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Issue Watch

2014 Issue Watch

Commerce DMCA Meeting Looks To Tackle Standardized Takedowns First

The Obama Administration Thursday launched its latest multistakeholder process on standards and best practices for improving the notice and takedown system for infringing Internet content.  The goal is to come up with voluntary standards and avoid the scorched earth debate that took down the SOPA/PIPA legislation in 2013.

Thursday's day-long meeting, which was overseen by the Department of Commerce and hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, appeared to find common ground on the need to focus on one issue rather than tackle several at once.  That issue was a standardized template for the notice and takedown regime under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is the way content rights holders and ISPs inform Web users of allegedly infringing content.

A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America agreed that standardized templates was a good topic to start with. He also said that the focus should be on a process that was effective, not just efficient.  He said the point is not to generate millions of notices, but to cut down on the need for them by cutting down on infringement.  He also weighed in on one of the other issues on the table, one that will likely be more contentious: abusive or incorrect notices.  He suggested that such notices are actually a "minuscule" percentage and should not take up resources disproportionate to their impact.
» Read More

Google and Viacom Settle YouTube Lawsuit

Google and Viacom settled a copyright lawsuit filed by the media giant related to content hosted on the video service YouTube.  In a joint statement released Tuesday, both companies say they resolved a lawsuit filed by Viacom in 2007 over copyrighted content from networks including Comedy Central and MTV. No financial terms were disclosed.

"This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together," reads a joint statement from both parties.

Viacom filed its lawsuit against Google in 2007 -- one year after Google acquired YouTube -- seeking $1 billion, claiming the tech titan showed "brazen disregard" for demands it remove content owned by Viacom.

In 2010, a judge threw out Viacom's lawsuit, claiming YouTube could not be held responsible when its users post clips from Viacom programs.  Last year, Viacom's lawsuit was tossed a second time by a federal judge, saying YouTube is not liable so long as it removes infringing videos from copyright owners. 
» Read More

FCC Is Pulling Plug on CIN Study

“The FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study," an FCC spokesman said Friday.  "The Commission will reassess the best way to fulfill its obligation to Congress to identify barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses.”

The study had drawn criticism for plans to interview journalists over why they covered what they covered.  FCC chairman Tom Wheeler suspended the study earlier in the week, at least until the methodology could be changed to scrub questions to journalists and media owners, but utlimately it appears to have been unsalvageable.... » Read More

Democratic Lawmakers Want To Bring Net Neutrality
Back to Life

Democrats in Congress have introduced a bill that would restore Net neutrality regulations, less than a month after a court decision struck them down.  U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is among the legislators who back efforts to restore Net neutrality regulations,

"It basically says, 'Remember the court decision from a couple of weeks ago?  Forget about that,'" John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Internet freedom advocacy group Public Knowledge, told NBC News.  "Right now there are no rules in place.  This is basically saying, while the FCC is making up its mind, the previous rules are in place."

Reps. Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman, both D-Calif., introduced the Open Internet Preservation Act in the House, while Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced a companion bill in the Senate. 

“The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation,” Waxman said in a statement.  “Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online."

If passed, the legislation would require that broadband providers treat all Internet traffic equally.  That is how it worked before Jan. 14, when a U.S. appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission couldn't impose Net neutrality regulations because it classified broadband providers more like Google than a telephone or power company. » Read More

Court Vacates Heart of FCC Open Internet Order

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has unanimously vacated much of the FCC's Open Internet order and remanded it back to the FCC.

"[A]lthough we reject Verizon’s challenge to the Open Internet Order’s disclosure rules, we vacate both the anti-discrimination and the anti-blocking rules.  The agency’s decision is so deficient as to raise serious doubts whether the agency can adequately justify its decision at all," said the court.  "We remand the case to the Commission for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

The court said the FCC has the authority to "promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic," and says that its "justification for the specific rules at issue here – that they will preserve and facilitate the “virtuous circle” of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet – is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence."

But it concluded that because the FCC has not classified ISPs as common carriers, it cannot regulate them as though they were. » Read More

Supreme Court To Hear Aereo Appeal

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear broadcasters appeal of the denial of its injunction request against Aereo. The court held a conference Friday on what appeals to hear, and did not take long in making the decision.

"The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted," the court said without elaboration. Justice Samuel Alito took no part in the decision.

Aereo had joined broadcasters in saying the court should resolve the issue, which is whether it is simply providing remote access to TV station signals or is retransmitting a performance without compensation in violation of the copyright laws.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant an injunction and suggested Aereo was on solid legal footing. The case has yet to be decided in the lower courts, but broadcasters argue that the service should be blocked until that lower court decision is reached because it threatens their business.

So far, no other federal appeals court has weighed in, so there is no split in the federal circuit. But district courts have differed, and the Ninth and D.C. federal appeals courts have been asked to weigh in. » Read More

FCC Chairman Voices Clear but Cautious Support for Net Neutrality

Speaking at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler offered cautious but clear support for Net neutrality.

When Consumer Electronics Assn. topper Gary Shapiro, who interviewed Wheeler onstage Wednesday, wondered if Net neutrality rules might become unnecessary, Wheeler framed the issue in terms of results, not rules, and warned the FCC would act if markets veered in directions that discourage competition and innovation.

"I've always — well, for 60 days," he quipped, noting his short time on the job, "I've been talking about what I call the regulatory seesaw. If there are good things happening the marketplace, if there is competition, then the commission doesn't have to do much. But it can (tilt) as well."

The current Open Internet Order, he said, "is designed to encourage competition, is designed to be different for wireless than from wire, and it makes it clear that if there are untoward things impacting things to the network, undermining innovation, then the commission should move." » Read More