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 .

3. Opposition to Piracy Bills Was Loud and Clear
The outpouring of opposition against SOPA by people like you made our year. And made all the difference.

4. Rep. Markey Sang to PK Prez Gigi Sohn
At our 10-year anniversary celebration, Rep. Ed Markey roasted our president and co-founder Gigi Sohn by singing his rendition of "Thank Heaven for Gigi Sohn."

5. Das Racist Schooled DC on Fair Use
Alternative Brooklyn hip hop trio Das Racist graced us with their presence and perspectives at this year's World's Fair Use Day .

Predictions for 2012:

As for the year ahead, big media—the content and telecom lobby—will continue to have the same common interest in preventing the free flow of information, especially online, in order to monetize every moment of your experience online.

Even if SOPA and PIPA eventually fail (and we are working every day to make sure that they do), the content industry does not get tired and does not give up. They will continue to push their agenda in every forum and every country they can. Through 2012, we’ll see them push in international forums like the OECD and WIPO, as well as in processes like the Special 301 hearings and negotiations like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. PK will be present every step of the way, arguing for the free flow of information and against over-enforcement.

Another process front and center this year is what’s known as DMCA 1201 exemptions. Under the DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is illegal to break the digital lock on, say, a DVD, for any use, even if the use itself is legal. So, every 3 years, the Copyright Office reviews possible exemptions to this rule. This year, we’re telling the Copyright Officethat people should be able to rip their own DVDs . That is, you should be able to upload a DVD you’ve already bought to any device, the same way that you can upload a CD to your computer to transfer it to your iPod.

This upcoming Friday, PK is filing with the Supreme Court, asking them to take a case on the first sale doctrine called Kirtsaeng v John Wiley & Sons, Inc. In the case, a young man from Thailand studying in the US had his family send him foreign editions of college textbooks legally purchased in Thailand. Since textbooks are so much less expensive abroad, he could resell them to American students for less. We’ll keep you updated on whether the Supreme Court decides to take a look at this case, but either way, we’re keeping our eye on the first sale doctrine. In addition to cases like this one, the doctrine has landed on shaky legal ground with the increased popularity of tablets and eBooks, as copies have moved away from physical objects and toward digital files.

Also on the litigation front, we will be seeing a lot of copyright “termination” cases. 2013 is the first year that recording artists can “terminate” or “reclaim” their copyrights from record labels. Copyright reclamation is undoubtedly a powerful tool that helps artists renegotiate bad deals and receive fair compensation for their work, and in that respect can only be described as an unequivocally good thing for artists.

In the world of telecom, the process of modernizing regulation to reflect current technology is going to continue slowly. It isn’t feasible to simply scrap the current system, especially when it comes to spectrum policy and the Universal Service Fund, which needs reforms in order to transition from building out telephone infrastructure to expanding broadband access.

What is most exciting, however, is that 2012 will be the year that all our favorite themes collide: online video, video competition, spectrum consolidation and reallocation, network neutrality, copyright enforcement, and patent litigation.

True convergence is finally here—there’s no such thing as “just” a telephone company anymore. Everyone is stepping on everyone else’s toes. The kind of content you enjoy (movies, music, books); the way you access that content (wired, wireless, 4G, cloud, download, and streaming); and the devices you enjoy that content on (tablet, Apple TV, smartphone)—the lines between them are being blurred, and the policy lines blur right along with them.

That’s why Public Knowledge works in the weeds here in Washington: it’s the little things—the bad policy at this agency, the bad ruling in that court—that are going to make all the difference in the future of the internet. For every high-profile issue like SOPA/PIPA, there are hundreds of small fights that happen in meetings, filings, and agencies that are just as, if not more, important.

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