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a Public Knowledge update
Net Neutrality Campaign Begins
The new session of Congress has started, and Net Neutrality will clearly be on the agenda now that the Democrats are in control. Make no mistake -- it is not a certainty that meaningful Net Neutrality legislation will be passed, even with Sen. Dan Inouye (HI) as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and Reps. John Dingell (MI) and Ed Markey (MA) back in their former jobs as heads of the Energy and Commerce Committee and its Telecom Subcommittee, respectively.
On the Senate side, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced their Net Neutrality bill from last session. This time, it's called Dorgan-Snowe, instead of Snowe-Dorgan, as it was last year. The Commerce Committee has scheduled an oversight hearing on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for Feb. 1, and Net Neutrality is certain to come up in discussions.
On the House side, Markey plans a series of hearings through the beginning of the year before introducing legislation. He's a champion of Net Neutrality, but will still have to persuade a number of members of his subcommittee who side with the big telephone companies, which still have considerable influence.
The task of getting Net Neutrality legislation was made somewhat easier at the end of the year when the FCC approved AT&T's takeover of BellSouth. Now, most of the old Ma Bell will be subject to Net Neutrality rules for the next two years. The agreement, while not perfect, is pretty good for a merger. It says that Net Neutrality commitments "shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth's agreement not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination."
You can read the Dorgan-Snowe bill here:
The merger agreement is here:
CES Dazzles Again
The world's biggest gadget-fest, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place last week in Las Vegas. It seems to get bigger and more crowded every year not only with new equipment to see, but with more attendees trying to see it. The crowd this year was reported to be about 140,000, and every one of them was trying to get around Las Vegas at the same time.
Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), sponsor of the show, made a big pitch for Digital Freedom in his opening keynote. The Digital Freedom Campaign had a booth prominently placed at the main entrance. The Campaign is designed to make consumers aware of their rights to use lawfully acquired digital media and of the threats to those rights. Those working in the booth got a great response.
TV seemed to be the big, and little, story this year. There were new HD sets as large as 108", and other TV screens made for cell phones. Some manufacturers want to help you watch TV by making DVD players that will accommodate both of the competing disc standards -- HD DVD and Blu-Ray.
Gigi, Alex and Art went out for the show. Gigi participated in a panel discussion on copyright, while Alex and Art took in some of the conference sessions and tried to see what was on the show floors. With all there was to see and do, there was no shortage of material for the PK blog.
Alex posted some video highlights of the convention. Gigi and Art wrote about the show through the lens of copyright and DRM.
Alex's video post is here:
Check out Gigi's take on the presentations of CBS President Les
Moonves and Blake Krikorian from Sling Media:
Art has some final thoughts:
And be sure to check out the Digital Freedom Campaign:
WIPO Broadcast Treaty Trudges Onward
Meanwhile, over in Geneva, talks drag on over the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Broadcast Treaty. This is the treaty in which broadcasters want to give themselves a new intellectual property right in the TV signal -- regardless of whether they actually own what's being broadcast.
A WIPO Committee met in Geneva in an attempt to carry out instructions from the WIPO General Assembly from last year that a treaty based on signal theft, not intellectual property rights, be adopted. But we keep getting reports from Geneva that the Committee chairman, Jukka Liedes of Finland, has drafted recommendations and a work plan built around the new intellectual property right.
To make matters worse, the official delegates tossed out the observers from the private and public-interest sectors so that they could negotiate behind closed doors.
Sherwin just got back from Geneva. Keep up with the WIPO goings
on by reading his great blog posts. Here's the latest:
Its 2007, a time to look ahead. PK will have lots to do this year. We will have to fight hard to make certain that the Internet stays free and open, as the telephone companies try yet gain to gain control over it. We will have to continue to defend our victory in the broadcast flag case as the content industry will resume its campaign for control over digital media, whether in the broadcast flag or in other legislation that would institute technological mandates. We are geared up to take the offensive this year in Net Neutrality, in copyright and in patent reform. So, let's renew our request to you: Please support PK. Battling the well-funded telephone and cable companies isn't easy. Neither is going up against the full force of the movie, TV and recording industries. But we are dedicated to doing it, to preserve the openness and innovation we all treasure. Please help. There are many ways you can support PK here:
We thank you for your support!
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) reintroduced her "PERFORM" bill
(S.256) that would basically outlaw devices for satellite and
digital terrestrial radio that allow consumers to do anything
more than listen to the music over the radio. We think it's a
bad idea. See Sherwin's write up:
The bill is here:
The FCC laudably acted earlier this year in favor of competition.
It issued an order turning down the cable industry's request to
continue a years-long waiver that kept consumer choice out of the
market for cable set-top boxes. PK led the coalition opposing
the grant of the waiver. See Gigi's comments on the CableCard
Here's a text of the letter:
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