Almost a year ago today I unpacked my bags, put up my last poster in my dorm room, and prepared for my first day as a college student. One of the first items on my to-do list -- apart from figuring out where my classes were -- was buying the textbooks I would need for my classes. As I opened my laptop and looked up the titles I was shocked at what I was seeing. A mix of required readings that individually cost more than the concert ticket I had been saving up for. Apart from traditional print titles, I was equally amazed that some classes required books that were solely online -- none of which I would own, but rather would have access to for a limited amount of time.
Last week, Politico reported that the White House was considering a potential “Executive Order” (EO) to address the ongoing-yet-unproven allegations of pro-liberal, anti-conservative bias by giant Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. (To the extent that there is rigorous research by AI experts, it shows that social media sites are more likely to flag posts by self-identified African Americans as “hate speech” than identical wording used by whites.) Subsequent reports by CNN and The Verge have provided more detail. Putting the two together, it appears that the Executive Order would require the Federal Communications Commission to create regulations designed to create rules limiting the ability of digital platforms to “remove or suppress content” as well as prohibit “anticompetitive, unfair or deceptive” practices around content moderation. The EO would also require the Federal Trade Commission to somehow open a docket and take complaints (something it does not, at present, do, or have capacity to do – but I will save that hobby horse for another time) about supposed political bias claims.
Creators have an uphill battle in enforcing their rights online. A small claims court to allow creators to exercise their rights without full federal litigation is a good goal, and one that should be pursued. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019, also known as the CASE Act, presents one potential, but flawed framework for such a court. It is not, however, the only potential framework. A robust, well-designed system would be designed to balance the interests of legitimate claimants and defendants against those of bad actors seeking to turn the forum into a quick cash grab. Below, we look at the key features of such a system, and why they’re important.
Last week, all four major broadcasters (ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox) filed a copyright suit against Locast, a nonprofit organization that helps users watch free broadcast television over the internet. Only available in certain regions across the country, Locast receives free over-the-air broadcast signal in those regions and allows users to stream it without needing to worry about good antenna reception at their home. This unfortunate legal challenge to Locast is just the latest example of media companies inappropriately trotting out copyright claims to control otherwise free content. In this case, all it does is hurt viewers who are unable to access the free content through traditional means.
Over the past few years, the major U.S. mobile carriers have been in the spotlight over allegations that they have been selling their subscribers’ real-time geolocation data, including highly precise assisted GPS (A-GPS) information designed for use with “Enhanced 911” (E911). The Federal Communications Commission requires mobile carriers to offer E911, a service that provides 911 operators with a wireless caller’s location information, generally accurate within 50 to 300 meters.