Posts by Katy Tasker

3D Printing Comes to Washington Tomorrow!

Like the internet before it, 3D printing has the potential to be a revolutionary, disruptive technology. Because it allows people to create, copy, and modify physical objects in digital files, it will provoke conversations that redefine intellectual property.

Public Knowledge has been working at this intersection of 3D printing and issues like copyright and patent policy, making sure that large incumbents embrace 3D printing as an opportunity instead of reacting to it as a threat.

That’s why we’re hosting the second 3D/DC in the Rayburn House Office Building tomorrow. We want to make sure that the voices of 3D printing innovators are heard in Washington.

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What Frustrates You About Video?

Earlier this month, we asked you to share your cable stories, and an impressive number of you did. While many of your stories focused on a lack of competition among cable providers and rising bills, there are plenty of other factors that contribute to this frustrating state of affairs. Public Knowledge is working to solve these problems by proposing a vision of the future of video, with concrete recommendations for how to get there.

Your comments highlight the need for more competition and clearly show that change is vital. Here is a selection of what you had to say:

"I cut the cable last month. Went from $250/month for a UVerse service to $50/month for just Internet only.  Now with a free-to-air antenna and my Apple TV together with a few monthly subscriptions I am saving a fortune and getting most of what I want to see.

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SOPAnniversary: Celebrating the Day the Internet Fought Back!

One year ago today, something incredible happened. With a unified voice, the online community spoke out against legislation that would have crippled the internet in the name of copyright protection.

January 18, 2012, marked the largest response to internet legislation in history, proving that the voices millions of people are louder than the millions of dollars spent. So many people contacted Congress on that single day, in fact, that Congress’s servers went down. Within 48 hours, SOPA (in the House) and PIPA (its Senate cousin) were both shelved. You won.

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We Stand for a Free and Open Internet: The Declaration of Internet Rights

Public Knowledge is excited to be part of the 91 organizations and 38 influencers signing on to the Declaration of Internet Freedom, which launched today.

As Cory Doctorow succinctly put it, “There is no copyright policy, only Internet policy; there is no Internet policy, only policy.” Today’s focus on increased IP enforcement will have a dramatic impact on the way people interact with the most democratic communications platform that has ever existed: the internet. Disproportionate IP enforcement will stifle creativity and create gatekeepers that block the free flow of information online.

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Public Knowledge Says ‘Special 301’ Report Bows To Big Media Companies

The following is attributed to Rashmi Rangnath, director of Public Knowledge's Global Knowledge Initiative:

"Once again the U.S. Trade Representative has produced a fact-free report that ignored any point of view except that of big media companies. We are distressed that countries which have yet to pass harsh legislation being pushed around the world remain on the watch lists, while countries which give in to U.S. pressure, such as Spain, are removed when they pass punitive legislation. 

"We are particularly distressed that Canada remains on the Priority Watch List, even though Canadian laws provide greater rights to copyright holders than U.S. laws. It appears that these rights are not stringent enough for the special interests pushing for even stronger measures."

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Public Knowledge Disappointed With Hulu Move Behind Pay Wall

The following is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge:

"It is a shame that the owners of Hulu have decided to restrict access to the site's content to those with pay-TV subscriptions. By all accounts, the site was doing well supported by advertising, attracting millions of visitors every month.

"Restricting access to legal content will only drive consumers to find illegal content. In particular, we are concerned about restricting access to TV programming available over free over-the-air broadcasting. It should be available online, regardless whether anyone subscribes to cable or satellite TV. By putting more restrictions on consumer access to popular content, the entertainment industry only removes any justification for stronger "anti-piracy" laws it is perpetually seeking from Congress.

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WFUD 2012: Journalism, Fashion, and Poetry

Without fair use, we wouldn’t be able to criticize, comment on, parody, or quote anything without permission first. This is the exception that makes this Yogi Bear alternative ending possible, that lets you photocopy the pages you need for that final research paper you’re writing, and that allows Jon Stewart to show clips from the news networks he’s criticizing.

Not every unauthorized use of a copyrighted work is an unlawful use. But with the never-ending conversation about copyright enforcement these days, it would be easy to assume that you can’t even touch a copyrighted work without permission from its author.

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Groups Warn Congress of Dangers In Universal Music Group-EMI Merger

Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Public Knowledge today told key lawmakers that the planned merger between Universal Music Group and EMI would give the combined company “the power to distort or even determine the fate of digital distribution models.”

In a nine-page letter to the leaders of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, CFA and PK noted that the combined market share would have a market share of more than 40 percent, far above the five companies targeted by the Justice Department in the agency’s recent suit against publishers alleging price-fixing for e-books.

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Public Knowledge Asks Companies For Data Caps Information

The day before the Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing about video competition, Public Knowledge is sending letters to the heads of the largest landline and wireless companies asking about implementation of caps limiting the amount of data consumers can use without extra charges.

"Distribution of commercial video is just one reason the internet has experienced such enormous growth," Gigi B. Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, wrote in her letter, requesting information in a series of seven questions about how caps are set, how they are evaluated, and how they may evolve over time. 

Letters were sent to the heads of wireless companies AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, and to landline companies Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Cable.

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Public Knowledge Tracks Secretive Trade Talks

On May 8, the latest negotiating session for the latest secretive trade agreement will start in Dallas and continue for two weeks.  The Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a wide-ranging agreement being negotiated by the U.S. and eight countries, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Like its predecessor, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), most of the work is being done behind doors closed to the general public.  Also like ACTA, there could be severe harmful effects on copyright law.  (Unlike ACTA, at some point the agreement will be considered by Congress.)

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Public Knowledge Expresses Doubts About Verizon Spectrum Sale

Background: Verizon announced today that it would sell some of its wireless licenses if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the company’s plan to buy spectrum from major cable companies and to have marketing agreements with the cable companies.

The following is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

“There is less than meets the eye to Verizon’s spectrum sale. At the end of the day, Verizon and the cable companies will still have created a cartel in which Verizon will rule the air for wireless broadband and cable will offer the only widespread true high-speed landline Internet services.

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Public Knowledge Says SOPA Is ‘Still Dead,’ Despite Dodd Assertion

Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd is quoted today as saying that there is a possibility the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) can be revived.

The following is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge:

"It should be clear to everyone by now that SOPA and its Senate counterpart, PIPA, (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) are still dead, despite the yearnings of Senator Dodd.

"It is simply amazing that a mere two months after 14 million people, in one of the largest protests of its kind, voiced their opposition to SOPA and PIPA and after the dramatic Web blackout day, that the head of the Motion Picture Association of America said the dreadfully flawed legislation could be reworked in the back rooms of Washington.

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Public Knowledge Statement on Viacom v YouTube Appellate Decision

The U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit (New York) today handed down its ruling in Viacom v. YouTube. The ruling is here.

The following is attributed to Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director for Public Knowledge:

"We are pleased with the Appeals Court ruling. The Court upheld the basic principles of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Crucially, the Court rejected Viacom's attempt to create a new duty of those hosting content to monitor actively for infringement in order to qualify for the law's safe-harbor provisions. The Court upheld the need for knowledge of specific instances of infringement in the DMCA, and that a general awareness of possible infringement is not sufficient."

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Public Knowledge Saddened at Media Access Project Closure

Media Access Project (MAP) announced this morning it will cease operations on May 1.

The following is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge:

“We are sad to read the announcement of the Media Access Project suspending its operations.  Through the years, MAP has provided an invaluable voice for the public interest on a range of issues, including the public responsibility of broadcasters, to media ownership and, in more recent years, many of the most prominent policy disputes of the Internet age.  

“MAP staffers are, and were, valued colleagues. The organization has provided opportunities for a wealth of talented and dedicated advocates, PK Legal Director Harold Feld and PK COO Brooke Rae-Hunter among them.

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Public Knowledge Sets Prescription For ‘Tomorrowvision’

“TV is stuck in a distribution and consumption model that has not significantly changed in decades” and needs to change, according to a new policy paper from Public Knowledge.

Tomorrowvision” analyzes the thickets of rules that govern today’s video market and prescribes changes needed to disrupt that marketplace and bring sorely needed competition to consumers.  Today’s market is “structured less like a modern competitive industry and more like a medieval guild system where everyone has a place,” the paper, by PK Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer, said.  The industry is riddled with middlemen, geographic restrictions for some industry sectors, serving the layers of distributors more than the content creators or viewers, the paper found.

To allow for more direct relationships between creators and viewers, the white paper suggests some regulatory changes, which could be removed at a later date:

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Public Knowledge Statement On New IP Enforcement Report

The following is attributed to John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge:

"We are pleased that the new report  from the Administration's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator demonstrates a commitment to transparency in policymaking for intellectual property.

"Public Knowledge has consistently maintained that trade negotiations in particular, such as the current Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, need more participation from the public in their formulation.

"We are also pleased that the Coordinator confirmed the Administration's opposition to legislation 'that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecu­rity risk (including authority to tamper with the DNS system), or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.'

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Public Knowledge Commends NTIA On New Spectrum Policy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released a pivotal report recognizing the near-impossibility of clearing more Federal spectrum for auction. 

The NTIA report is here.

The following is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"This is a watershed moment because the government recognizes that new approaches are needed to spectrum policy.  We can no longer rely on squeezing more spectrum from Federal users to meet our ever-expanding needs for wireless services.

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Public Knowledge Sees Net Neutrality Issue with Comcast Product

The following is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge:
 
"The reports that Comcast is offering a video product through the Xbox 360 without the data counting toward the customer's data cap raises questions not only of the justification for the caps but, more importantly, of the survival of an Open Internet.
 
"This type of arrangement is exactly the type of situation the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rules on the Open Internet were designed to prevent -- that an Internet Service Provider juggles the rules to give itself an advantage over a competitor.
 
"The Xbox 360 provides a number of video services to compete for customer dollars, yet only one service is not counted against the data cap -- the one provided by Comcast.
 

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Public Knowledge Unveils Internet Blueprint Project

Today Public Knowledge launched the Internet Blueprint, an ambitious project to develop bills that will help make the internet a better place for everyone. The site consists of six new bills Congress could pass today, as well as a way for the public to submit and vote on their own ideas.

“There are lots of people with great ideas about what rights and protections Internet users should have.  Public Knowledge is taking the next step by putting those ideas into a form that Congress and other policymakers can consider,” said Michael Weinberg, the PK senior staff attorney who is coordinating the project.

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Weekly Recap and Preview - 2/6/12

Recap of Last Week

Last week, negotiators met in LA behind closed doors to discuss the intellectual property chapter of a new international trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The TPP is the frightening sequel to another international trade agreement in the news recently: the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, known as ACTA. Simultaneous to the private TPP negotiations, a separately organized public interest briefing on concerns with the TPP was actually kicked out of the hotel where it was supposed to have taken place. 

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A 2011 Recap and 2012 Preview

As we ring in the new year here at Public Knowledge, we're looking back on a busy 2011 and looking forward to an exciting 2012. Here are our highlights from the last year, and our predictions for the year to come.

Top 5 Moments of 2011:

1. AT&T Surrendered
Nothing beats the feeling of facing off against a lobbying machine like AT&T over its proposed takeover of T-Mobile, and winning.

2. Congress Didn't Kill an Open Internet
Congress's attempt to ax the FCC's ability to preserve the open internet was thwarted .

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Public Knowledge Congratulates FCC on White Spaces Announcement

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"We congratulate the FCC on its announcement today that it has certified a database and device capable of using the TV white spaces. This marks a new era in open wireless technology, which already contributes $50 billion every year to the American economy. 

"The newly certified ‘Super WiFi’ will increase the capacity of these networks tenfold, improving the wireless broadband experience for all Americans while creating new opportunities for innovation and job creation."

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Public Knowledge is Thankful AT&T/T-Mobile Merger is Over

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"In this age of cynicism, it is important for the American people to see that Washington does not always go to the highest bidder. The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission stood up to tremendous lobbying pressure as AT&T spent tens of millions of dollars trying to push this merger through. 

"We hope that AT&T and T-Mobile will focus on deploying the best, most competitive networks possible rather than trying to merge to duopoly. These businesses are fundamentally sound, and have what it takes to bring broadband and jobs to America on their own. We look forward to seeing them rethink what's possible, rather than trying to rule the air.

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Public Knowledge Urges FCC to Closely Examine Verizon Spectrum Purchase

Per standard procedure, Verizon has officially applied with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to purchase spectrum from Spectrum Co. 

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"It is critical that the FCC be prepared to act if the application and the agreements raise the possibility of anti-competitive coordination. While it is important to get spectrum into productive use, the possibility that this may create 'backdoor' channels by which competitors may divide the market and keep out potential new entrants is very real. The FCC has authority to insist on reviewing the associated agreements, whatever the parties may say."

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Public Knowledge Disappointed by Scheduling of SOPA Markup

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith just announced that markup of SOPA will resume at 9:00 A.M. on Wednesday, December 21, 2011.

The following statement is attributed to Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge:

"Continuing a markup on December 21, when many members may well be absent, demonstrates a clear desire to continue dodging the questions raised by experts, members, and the public.

"This unwillingness to take expert evidence, listen to constituents, or conduct due diligence in investigating the extraordinary harms risked by SOPA shows a process divorced from representation, responsibility, and reality."

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Public Knowledge Urges Members to Examine Legitimate Concerns of SOPA

Following almost a day and a half of heated debate, the House Judiciary Committee adjourned its markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Movement on the legislation will pick back up when the House reconvenes at the end of January 2012.

The following statement is attributed to Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge:

“Throughout the markup process, there has been clear disagreement and misunderstanding among members themselves about what is in the bill, to say nothing of what it actually does. 

“SOPA, as written, would threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the internet. We hope the members of the House Judiciary Committee take this break as an opportunity to carefully examine the legitimate concerns raised by the tech industry, cybersecurity experts, public interest groups, and human-rights organizations.”

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Groups Urge Congress to Preserve FCC Flexibility in Spectrum Allocation

Contact: Katie Barr
Glen Echo Group
202-525-4343
kbarr@glenechogroup.com

Congress should not impose "harmful constraints on the ability of the FCC to make appropriate spectrum allocation decisions," 20 companies, trade associations, and public interest groups said today. 

In a letter to the Senate and House, the groups expressed concern over spectrum allocation provisions included in the JOBS Act passed by the House on Tuesday, and urged negotiators to "modify these provisions to preserve the FCC's existing authority to respond to changes in this continually evolving and dynamic market," saying,

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Public Knowledge Commends FCC Statement on Importance of Unlicensed Spectrum

On Tuesday evening, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski voiced concern about language that has been rolled into recently-passed the House GOP payroll tax bill. While the bill does create voluntary incentive auctions for spectrum reallocation, it does not allow the FCC to adopt unlicensed spectrum policies, among other things.

Chairman Genachowski’s statement is here

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

“Especially in light of the recent study by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) which found that the consumer benefits of unlicensed spectrum exceed $50 billion every year, we commend Chairman Genachowski for highlighting the importance of unlicensed spectrum. We could not agree with him more that

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Public Knowledge Concerned with Manager’s Amendment to SOPA

Late this afternoon, Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, proposed an amendment to H.R. 3261, The "Stop Online Piracy Act", or SOPA. The proposed amendment is here.

The following statement is attributed to Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge:

"While the manager's amendment proposes changes and even some improvements to the original language of SOPA, there are still significant problems with the approach. The amendment continues to encourage DNS blocking and filtering, which should be concerning for internet security experts and human rights activists alike. 

"Public Knowledge would rather see a narrower approach to solving piracy online similar to that put forward by Senator Wyden, Representative Issa, and their colleagues."

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Public Knowledge Advises AT&T to End Takeover Now

U.S. Dist. Judge Ellen Huvelle, at the request of AT&T and the Justice Department, stayed proceedings in the case until Jan. 18.

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"We hope that AT&T will take the contemplative time over the holidays to realize that it should now call the transaction to an orderly halt. It is time for AT&T to end this now and save everyone a lot of time time and money for a case it cannot win."

A transcript of last Friday's court hearing at which U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle expressed open skepticism that AT&T and Deutsche Telekom could proceed with their transaction is here.

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PK Weekly Recap 12/5/11

On the Monday following the long Thanksgiving holiday, during which AT&T filed a motion to withdraw its application to acquire T-Mobile with the FCC, we at Public Knowledge accused AT&T of gamesmanship by attempting to prevent the results of the FCC's inquiry into the merger from seeing the light of day. On Tuesday afternoon, the FCC allowed AT&T to withdraw its application, but also released a staff report detailing its findings.

A quick overview of the FCC staff report's findings is here.

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Public Knowledge Pleased with FCC Statement on BART Policy Adoption

Background: On August 11, 2011, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), anticipating protests and demonstrations in its stations, shut down access to cellular communications, disrupted mobile phone and data service to a massive number of consumers for up to four hours. Later that month, Public Knowledge along with eight other public interest organizations filed a Petition asking the FCC to declare that the BART’s actions violated the Communications Act. Yesterday, BART adopted a new policy on cell service interruption. 

The link to our August petition is here: http://www.publicknowledge.org/emergency-petition-declaratory-ruling-re-bart

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, Legal Director of Public Knowledge:

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A Quick Overview of the FCC’s Staff Report on the AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

Yesterday afternoon, the FCC released as a staff report the Commission's investigation of AT&T's application to take over T-Mobile. This was despite AT&T's efforts to suppress the results of the FCC inquiry by filing a motion to withdraw its petition on the eve of Thanksgiving. The report outlines the FCC's findings that the proposed merger's harms outweigh the benefits.

This morning's coverage on NPR, featuring PK president Gigi B. Sohn:

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PIPA v SOPA

Proponents of the "PROTECT IP Act" or "PIPA" or "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011" are trying to make it seem like PIPA is the reasonable alternative to its cousin in the House, the so-called "Stop Online Piracy Act" or "SOPA." Some even say that SOPA's extremism might be an intentional ploy to create political wiggle room for PIPA.

In reality, PIPA and SOPA both jeopardize online community platforms and innovation, set a bad example for internet censorship globally, and threaten security online. True, there are differences in the legislation, but it's mostly a matter of degrees—in which PIPA is really bad and SOPA is scarily worse.

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PK Weekly Preview and Recap 11/28/11

A lot has been going on in the world of Public Knowledge recently. To keep you appraised of all the action in Washington, we're kicking off a series of weekly recaps, letting you know what's been going on and what to expect in the upcoming week.

Last week's big news came on Tuesday afternoon, when Julius Genachowski, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Comission (FCC), stood up to AT&T's lobbying machine and set the wheels in motion for a hearing to scrutinize AT&T/T-Mobile's public interest claims.

Then, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, AT&T announced late Wednesday afternoon that it would withdraw its application from the FCC to take over T-Mobile, signaling an act of desperation in a situation where the chances of a succesful merger are 'almost gone'.

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Public Interest Groups Ask FCC to Declare BART Actions Unlawful

Contact: Harold Feld
             202-861-0020
             hfeld@publicknowledge.org

             Sherwin Siy
             202-861-0020
             ssiy@publicknowledge.org

On August 11, 2011, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), anticipating protests and demonstrations in its stations, shut down access to cellular communications, disrupted mobile phone and data service to a massive number of consumers for up to four hours.

Today, Public Knowledge, along with a coalition of other public interest organizations, listed below, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to immediately find that BART violated federal law and to clarify that local government agencies may not interfere with access to mobile phone networks.

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The Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act: Litigation, Uncertainty, and Economic Ha

[Updated 7/18/11 for clarification.]

“Creativity is the art of concealing your source.” – Coco Chanel

Fashion is a thriving industry in which copying plays a major role in driving new styles and for which copyright protection is unheard of. Copies, trends, and imitations quickly saturate the market, driving designers to new styles and consumers to new purchases each season.

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Royal Wedding Knock Offs: Champagne v. Soda Pop

Moments after seeing Kate Middleton emerge from the limousine on her wedding day last Friday, fashion designers all over the world pulled out their sketchbooks and got to work copying the dress. The usual celebrity dress copy-artists came out of the woodwork: a version of the gown by A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz is already finished and will be in stores by June 30; New York fashion house Faviana also has a version that will head to production soon; and the Chinese Muyi Wedding Dress Company already has a $320 version for sale in Suzhou.

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PK at the National Conference for Media Reform

A good third of the PK staff is shipping up to Boston for Free Press’s fifth National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) this weekend. Not only are we excited about the Shake Your Media Maker Dance Party, but we’re also looking forward to participating in a wide variety of panels with our public interest colleagues. From wireless and spectrum policy to copyright and remix culture, the issues that PK staff will be covering run the gamut. If you’re joining us at NCMR, we’ll also have a table set up in the exhibit hall this year (where you can find this awesome t-shirt)!

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Weekly News Roundup

As the Net Neutrality debate brews, PK and others continue push for strengthening the proposal. Our three points of concern are ensuring protections for wireless access to the Internet, preventing paid prioritization, and simplifying the definition of “broadband Internet access service” (to avoid potential loopholes). Senator Al Franken sent a letter to the FCC Friday emphasizing the importance of “significantly strengthen[ing]” the proposal. Also, PK’s head of government relations responded to the mythical the meme that “300 Members of Congress are opposed to Net Neutrality”.

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Last Week’s Highlights

Too busy last week to follow the ins and outs of technology and telecom policy? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Here are last week’s highlights.

Public Knowledge hosted its seventh annual IP3 Awards. As one reporter put it, “scads of technology and telecommunications professionals gathered on Capitol Hill” for the event. This year, we had four winners: Pamela Samuelson for her work in Information Policy, Susan Crawford for Internet Protocol, Michael Geist for Intellectual Property, and Nina Paley also for Intellectual Property.

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Why the FCC’s “Third Way” Approach Is a Really Good Idea

FCC

By 11:59 PM tonight, we here at Public Knowledge will have filed comments with the FCC in response to their proposed "Third Way" approach. We believe that the Commission's proposal would resolve many of the legal questions raised by the recent Comcast decision and that it is imperative that the Commission enact such an approach in order to place the FCC's authority on firmer legal foundation to protect broadband consumers and carry out the National Broadband Plan.

Why?

Well, before the Comcast decision that the FCC doesn't have the authority to prevent anticompetitive behavior by a broadband provider, the FCC has virtually no authority whatsoever to act on issues of broadband access and fairness.  We think it should.

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What Do Twilight and a U.S. Senate Candidate Have in Common?  Bad Copyright

There have been two IP-concerned stories getting a lot of attention on the interwebs the past few days: first, there was the Summit Entertainment-issued DMCA takedown notice for the Twilight parody, choose-your-own-adventure YouTube “game;” then there was the cease-and-desist letter Sharron Angle sent to her incumbent rival Harry Reid regarding his re-posting of parts of her old, significantly more conservative-leaning campaign website from the primaries.

In both cases, the content was taken down for a brief period of time and then went back up.   Summit seems to have changed its mind about the infringing nature of the video (although it hasn’t been as friendly with fan-created content) and Reid seems to be disregarding Angle’s legal threats.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Tenenbaum faces a $675,000 blow to his budget (Updated)

This post has been updated for clarification purposes, in response to points raised in the comments.

Last Friday, another glowing example of out-of-proportion statutory damage awards came down from the federal court in Boston: Joel Tenenbaum, a 25-year-old physics PhD student, was found liable for the willful infringement of 30 songs and was ordered to pay $675,000 in statutory damages. Before the trial, the court quickly threw out the possibility of a fair-use defense, leaving Tenenbaum with little hope—although it’s questionable whether the outcome would have been different if his rather weak fair-use defense had been allowed. Tenenbaum flagrantly disregarded the law, continuing to share files on KaZaA throughout the court proceedings, so it was no surprise that he was found liable. But that doesn’t change the fact that $675,000 is grossly disproportionate to the offense.

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Giving the Auf to Fashion Copyright

Fashion is a business in which copying plays a major role in driving new styles and trends. Marc Jacobs putting his own twist on a classic Chanel design; fashion on the streets inspiring fashion on the runway; low-end retailers democratizing high-end trends by selling more cheaply made versions of designer apparel—these are all integral parts of the fashion ecology. It is thanks to copying that trends have such a frantic life cycle.

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News Tidbits—week of July 13th

Monday, July 13th

  • Religion is playing a major part in the hesitancy of Javanese batik designers to copyright their creations. “They believe that each time they create something, it is not they who worked, but it is God who worked through their human body and soul,” so how could they assert authorship when they believe they are not the authors?
  • Last Thursday, reality TV competition show “So You Think You Can Dance” had plans for a Michael Jackson tribute, honoring the late artist’s legacy. These plans were cancelled, however, when the producers were unable to acquire permission to perform the songs. How sad is that? (I wonder if the Philippine Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center had a license for its tribute…)

Tuesday, July 14th

  • Every once in a while it’s nice to hear stories about people not getting sued. DJ Steve Porter’s remixed, autotuned version of a Slap Chop infomercial (with none other than Vince Offer) has almost 4 million views on YouTube. Someone savvy behind the Slap Chop decided to embrace the remix—rumor has it, it’s going to start airing on TV as a real commercial.

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News Tidbits—week of July 6

Monday, July 6th

  • Jammie Thomas-Rasset’s lawyers have filed a motion asking the federal judge to toss the $1.92 million damage award, calling them “grossly excessive.” The lawyers point to the absurd ratio of 1:62,015 comparing the actual value of each song ($1.29 on iTunes) and the statutory damages ($80,000 per song).
  • Harvard University’s Charles Nesson posted recordings of pretrial hearings of Joel Tenenbaum’s case on the website of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research center founded by Nesson 12 years ago. Tenenbaum, a 25-year-old former graduate student at Boston University, is fighting a file-sharing lawsuit against the RIAA and Nesson is his legal counsel. RIAA is now seeking the removal of these “illegal recordings” on the grounds that they were surreptitious, unauthorized, and in violation of state law.
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News Tidbits—week of June 29th

Monday, June 29th

  • In PK’s comment on the National Broadband Plan proposed by the FCC, we said that it’s time to treat broadband as an essential utility like water and electricity. Some advocates are raising another question: Is broadband a civil right? To some this may seem like a radical change in rhetoric, but there is a long tradition of communications policy being discussed within a similar framework—just read the 1934 Communications Act.

Tuesday, June 30th

  • The Supreme Court rejected the case against Cablevision’s remote-storage DVR service, reinforcing a lower court’s decision that the service, which is functionally the same as legal, time-shifting services such as TiVo, is not infringing.

Wednesday, July 1st

  • The RIAA came out on top in its lawsuit against Usenet.com. A federal judge found the newsgroup provider liable for direct infringement, inducement of infringement, contributory infringement, and vicarious infringement. Usenet, called an “egregious player” who “appears to have gone way over the line” by Techdirt, did not exactly curry the favor of the judge.
  • A federal judge decided to indefinitely ban 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, a sequel to and commentary on J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. The Swedish author Fredrik Colting said in an email message, “Call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books.”
  • Facing $3.6 million in penalties, Pirate Bay was bought up by the Swedish Software firm Global Gaming Factory X for about $8 million, claiming that it will introduce legitimizing business models to ensure “that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site."  Exactly how they will do this, or how they will even be able to afford buying TBP, is unclear.

Thursday, July 2nd

  • In response to concerns over antitrust issues brought up by the Google Book Search settlement, the Justice Department officially opened an investigation to determine whether parts of the agreement violate the Sherman Act.

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News Tidbits—week of Mon., June 22

Monday, June 22nd

Addressing the French Parliament at Versailles, President Sarkozy announced his plan to “go all the way” in defense of the proposed 3-strikes HADOPI legislation that was deemed unconstitutional by the France’s Constitutional Council earlier this month. The legislation proposes kicking copyright infringers off the Internet for a year after receiving three warnings for infringing behavior.

Tuesday, June 23rd

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News Tidbits—week of Mon, June 15

Monday, June 15th

Legal accusations are being thrown that JK Rowling was more than inspired by Adrian Jacob’s Adventures of Willy the Wizard. Although Jacob died in 1997, his estate says that it is seeking “proper recognition of his contribution to this success story.”

Tuesday, June 16th

A Swedish author under the nom de plume J.D. California is being sued for infringing the ever-reclusive J.D. Salinger’s copyright in a new novel called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. The author says that he never thought the book would bring a lawsuit—“In Sweden, we don’t sue people.”

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Last Week in News

Sunday, June 7th

  • Sweden’s Pirate Party, a one-issue political party that wants to “fundamentally reform copyright law, get rid of the patent system, and ensure that citizens’ rights are respected, gets a seat in the European Parliament.

Monday, June 8th

  • “The Chinese government has quietly mandated that any personal computer sold in the country be pre-installed” with Internet-censoring software.
  • Anti-Pirate Bay lawyer Henrik Pontén gets pranked—first name legally changed to “Pirate.”

Wednesday, June 10th

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new intern joins the PK team

Greetings. This is my first week as a lowly undergraduate, summer intern here at Public Knowledge. A little intimidated by the fact that the other interns are either recently graduated or currently enrolled law school students, I hope to hold my own in the cozy office I share with Matt and Rashmi (whom I have yet to meet). As usual, I am somewhat over-booked this summer, taking classes when I am not at PK. I go to school at NYU, but the District is my hometown; and I’m glad to exchange New York City hipsters for Washington, DC politicos… at least for a few months.

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