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Issue Watch

2013 Issue Watch

FilmOn Founder Eyes Supreme Court Action

FilmOn Founder Alki David says if the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decides to uphold an injunction against FilmOn, granted by a California judge, he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.  Broadcasters have already asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals not to enjoin similar service Aereo, and Aereo has actually come out in support of that High Court review, saying it wants the legal issue resolved.

If the Ninth Circuit upholds the injunction, there will be a split in the circuits, which makes it more likely the Supreme Court will take the case. Currently, the split is between district courts.  "The Supreme Court will ultimately deal with this – whether at FilmOn's request or Aereo's – because this is how young people watch television," David said in a statement.

The issue is whether Aereo and FilmOn are providing remote, online, access to free TV signals and DVR functionality, or they are providing a public performance of copyrighted work for which stations must be compensated. » Read More

Aereo Supports Broadcasters Petition to Supreme Court

Aereo Thursday told the Supreme Court that it should agree to hear broadcasters appeal of a lower court decision not to block its service, though it disagrees with how the broadcasters framed the appeal.  In its response to the petition by the major commercial networks and noncommercialbroadcatsers, Aereo says the appeals court got it right and that Aereodoes not transmit a public performance, but will let the high court try to put a stop to further broadcasters litigation.

"The essential bargain that petitioners made to obtain, for free, public spectrum worth billions of dollars was that, once they have broadcast their programming, consumers have a right to receive and to view that programming using an antenna and to copy that programming for their personal use," Aereo told the court.  » Read More

House Republican Leaders Announce Effort To Reform Communications Law

House Republicans Tuesday said they are launching an effort to rewrite communications law that has been outstripped by technology and innovation.

House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) used a Google Hangout event Tuesday to announce the launch of a process to reform the Communications Act in 2015.

They said that process would include a series of hearings in 2014, white papers on the state of the industry, and input from the public via #CommActUpdate.

Former FCC commmissioner Robert McDowell joined in to give his thumbs up on the effort, which he said would be a long -- multiyear -- process.

There were no Democrats at the announcement and no opportunity to query the participants.  In a statement following the announcement, Rep. John Dingell (D- Mich.) interjected a note of caution while pledging support for the idea of reform and to work toward that goal….
» Read More

Ninth Circuit Upholds Political Ad Ban on Public TV, Radio

A divided U.S. appeals court on Monday upheld a federal ban on political advertising on public television and radio stations, rejecting an argument that it unconstitutionally violated the First Amendment.

By an 8-3 vote, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco let stand a 1981 federal statute that prohibits public stations from transmitting paid advertisements on behalf of political candidates, issues of public importance or interest, and for-profit entities.

Supporters of the law have expressed concern about turning public stations into forums for political attack ads, undermining their ability to emphasize public affairs and educational programming such as PBS NewsHour and Sesame Street.

Both the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio had urged that the law be deemed constitutional…. » Read More

The Supreme Court Confronts the Line Between Free Speech and Security
With Protester's Case

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Dennis Apel has crossed many lines in his life.

One marked his transition from trucking-company salesman to caretaker of the poor. He stepped past another when he went from persistent, perhaps quixotic, protester to antiwar vandal. Tossing his blood on this military base's entrance sign a decade ago earned him two months in prison.

But the line at issue in his free-speech case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday is real and tangible — painted in thick green on a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway.

The federal government owns the land on both sides of the road, which runs through this sprawling air base north of Santa Barbara. On one side of the line are guarded gates and the main entrance to the military installation; on the other is a spot that base officials have set aside for people to protest the preparation for war that goes on there.

The federal government says John Dennis Apel does not belong on either side of that line, or standing near the highway, or for that matter anywhere else in the 22 square miles that constitute the base's property.

The justices on Wednesday will hear the government's plea that national security demands base commanders be able to keep people such as Apel, who have been formally banned from a military installation, from setting foot in any part of their domain — even the spots designated for protesters. » Read More

Jury Tells Samsung To Pay Apple $290 Million

A jury on Thursday said that Samsung Electronics would have to pay Apple $290 million more in damages for violating patents, putting an end to one chapter in the long-running patent struggle between the two tech companies.

The six-woman, two-man jury calculated the damages based on 13 products that infringed Apple's patents. They determined that two smartphones incurred the heftiest damages: Samsung's Infuse 4G, at about $100 million, and the Droid Charge, at $60 million.

While the price tag will not significantly affect either company's pocketbooks — they are two of the most profitable companies in the technology industry — the ruling did give Apple another victory in the companies' continuing legal fight.... » Read More

Google Books Ruling Is a Huge Victory for Online Innovation

It's taken almost a decade, but the courts have finally handed down a ruling on Google's audacious project to scan millions of books to build a book search engine. The ruling is a decisive victory for Google, copyright's fair use doctrine and online innovation.

When Google started work on its book search engine a decade ago, the company realized that getting the approval of copyright holders would be a logistical nightmare. Not only would major publishers likely demand high fees for permission to scan their books, but for many older works, it would be difficult to even figure out who the appropriate copyright holder was. So Google took a gamble, scanning library books without seeking copyright holders' permission and relying on copyright's fair use doctrine as a justification.

On Thursday, the gamble paid off, as Judge Denny Chin of the Southern District of New York handed Google a big victory. Chin praised the Google Books project for its many public benefits, and concluded that the project's transformative use of copyrighted books meant that the use of the books was legal under copyright's fair use doctrine. » Read More

Utah Broadcasters, Fox Sue Aereo

Utah broadcasters, joined by Fox, have filed another copyright infringement lawsuit against Aereo, which launched in the state Aug. 19, seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction.  Aereo provides online access to the company's subscribers to TV station signals without paying a copyright fee.  Aereo argues it is providing remote access to free TV station signals via individual antennas. But the broadcasters and Fox contend that providing a performance without payment violates copyright laws.
In their complaint, KSTU-TV (Fox), KUTV-TV (CBS) and KMYU-TV (My Network TV) and Fox Broadcasting Co. say that Aereo's TV station streaming service is a lot more than just a remote antenna farm. "Aereo captures local television stations over-their broadcast signals, reprocesses and copies the programming contained in those broadcasts, and then retransmits the programs over the Internet to members of the public who pay Aereo for a subscription. Neither the local stations nor the copyright owners have authorized Aereo to retransmit their programming," the complaint says.
The lawsuit contends that Aereo is a secondary as well as primary copyright infringer, saying that to the extent Aereo claims that its subs are responsible for making unauthorized copies of their programming, it is a secondary infringer.  » Read More

MPAA Study: Search Engines Facilitate Piracy

Search engines are a critical link between would-be infringers and pirate TV and movies sites, according to a new study from the Motion Picture Association of America. Search engines begged to differ.  The study found that search engines--Google predominately--"influenced 20% of the sessions in which consumers accessed infringing TV or film content online between 2010 and 2012."

The study found that 74% of consumers said they used a search engine as a "discovery or navigation tool" in initially viewing sites with infringing content. The study found that a majority of the queries (58%) that lead to infringing TV or film content do not contain search terms specifically related to finding illegal content.  Echoing a conclusion by researchers for an NBCU-commissioner piracy study released Tuesday--NBCU is an MPAA member--the study found that Google's 2012 effort to demote infringing sites had not resulted in a decrease.

"The share of referral traffic from Google to sites included in the Google Transparency Report remained flat in the three months following the implementation of Google's "signal demotion" algorithm in August 2012," the study concluded.  The study was released in advance of a Sept. 18 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on the role of voluntary agreements in protecting intellectual property.  » Read More

Senate Judiciary Passes Shield Law

The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted to approve the Free Flow of Information Act, which Congress is taking up once again, this time in the shadow of the NSA information-gathering revelation, attendant WikiLeaks government data drops and Justice's subpoenas of reporter phone records.  Passage came after some hot debate over issues including protecting leakers of classified information and who qualified as a covered journalist.
The Free Flow of Information Act (S.987) is a federal shield law--the majority of states already have their own shield laws--that would protect reporters from being forced to identify sources by overzealous government officials, with carveouts for national security, imminent threat of death or bodily harm, destruction of critical infrastructure, and other special circumstances. The bill also covers government efforts to obtain information from ISPs.  » Read More

Full Court Denies Broadcaster Aereo Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has denied a broadcaster request that the full court review a three-judge panel of that court's April decision not to stop Aereo from delivering broadcast signals over the Internet while a lower court considers a broadcaster challenge to the service's legality.

The ruling was a succinct denial. "[T]here being no majority favoring in banc review, rehearing 16 en banc is hereby DENIED," the court said. But judges Denny Chin and Richard Wesley issued a lengthy dissent written by Chin, who was the dissenting vote in the panel decision to deny the injunction.

"This decision upends settled industry expectations and established law. It should not be permitted to stand, and the Court should have taken this opportunity to clarify that Cablevision does not provide 'guideposts' on how to avoid compliance with our copyright laws. Because it declines to do so, I respectfully dissent." » Read More

Judge Tosses Out Law Banning Protests on Supreme Court Plaza

A federal district judge declared unconstitutional Wednesday a law that bans organized protests and signs on the marble plaza in front of the Supreme Court.

Judge Beryl A. Howell called the legislation passed by Congress in 1949 "unreasonable" and "substantially overbroad."

"It cannot possibly be consistent with the First Amendment for the government to so broadly prohibit expression in virtually any form in front of a courthouse, even the Supreme Court," Howell wrote in a 68-page opinion.

The law that Howell threw out says this: "It is unlawful to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Supreme Court Building or grounds, or to display in the Building and grounds a flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement."

Her order, however, appeared to refer only to the Supreme Court plaza, rather than the building or its other grounds.

It was on the plaza that Harold Hodge, 46, of southern Maryland was arrested in January 2011. He was wearing around his neck a 3-by-2-foot sign that said, "The U. S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder And Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People."

The charge against him was dismissed after he agreed to stay away from the Supreme Court building and grounds for six months.

But Hodge challenged the law with the help of the Rutherford Institute, which celebrated the decision Wednesday.

"Judge Howell's frank, noholds-barred ruling affirming the Supreme Court plaza as a free speech zone throws a lifeline to the First Amendment at a time when government officials are doing their best to censor, silence and restrict free speech activities," Charles A. Whitehead, the institute's founder, said in a statement. » Read More

Sales of Older iPhones, iPads Banned as Agency Says Apple Infringed Samsung Patent

A U.S. trade agency on Tuesday banned the sale of several iPhone and iPad models for infringing a Samsung patent, dealing a high-profile setback to Apple's crusade against copycats.

If upheld, the ruling would show that at least some of Apple's iconic technology duplicated that of its primary competitor in the mobile-device market, an embarrassment for a company that has held itself up as the source of Silicon Valley's most groundbreaking innovations. Samsung, once a bit player in the cellphone market, now sells more smartphones than Apple around the world.

The order by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) would block sales of several older devices that work on AT&T Wireless's network, including the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS and the iPad 2 3G. Apple's newest offerings, the iPhone 5 and the fourth-generation iPad, were not affected…. » Read More

FCC Refutes Verizon Net Neutrality Argument

FCC lawyers told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Thursday (May 30) that a court decision Verizon presented to the circuit last week to buttress its challenge of network neutrality rules is not on point.

In a January filing to the court, the FCC said that Verizon and other broadband providers "do not engage in speech; they transport the speech of others, as a messenger delivers documents containing speech." It drew the distinction between that and "cable systems, newspapers and other curated media," saying that broadband providers "do not exercise editorial discretion."

In a filing with the court last week, attorneys for Verizon pointed to National Association of Manufacturers [NAM], et al. v. National Labor Relations Board [NLRB], decided by the D.C. Circuit May 7, to argue that the FCC was wrong. In that decision, the court pointed to what it said were "some firmly established principles of free speech law," including the fact that "the dissemination of messages others have created is entitled to the same level of protection as the 'creation' of messages."

In its response Thursday (May 30), the FCC said that Open Internet rules do not resemble the regulation in the NLRB case, which was a requirement that employers post notices of collective bargaining rights. "The notice was written by the government, with a list of required statements in a specified format," said the FCC, which the court concluded was compelled speech "like a compulsory flag salute or the mandatory display of a license-plate motto." 

» Read More

NAB/CEA Urge FCC To Create Spectrum Coordination Task Force

The incentive auctions continue to breed unusual alliances. First there was the National Association of Broadcasters and wireless companies teaming on a band plan, and now NAB and the Consumer Electronics Association, which have battled over the relative value of spectrum in the hands of broadcasters and those wireless companies, have joined to ask the FCC to create a working group on international coordination.

The U.S. will have to coordinate the repacking of TV stations after the auction with Canada and Mexico to avoid border interference issues. Broadcasters have been pushing the commission to resolve those issues before the auctions.

"We are pleased that the Commission has recently reached out to Canada to begin this [coordination] process," they wrote in a letter to acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn. " We believe that the Commission can go one step further, however, and immediately create a joint working group consisting of public and private officials to expedite this critical process." 

» Read More

Cross-Ownership Study: Impact on Minority/Female Ownership 'Probably Negligible'

"It appears from this study that cross-media interests' impact on minority and women broadcast ownership is not sufficiently material to be a material justification for tightening or retaining the [cross-ownership] rules."

That was the conclusion of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and BIA/Kelsey study submitted to acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and the other FCC commissioners Thursday morning, according to a copy of the study made available to B&C/Multichannel News. Clyburn was instrumental in getting the FCC to agree to further explore the impact of its rules on diverse populations. Clyburn praised the proposed study when MMTC offered it up, saying it "could shed greater light on any potential harms that may result from increased media consolidation."

"The results of this study, while not dispositive, do provide evidence that the impact of cross-media ownership on minority and women broadcast ownership is probably negligible," said BIA/Kelsey. » Read More

Reporter Shield Law: Obama Asks Schumer For New Bill After Hampering Prior Efforts

The Obama administration asked Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Wednesday morning to reintroduce legislation that would help reporters protect the identity of their sources from federal officials, a White House official told The Huffington Post.

The scope of the bill and how effective it would be remains unclear, however, given prior administration opposition to a "reporter shield" law.

The request is opportunistically timed, coming just days after it was revealed that the Department of Justice had subpoenaed telephone records of 20 AP phone lines and more than 100 reporters and editors. The White House has faced heavy criticism for the subpoena, though the president has said that he was unaware of it and Attorney General Eric Holder said that he had recused himself from the investigation…. » Read More

Justice Department Subpoena Increases Tension Between White House and News Media

It was an article of faith among conservatives before Senator Obama became President Obama, and it has persisted through his reelection: When it comes to the supposedly liberal mainstream media and the first African American Democratic president, it’s a veritable love fest.

The reality, at least among those who cover the president, has been quite a bit different. Reporters have grumbled for several years about being ignored, dismissed and even insulted by White House press officials. More than usual, the White House’s relationship with the press corps has been marked by simmering tension and even mutual contempt.

And now the temperature has been raised to a boil.

The Justice Department’s revelation that it secretly subpoenaed the Associated Press’s phone records in order to hunt down the source of a national security leak has elicited nearly unanimous criticism and condemnation of the department’s action from news organizations.

The media’s unusual united front was spelled out in a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric H.Holder Jr. by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a group that includes the major television networks, magazine publishers and newspapers, including The Washington Post. It called the government’s subpoena of the AP records, “an overreaching dragnet” by the department and demanded the return of phone logs taken from four AP bureaus and reporters’ personal phones. » Read More

Holder Says He Recused Himself From AP Leak Investigation

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that he recused himself from involvement in a Justice Department leak investigation that secretly acquired telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors.

But in response to questions at a news conference, he defended the department's conduct in probing what he described as one of the damaging leaks he has seen.

Holder said he testified in June 2012 that he was interviewed by the FBI in connection with the probe into a leak of classified information to the AP. "To avoid any potential appearance of a conflict of interest," he said, "I recused myself from this matter."

Since then, he said, the investigation has been conducted by the FBI under the direction of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and the supervision of the deputy attorney general.

"The decision to seek media toll records in this investigation was made by the Deputy Attorney General consistent with Department regulations and policies," the Justice Department said in a statement shortly before Holder made his remarks. » Read More

Talks in Britain on Press Regulation Break Down

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Thursday that cross-party talks with other political leaders on regulating Britain's rambunctious press had broken down and that he would pursue his own proposal for a system of self-regulation after months of inquiries into the phone hacking scandal, mainly at Rupert Murdoch's tabloid newspapers here.

Mr. Cameron's abrupt move placed new strains on his relationship with the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner with his Conservative Party, and raised the possibility that Liberal Democrats might end up voting with the Labour opposition against Mr. Cameron's proposal for a royal charter to underpin a new self-regulatory body.

The prime minister's action also underscored the divisiveness of the debate about press regulation, at present supervised by a self-regulatory body generally seen as a feeble restraint on newspapers with a reputation for a headlong pursuit of scoops and a frequent disregard for the privacy of politicians, celebrities and others.

In November, after months of hearings, a long-awaited report on the behavior of British newspapers embroiled in the phone hacking scandal, written by Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson, recommended that press regulation be backed by parliamentary statute, curbing Britain's 300-year-old tradition of broad press freedom.

The Leveson inquiry was established after the hacking scandal peaked in July 2011. At that time, Mr. Murdoch ordered the closing of The News of the World, a flagship Sunday tabloid, after disclosures of widespread hacking, including the cellphone of Milly Dowler, a kidnapped schoolgirl who was later found murdered. » Read More

FCC's McDowell: 'We Are Losing the Fight for Internet Freedom'

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell plans to tell Congress that aggressive action is needed to stem that tide.

"We are losing the fight for Internet freedom," he plans to tell members of the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday (March 12). "Unless defenders of Internet freedom and prosperity act quickly, boldly and imaginatively, this tragic trajectory will become irreversible," he says, according to his prepared testimony for an FCC oversight hearing in the committee.

He also plans to tell the committee he thinks the FCC 1) should at least test how to apply, or not apply, traditional regulations to an all-IP world (AT&T has asked the FCC for such test beds); 2) should do nothing to restrict the pool of wireless bidders for broadcast spectrum--including via de facto spectrum caps; 3) and modernize media ownership rules, but not start applying local ownership caps to joint sales agreements.

McDowell has been saying the same thing about the international Internet governance threat before and after the World Conference on International Telecommunications telecom treaty conference in Dubai last December -- he was in attendance -- were the U.S. delegation, joined by more than four dozen allies, refused to sign on to the conference work product because of Internet-related language.

McDowell had some advice for how to counter the trajectory toward a top-down Internet governance model:

  1. "Defenders of Internet freedom must act quickly to turn the threat of increased intergovernmental control of the Internet into an opportunity to reverse course through liberalization of markets that will spark competition, investment and innovation;
  2. "We must offer other nations, especially those in the developing world that feel disenfranchised from Internet governance processes, an alternative to international regulation by improving and enhancing multi-stakeholder entities, such as the Internet Governance Forum ("IGF"); and
  3. "Congress can and should continue to play a constructive role by amplifying the call for more Internet freedom."
» Read More

McDowell: Internet Is Under Assault and Inaction Is Not an Option

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) telecom treaty conference in Dubai in December marked the end of international consensus on keeping government hands off the Internet, instead "radically ratcheting up" even more regulation. That is the message from FCC commissioner Robert McDowell to Congress, according to his prepared testimony for an unusual three-way joint House subcommittee hearing on international Internet governance post-Dubai.

"[I]n 2011, then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin summed it up best when he declared that his goal, and that of his allies, was to establish 'international control over the Internet' through the ITU," says McDowell. "Last month in Dubai, Putin largely achieved his goal." Talking about the forces being applied to that "one-way ratchet, he said: "Proponents of multilateral intergovernmental control of the Internet are patient and persistent incrementalists who will never relent until their ends are achieved." » Read More

FCC Super WiFi Proposal Prompts Fierce Lobbying

The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.

The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.

The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.
» Read More

President Calls for Study of Effects of Violent Entertainment

The White House's anti-gun violence initiatives include directing the Centers for Disease Control to study the best ways to reduce violence and calling on the Congress to fund specific research on the effects of violent video games and other media on real world violence.

At a press conference surrounded by kids and in front of an audience that included gun violence survivors and families of victims, the president announced a series of steps to address violence recommended by Vice President Joe Biden after conversations with gun control advocates, and opponents, media, academics and others. And more than announce, he signed 23 executive actions (orders). One of those was a memorandum directing the CDC to "conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence, including links between video games, media images, and violence."

The White House's online copy of the initiatives asserts that while Congress has for years been blocking the use of funds for research on the causes of gun violence as money to "advocate or promote gun control," which is prohibited. The President says its own legal anlysis finds that language does not prevent such research. In the short term, he said, the CDC will immediately "assess existing strategies for preventing gun violence and identifying the most pressing research questions," and called on Congress to provide $10 million for research into the relationship of violent media and violence. » Read More

Media Groups Talk Parental Tools for Addressing Violent Content

Media trade group heads issued a joint statement late Thursday following their meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on the issue of gun violence and it sounded like the meeting squared with their expectations of a conversation rather than an accusation.

"The entertainment community appreciates being included in the dialogue around the Administration's efforts to confront the complex challenge of gun violence in America," they said. "This industry has a longstanding commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families. We welcome the opportunity to share that history and look forward to doing our part to seek meaningful solutions."

There was no pool coverage, but according to source speaking on background, the meeting was being viewed from the media side as the beginning of a conversation about what the federal government can do about gun violence and what input the entertainment industry can provide about what, if any, impact media violence has on behavior, as well as how the industry provides education and awareness about entertainment content -- ratings, parental controls.

The statement was issued by the Directors Guild of America, Independent Film & Television Alliance, Motion Picture Association of America, NAB, National Association of Theatre Owners and NCTA. » Read More

FCC Seeks Comment on Deregulating ILECs

The FCC is seeking comment on a proposal to deregulate major phone companies.  The telephone companies last month asked to get out from under decades of voice service regs.

USTelecom asked for a declaratory ruling that the fact that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) provide switched-access services no longer means they are presumptively the dominant providers of voice services, pointing to new IP nets and service provided by competitors, like cable operators now bundling voice service into their offerings.

Such a determination would get those telecoms out from under historic tariffs, though not obligations like 911 and privacy and disability access.  The FCC has set Feb. 25 as the deadline for comments and March 12 for reply comments. » Read More

FTC Boosts Merger Review Trigger

Attention potential merging media and their financial folks, the Federal Trade Commission has upped its (Hart-Scott-Rodino) competition review threshold for deals, effective immediately.

An FTC/DOJ review for potential competition issues, and the requirement that companies alert the government to the deal, will now be triggered by deals valued at $70.9 million up from $68.2 million last year.

The companies also must wait a set period of time to give the government a chance to review the transaction, although the FTC regularly gives deals with no competition issues the go-ahead via early termination notices.

The FTC is required to review the trigger every year and adjust it based on changes in gross national product. It also upped the threshold for prohibitions on an executive serving as a board member or officer of two competing companies. The trigger used to be if either company had capital, surplus and profits totaling more $27,784,000, unless either company had sales of less than $2,778,400. Now, those figures are $28,883,000 and $2,888,300, respectively.
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