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'.

At face value, it would seem that these two events would surely be a death sentence for the merger, but, as our Director of Communications points out, that is hardly the case. AT&T's procedural trickery of "withdrawing" its application before the other Commissioners voted on whether or not to have a hearing puts the merger in legal limbo. Legal Director Harold Feld has the scoop on what we might expect moving forward.

Today, we sent comments to the FCC about AT&T's "litigation gamesmanship" by attempting to withdraw its application.

Also today, PK filed three more seemingly dry, but really important, documents. First, we submitted comments to the Copyright Office on a procedural question regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In order for a website to be granted "safe harbor" status, the website has to "register an agent" with the Copyright Office. Translation: when a copyright owner finds an infriging piece of content on someone else's website, s/he contacts the website and ask them to take it down--the person s/he contacts is a the "agent" whose information is collected by the Copyright Office. Right now, the process is old-school: analog pen and paper and snail mail (BTW if you have a website and haven't registered an agent, do it now.); the Copyright Office is proposing to transition the process and the database to a digital system. Where do we come in? In our comments, we told the Copyright Office to minimize the regulatory and financial burdens on websites.

Next, we filed comments jointly with the Media Access Project on the FCC's consideration to let cable TV operators with all-digital systems to encrypt their basic service teir. Our comments commended the FCC for dealing with this with a single rule instead of with multiple exemptions.

Finally, we filed comments, also with the Media Access Project, on program carriage rules saying that the FCC should continue to update the rules to ensure fair and efficient dispute resolutions.

Hearings and happenings this week: 

Also this week: Take part in tomorrow's national day of action by calling your Senators and ask them to oppose the PROTECT IP Act.

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