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Does Congress Mean to Enforce Particular Business Models with Copyright Law?

At a hearing on unlocking phones, some suggest that Congress added laws against circumventing access controls not just to fight piracy, but in order to protect particular business models. Businesses use this argument to justify using copyright law to criminalize activities that don’t actually infringe copyright.


Up until last year, unlocking a cell phone so that it could be used with a different carrier was perfectly legal. That changed when the Librarian of Congress decided no longer to include it in a list of exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbids the circumvention of technology that controls access to copyrighted works. The Librarian’s decision has sparked a great deal of controversy, and lead to several proposed bills that would once again make it legal to unlock cell phones. In a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet last Thursday, Congress heard testimony about one of these bills, and about the practice of unlocking phones.

Subcommittee Vice Chairman Tom Marino began the hearing by framing the considerations on each side in terms of their effect on the market and existing business models, pitting the promise of a more competitive marketplace that phone unlocking allows against the ability of carriers to recover the cost of subsidizing phones.

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Why the Consumer Electronics Show Will Never be Overrated

Last week (January 7-11), Las Vegas hosted the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show where tech companies present their latest gadgets and gizmos.  Speculation about which company will have the largest, sharpest, thinnest, displays or the latest bells and whistles for their mobile handsets dominates the tech world for weeks leading up to CES, and the show officially begins the conversation for consumer tech for the year.  Walking the convention center floor and playing with the newest in consumer tech is a tech fanboy/fangirl’s dream come true.  Public Knowledge sent a delegation to the show this year and was encouraged by the energy of the attendants not only with regard to tech devices but especially toward tech policy.

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Makerbot Clone Tests the Limits of Open Source Hardware

Most people who know of Makerbot know them as a one of the leaders in the home 3D printing market.  Fewer people realize that they are also one of the highest profile examples of another movement: open source hardware.  Like open source software, the open source hardware community makes its plans freely available – and usable – to the general public.  This strategy was recently put to the test when another company tried to use Makerbot’s plans to make a Makerbot replica – and sell it for 2/3 of the price.

Open Source Hardware

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UMG/EMI: The Next Innovation Bottleneck

While much attention has focused on whether European antitrust regulators will allow the major label Universal to buy one of its competitors, EMI, the proposed merger has also attracted the attention of US antitrust authorities in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Senate. In the US context, this merger bears some important similarities to recent proceedings like the Comcast/NBCU merger and the failed AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

Universal/EMI and AT&T/T-Mobile: Taking Over a Maverick Competitor

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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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