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Unlocking Cell Phones: Common Sense?
"It's time to legalize cell phone unlocking," said White House senior advisor R. David Eldelman on March 4 in response to an online petition that had gained more than 114,000 signatures. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement in agreement. One observer characterized the White House's response as "populist grandstanding" but both Edelman and Genachowski asserted their position was "common sense." On the populist side, a furor had built up that peaked on Jan. 26 when federal permission to circumvent cell phone security software expired, based on new Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions set by the Librarian of Congress. On March 4 the Library of Congress commented that their DMCA rulemaking had served as "a barometer for broader policy concerns." The Copyright Alliance pointed out that the many voices complaining about the rulemaking's results should have participated while the process was open for public comment. Shortly thereafter politicians and digital activists piled on. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced S. 467 on March 5 and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced S. 481 on March 6. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) promised legislation and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he would pitch in. This list of lawmakers promoting new wireless bills is expected to grow. Meanwhile, digital activists have set their sights on the greater prize of repealing applicable copyright law, launching FixTheDMCA.org on March 6. "The root of this problem lies in parts of the [DMCA] and how easily they are abused at consumers' expense," said Christopher Lewis, Public Knowledge VP of government affairs. "Amending the DMCA itself will ensure stronger competition, and also that consumers can use the devices they've bought in whatever lawful way they choose." While the populists' tone might annoy copyright advocates, congressional hearings on possible updates to the DMCA would be interesting and could consider other exceptions dealt with by the Library of Congress' reviews, such as digital preservation and the use of video excerpts in education.
Bill Proposing Federal Task Force On The Global Internet Reintroduced
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 889, the Global Free Internet Act, on March 5. "For the Internet to remain a platform for innovation and prosperity, we need to address undue restrictions on Internet commerce and the global free flow of information," said Lofgren, who introduced a previous version of the bill late last year. The reintroduced bill calls for the formation of a Task Force on the Global Internet comprised of federal agency heads, four people appointed by congressional leadership and four people appointed by the president who would be nominated by the public online. Lofgren is known for her tech-friendly positions and the task force might seem like unnecessary regulation and expense, however it would also address subjects relevant to the creative community such as barriers to online commerce in foreign markets.
New Google Developments On Music, White Spaces And Copyright
Several news items highlight Google's sizable footprint. On March 5 Google Play and YouTube reportedly signed licensing agreements with Warner Music Group for subscription services. On March 4 the FCC began testing Google's white spaces spectrum database. Similar to 2011's successful FCC test of Spectrum Bridge's database system, the goal is to determine whether available ranges can be identified and assigned without interfering with incumbent users such as wireless microphones. Meanwhile in German parliament, the "Ancillary Copyright for Press Publishers Law" passed the lower house on March 1, granting publishers a right to commercially exploit online text longer than a "small snippet." The legislation is not expected to pass the upper house. Google launched a "Defend Your Internet" ad campaign to protect its news republishing online and succeeded in getting the "snippet" added to the bill.
Beijing Court Promotes Harmony Between Search Engine And Labels
On March 4 Beijing High Court announced resolution of major record labels' longstanding antipiracy litigation against Sohu over its Sogou search engine. Legal licenses are now in place and Sohu will contribute to the IFPI's antipiracy war chest. The court said, "A ruling on the matter would have left the dispute on both sides unresolved, and also could have deepened the grievances between the two groups."
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