much diminished version of the Internet we take for granted.”

Report: Is Innovation being Stifled by Frivolous Lawsuits of Patent Trolls?

  • Looking at a database of over 1,600 patent troll lawsuits compiled by Patent Freedom, a team of Boston University researchers estimate that these suits have cost companies some $500 billion since 1990. These costs include not only legal fees and payouts to plaintiffs, but indirect costs such as employee distraction, legal uncertainty, and the need to redesign or drop key products.
  • The authors of the study also estimate that the original inventors received less than 10 percent of the “defendant’s lost wealth.”
  • Additionally, they found that software patents accounted for approximately 62 percent of the lawsuits (while a mere two percent of suits were related to drug or chemical patents, and only six percent involved mechanical patents).
  • The article concludes that the patent system is becoming a disincentive to innovation. “These results are important because the patent system is supposed to reward companies who invest in innovation,” suggests Ars Technica. “Yet thanks to the growing blizzard of frivolous patent lawsuits against technology companies, the patent system is actually becoming a net disincentive to innovation, especially software. We hope Congress and the Supreme Court are paying attention.”

Will the Proposed American Jobs Act Have an Impact on Crowdfunding?

  • Part of President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act includes exempting small businesses that receive startup funds through “crowdfunding” from having to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • If the newly proposed $447 billion plan was to pass through Congress, it could impact services such as Kickstarter, possibly turning the “crowdfunding” model into an “investment mechanism for a whole new generation of small business,” suggests Digital Trends.
  • The plan would allow individuals to invest in a piece of the company (instead of the current model that offers rewards such as an early-run edition of the product), but without the company having to pay SEC fees.
  • “…[G]adget-makers are already using crowdfunding platforms to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in pure donations – imagine the possibilities if these small-dollar donors became investors with a stake in the venture,” reads a post on WhiteHouse.gov.
  • Kickstarter, for example, has already helped more than 10,000 projects by raising more than $75 million in pledges. Digital Trends indicates that currently, “Out of all projects submitted to Kickstarter, 44 percent go on to meet their fundraising goals.”
  • Details of the plan can be found in a White House website post on innovation and entrepreneurship.

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