Congress Leaves Key Tech Legislation on Table Over Recess

After a big victory passing CHIPS-plus, Congress recessed on Saturday with several technology goals pending. Among the outstanding items is a bipartisan antitrust bill that seeks to rein in the industry’s heavyweight players, a consumer privacy bill and confirmation of Gigi Sohn, a Biden administration nominee to the FCC, where net neutrality hangs in the balance. Although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has promised to fast track those votes immediately upon return September 6, the clock is winding down as November’s midterm elections may push Democrats out of power in one or both houses. Continue reading Congress Leaves Key Tech Legislation on Table Over Recess

Big Tech Fights Antitrust Bill as Congress Moves Toward Vote

Big Tech is pulling out all the stops to prevent Congress from signing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO) into law before the midterm elections. Amazon and Alphabet have rallied forces in opposition to the antitrust measure whose principal goal is to halt “self-preferencing,” or the ability of online giants to use their market strength in one area to help boost sideline subsidiaries through preferential treatment. For instance, Alphabet using its wholly-owned search engine Google to promote its own shopping or travel products. Continue reading Big Tech Fights Antitrust Bill as Congress Moves Toward Vote

Site Blocking Gaining Steam Globally as Anti-Piracy Measure

A U.S. district judge in New York has established a new front in the anti-piracy war, ruling that a long list of domestic ISPs must block three Israeli websites found to be in violation of copyright law. Judge Katherine Polk Failla ordered the ISPs to block the sites Israeli-TV.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv, and also any domains known to be “used in the future … by any technological means available.” Also affected are web hosting service providers, web designers, domain registrars and advertising companies, now banned from doing business with the sites. Continue reading Site Blocking Gaining Steam Globally as Anti-Piracy Measure

SMART Copyright Act Updates DMCA in Fight Against Piracy

Senators Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced the SMART Copyright Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation they say will “hold tech accountable by developing effective, widely-available measures to combat copyright theft.” While intellectual property owners see the proposal as a positive step to protect creators, critics view it as a potential threat to free speech. Essentially an update to 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, SMART allows the U.S. Copyright Office to create standard technical measures (STMs) to protect rightsholders through a filtering system implemented by online hosting platforms. Continue reading SMART Copyright Act Updates DMCA in Fight Against Piracy

Biden Reveals FCC Chair and New Commissioner Nominees

President Joe Biden has paved the way for a potential Democratic majority at the Federal Communications Commission, nominating Gigi Sohn to fill the fifth commissioner slot, vacant since Ajit Pai resigned in January. Jessica Rosenworcel, who stepped up as acting chairwoman when Pai left, has been nominated as permanent chair. Sohn, a public interest lawyer with 30 years of experience in communications and technology policy, spent three years as counselor to Obama administration FCC chair Tom Wheeler. In that capacity, she championed net neutrality and Title II common carrier rules that were adopted in 2015, only to be jettisoned in 2017 under Pai. Continue reading Biden Reveals FCC Chair and New Commissioner Nominees

Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) plans to introduce a bill in the next few weeks that would make net neutrality a law. “The coronavirus pandemic has proven that broadband is as essential as electricity and other utilities,” he said. “We need to restore net neutrality protections to ensure that our Internet remains open and free and that consumers can continue to benefit from this critical infrastructure.” Many Republicans still oppose net neutrality, and its existence has largely been subject to who chairs the FCC. Continue reading Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Municipalities Want Streaming Services to Pay Franchise Fees

As streaming media services increasingly resemble cable bundles, more towns and counties are looking to regulate them. In Georgia for example, three municipalities filed a federal lawsuit against Netflix, Hulu and other services for as much as 5 percent of their gross revenue in an attempt to treat them as cable services. According to the lawsuit, Netflix earned about $103 million over the recent five years from subscribers in Gwinnett County, Georgia. If treated as a cable provider, that would represent $5.15 million in retroactive fees. Continue reading Municipalities Want Streaming Services to Pay Franchise Fees

Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for FCC Nathan Simington

The Senate confirmed Nathan Simington as a new Republican FCC member in a 49-to-46 vote. The confirmation comes as FCC chair Ajit Pai prepares to exit his post in January. In the run-up to the vote, Simington vowed “regulatory stability” and an openness to reexamining Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. With Simington, the five-member FCC could be deadlocked at the beginning of 2021, with two Democrats and two Republicans, possibly limiting its ability to carry out president-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. Continue reading Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for FCC Nathan Simington

Antitrust Officials Focus on Google’s Advertising Ecosystem

In its antitrust investigation of Google, the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general are looking at whether the Big Tech company engages in “tying,” a practice of bundling products together with the aim of blocking competition. According to sources, the government officials have questioned executives at competing companies about Google’s Network, the division that sells end-to-end digital advertising services, and whether it offers advertisers enticing terms to buy into its complete ecosystem. Continue reading Antitrust Officials Focus on Google’s Advertising Ecosystem

Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — the five largest U.S. tech firms — are speeding up their acquisitions, even as they are under antitrust investigation by federal officials and state attorneys general. By the end of June, the companies had disclosed 27 deals, up 29 percent from the same period last year, when they announced 21 deals. The increase in purchases could be used as proof by regulators and economists that these companies are using their wealth to dominate competitors and increase their market share. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Under pressure from legislators and others, Facebook has taken steps to protect itself. According to sources, the company ceased talks to buy video-focused social network Houseparty to forestall increased antitrust concerns. In response to calls to break up Facebook, the company took internal measures to make that more difficult to do by reorganizing its departments and rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp. Elsewhere, the European Union is expected to issue decisions by the end of the year related to privacy issues involving Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

CASE Act’s Copyright Enforcement Draws Mixed Response

In July, a bipartisan group from the Senate Judiciary Committee reintroduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, by which the U.S. Copyright Office will create a three-person Copyright Claims Board that will supervise a ‘small claims-style’ system for damages. The Copyright Alliance and the Graphic Artists Guild approved the move, which allows a copyright owner whose content was used without permission to claim for damages up to $15,000 for each work and $30,000 in total. However, some groups are opposing the Act and question the cost of such an approach. Continue reading CASE Act’s Copyright Enforcement Draws Mixed Response

FCC Proposal Restricts Local Regulation of Cable Networks

FCC chair Ajit Pai has put forth a plan to prevent cities and towns from regulating Internet access via their authority over cable TV networks and limit how much cities can charge cable companies. The cable industry has long lobbied for these changes; Pai’s proposal will come to a vote at the FCC on August 1. Pai’s proposal states that “some states and localities” are collecting fees and imposing requirements not “explicitly allowed” by Title VI, the cable regulation section Congress added to the Cable Act of 1984. Continue reading FCC Proposal Restricts Local Regulation of Cable Networks

Tech Companies Have Long Prepared for Antitrust Scrutiny

Apple, Facebook and Google have been preparing for announcements from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that leading U.S. tech companies were going to be closely scrutinized for evidence of antitrust behavior. The news has sent shares roller-coasting but the three companies’ lawyers are, said sources, taking a “wait-and-see” approach. While Apple has been battling antitrust battles for years and Google has already faced antitrust investigations in the U.S. and Europe, some experts believe Facebook is not as prepared for the coming scrutiny. Continue reading Tech Companies Have Long Prepared for Antitrust Scrutiny

Government Expected to Take a Closer Look at Tech Giants

U.S. tech giants are expected to become targets of in-depth antitrust investigations to determine if any companies have become too large and may be stifling competition. According to sources, federal agencies have agreed to distribute the investigative responsibilities. The Justice Department reportedly has authority over looking into Apple and Google, while the Federal Trade Commission will have oversight of Amazon and Facebook. In addition, the House Judiciary Committee plans to examine competition in digital markets and the growing power of the tech industry. Continue reading Government Expected to Take a Closer Look at Tech Giants