from the dead-dead-dead dept
One of these days, it would be nice if Congress actually took real leadership and did what was right, rather than worrying how some abusive companies will react.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 21st 2014 12:07pm
Wed, May 21st 2014 9:04am
by Tim Cushing
Tue, May 20th 2014 4:14pm
As the ongoing net neutrality/internet fast lane issue continues to be debated by the FCC and many other interested parties, it's always helpful to know where your representatives stand on issues related to this battle.
One of the issues being considered by the FCC is the reclassification of internet service as a public utility under Title II. This sort of regulation is obviously opposed by major internet service providers, who aren't exactly smitten with the idea of being held accountable on price or service quality by a government agency.
Maplight.org has researched the political contributions flowing to the 28 Congressional representatives who signed letters opposing this particular part of the FCC's proposed rule changes and found that -- surprise! -- cable companies put far more money into the pockets of those who side with them on this issue.
The 28 representatives signing letters to the FCC against Title II reclassification of the internet as a public utility, a position allied with the cable industry, have received, on average, $26,832 from the cable industry, 2.3 times more money than the average for all members of the House of Representatives, $11,651.Republicans seem to be asking for more in return for sympathetic letter-writing.
Republicans signing the letters against Title II reclassification of the internet as a public utility have received, on average, $59,812 from the cable industry, 5 times more than the average for all members of the House, $11,651.In fact, Maplight notes that the top five recipients among letter signers are all Republicans. Evidence indicates that the spendthrift lobbyist may be better off contributing to Democrats.
Democrats signing the letters against Title II reclassification of the internet as a public utility have received, on average, $13,640 from the cable industry, 1.2 times more times more than the average for all members of the House, $11,651.Maplight also points out that there's an additional layer of self-interest at play as well. According to its research, 29 members of Congress own stock in Comcast, making it the 25th most popular stock in the Congressional market.
Title II would spark massive instability, create investor and marketplace uncertainty, derail planned investments, and slow broadband adoption.I'd love to hear more about Comcast's "planned investments" that don't include funneling funds into politician's pockets or swallowing another large cable company, but the filing contains none of these insights. Like the infamous "fiber-to-the-press-release" announcements, any claim of "instability" or curbed "investments" tends to be nothing but enraged puffs of hot air.The company's true aim still seems to be figuring out how it can make more while doing less.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 19th 2014 3:34am
Oh, that revolving door. Helping patent trolls. Also, note that everything fell apart just as... Intellectual Ventures ramped up its political contributions. I'm sure that's just a coincidence, right?
According to a tech industry source, Leahy has changed his position in part as a result of pressure from the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, a lobbying group whose law firm Akin Gump recently hired Leahy’s long time chief-of-staff. The source added that Leahy is prepared to let the reform bill founder, and then draw political cover by casting blame for the failure on committee members’ inability to produce a suitable compromise. Meanwhile, the bill’s momentum has also been sputtering as a result of the trial lawyer bar pressuring other Senate Democrats to slow the bill.
This account of the Senate patent bill’s slow death is consistent with a source cited by Reuters, who said “It’s somewhere between sinking like a rock and air going out of it, like a balloon,”
Staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who did not want to be named, said by phone that the hold up is due to disagreements over two new points of contention: a provision that would require patent plaintiffs to provide detailed descriptions of alleged infringement in the pleadings they file, and one that would alter the legal process known as discovery (in which each side has to produce documents and witnesses). The latter reform is important because patent trolls rely on the economic asymmetries of patent litigation — especially the threat of discovery, which is extremely time-consuming and expensive — to force their victims into settlements.If you've been following the patent reform space for more than a decade, you'd recognize this pattern. Back in 2004, Senator Leahy had introduced a semi-decent (not great, but not horrible) patent reform bill... and the trolls (and pharmaceutical companies) went apeshit over it, killing it. Every new session of Congress, a new version would be introduced that would be watered down to appease the pharmaceutical companies. Seven years later, the America Invents Act was finally passed... once it had been stripped of basically all useful provisions. It did absolutely nothing to deal with the problems of the patent system (and actually may have created a few new ones).
These proposed pleading and discovery reforms have until now been uncontroversial.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 15th 2014 10:56am
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 17th 2014 2:29pm
“We’ve been unsuccessful in bringing about change by other means,” said Lilly chief executive John Lechleiter. “It’s an issue right at our back door. And unfortunately, we’re afraid it can lead to other countries attempting to undermine intellectual property.”No, not "undermine intellectual property." It's about actually making sure, before giving you a decades-long monopoly right, that your drug is actually useful. Of course, if the USTR actually follows through and puts Canada on the Special 301 list, it will just cement what a complete joke the Special 301 list really is. For years, the USTR -- at the behest of Hollywood -- put Canada on the Special 301 list. Each year Canadian officials would specifically state that they "don't recognize" the process of the Special 301 list as being legitimate (because it's not) and then proceed to do nothing. Eventually, though, with a new government in place, Canada did change its copyright laws, and was "downgraded" on the Special 301 list. Upgrading them back up to a "pirate" nation will just highlight why Canada (and every other country) should totally ignore the nearly entirely arbitrariness of the list.
Tue, Apr 15th 2014 11:27am
Over the last year, a rabbi, a state NAACP official, a small town mayor and other community leaders wrote op-eds and letters to Congress with remarkably similar language on a remarkably obscure topic. Each railed against a long-standing proposal that would give taxpayers the option to use pre-filled tax returns. They warned that the program would be a conflict of interest for the IRS and would especially hurt low-income people, who wouldn't have the resources to fight inaccurate returns. Rabbi Elliot Dorff wrote in a Jewish Journal op-ed that he "shudder[s] at the impact this program will have on the most vulnerable people in American society."So you're wondering where the problem in all of this is? Well, it turns out these folks didn't just independently decide to write the same op-eds. It would appear that they were approached by groups affiliated with Intuit and asked to write them. The folks targeted weren't informed of the connection, either.
Rabbi Dorff says he was approached by a former student, Emily Pflaster, who sent him details and asked him to write an op-ed alerting the Jewish community to the threat. What Pflaster did not tell him is that she works for a PR and lobbying firm with connections to Intuit, the maker of best-selling tax software TurboTax.You think? What once appeared to be some kind of grassroots campaign by the concerned public towards what might be a real issue suddenly has devolved into a public relations blitz undertaken through dishonest means by corporate interests. In other words, it's the same message we got last year, and from the same source, but that source is hiding behind unwitting accomplices. The underhanded deeds weren't over, however.
"I wish she would have told me that," Dorff told ProPublica.
The website of Pflaster's firm, JCI Worldwide, had listed Intuit among its clients, but removed it after ProPublica contacted them. Pflaster said Intuit had been listed by mistake....That's quite an error to make and quite a coincidental time for that error to be "corrected." And, while Intuit's only comment on the matter was some general mumblings about how they use multiple avenues to improve "tax empowerment" of the public, it's a special kind of shady that refers to demonizing an entirely optional and free government service as empowerment of the public. Meanwhile, of course, Intuit has lobbied heavily on bills related to free-filing.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 14th 2014 11:02am
In nine emails from Gane to the Attorney-General's department secretary, Roger Wilkins, and first assistant secretary in the civil law division, Matt Minogue, sent between the election and this year, obtained by ZDNet under Freedom of Information, Gane appears to be providing education notices of his own to the department, offering insights into how copyright infringement is being dealt with in other countries.There are a number of other emails, including a few that regular Techdirt readers may find especially amusing, including one mocking the "vocal minority" who were complaining that draconian copyright enforcement on things like Game of Thrones downloading might have serious unintended consequences. Update: The "vocal minority" has responded.
In one email pointing out Canada's moves, he notes that the Canadian government was not buying into the notion that ISPs should be compensated for having to warn customers for downloading infringing content.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 11th 2014 3:32pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 10th 2014 5:20am
When it comes to the music industry’s lobbying efforts in Washington, it is time for some harmony.Oh, and don't expect any of this new "sing from the same songbook" effort to include actually working with fans to understand what they want, or with innovators to understand how these legacy players might embrace the future to improve their business. Instead, it's all about playing hardball politics to try to use new laws to prop up old business models. The article notes that the defeat of SOPA was a wake-up call to the various parts of the music industry to work together to stop "the increasing influence" from technology companies.
That message has gained momentum among music executives, who worry that squabbling among the various players — record labels, music publishers, artists, songwriters — will undermine broader initiatives to push for new legislation and regulatory reform.
Music groups are pushing for a range of new laws and regulations that they believe are vital to help their businesses survive in the digital era. But the interests of these parties do not always align.
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