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Campaign Coverage


Nov 4, 2008

You can listen to National Public Radio's take on the story below. Click on the play button to the left.



 
 
May 27, 2008

April 21, 2008
Candidates Head Into Key Primary, Images Battered By Bloggers


March 20, 2008 
 

February 27th, 2008
ObamaCycle: A CraigsList for Obama Campaigners

February 22, 2008

Youthful Hillary Clinton Supporters Strike Back at Obamamaniacs

February 14, 2008
The Tech of Obamamania: Online Phone Banks, Mass Texting and Blogs

February 16th, 2008
Crowdsourcing Puts Crucial Superdelegates Under A Microscope


February 13th, 2008
Send a GOP Valentine to Someone You Love -- Or Hate

February 11th, 2008
Start A Non-Profit and Join Election '08 YouTube Free-For-All

January 31, 2008
Of GOP Candidates, Geeks Hate McCain the Least

January 28, 2008
Huckabee Endorses Fire-and-Brimstone YouTube Competitor 'GodTube.'

January 21, 2008
Obama: I'm Not A Muslim! Forward This To Everyone You Know

January  15, 2008
Huckabee's Secret Weapon: Evangelical Twin Teens With Internet

January 10, 2008
Attack on Huckabee Moves From YouTube to Boob Tube

January 7, 2008
How To Jam An Election In A Few Quick, Easy Steps

 
 
 
 
December 3, 2007
Obama Launches Website to Track Clinton's Attacks

November 27, 2007
 
November 14, 2007
Obama Woos Silicon Valley
 
 
October 31, 2007
Criminal Botnet Stumps for Ron Paul, Researchers Allege
 
October 23, 2007
Hillary Clinton Faces a Viral-Video Truth-Boating
 
October 19, 2007
Web 2.0 Project Taps 'Wisdom of the Crowd' to Probe Presidential Contenders
 
October 4, 2007
Hillary Clinton Stands Up for Science, Slams Bush
 
October 4, 2007
'Open-Source Politics' Taps Facebook for Myanmar Protests
 
October 1, 2007
Viral Video Shows What Giuliani Was Doing During Missed Debate
 
September 28, 2007
Clinton Haters Outpace Obama Backers on Facebook
 
 
September 24, 2007 
Tiny Town Blazes New Campaign Trail, Using Social Network
 
September 19th, 2007
Don't Tase Me, Bro! Jolts The Web
  
September 18th, 2007
It's a Wrap: Romney Campaign's Dorito-Inspired Ad Contest

September 14, 2007
Geeks Turn Out for Ron Paul

August 23, 2007
 
New Wave of GOP Strategists Transform GOP Party

August, 16, 2007
Which Presidential Candidates Have Mastered Google?
 
 

September, 12, 2007 
Yahoo's 'Presidential Mashup' Debate Won't Support Mashups

March 23, 2007
Fears of a YouTube Swiftboat

Some disagree with this idea that misleading online videos will be a significant force in political campaigns

January 24, 2007
Hillary: The Privacy Candidate?

Story postscript: Interesting Slashdot discussion on the idea of Sen. Clinton being a privacy advocate.

May, 30, 2006
Courts

Bush Administration Seeks Dismissal Of Wiretapping Suits

May, 23, 2006
Antitrust

StreamCast Names EBay In Lawsuit Over Skype Subsidiary

September 23, 2005
Intellectual Property
Movie, Music Industries Push Copy-protection Standard

by Sarah Lai Stirland

August 3, 2005
Courts: Documents Reveal Nominee Roberts' Thoughts On Privacy

Sarah Lai Stirland

September, 14 2005
Privacy: Judge Roberts' Past Work Concerns Privacy Advocates

Sarah Lai Stirland
Ãà’Æ’Ã†Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ãƒà’†Ãƒ¢â‚¬â„¢Ãà’ƒÂ¢Ãà’¢â€šÂ¬Ãà’…¡Ãà’Æ’Ãâ€ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÆ’à’¢â‚¬Å¡Ãà’ƒâ€šÃà’‚© National Journal Group, Inc.

If confirmed as chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts could mark a sea change in the way the nation's privacy laws will develop, a group of academics, technologists and others recently warned the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel is conducting hearings on his nomination this week, and privacy has been one of the foremost topics.

"Although Judge Roberts is a distinguished lawyer and a brilliant jurist, we believe that he may have a very limited view of both the court's role in protecting constitutional rights and the ability of the Congress and the states to defend privacy through legislation," 20 law professors, technologists and civil libertarians wrote to the committee late last week.

The letter writers, who are on the board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), said they are disturbed by Roberts' views on issues related to privacy as revealed in documents when he was a White House aide and Justice Department lawyer.

In particular, they noted a 1983 memo that Roberts wrote to then-White House Counsel Fred Fielding. Roberts questioned the Reagan administration's stance against establishing a national system of identification.

...

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July, 18, 2005
Courts: Departing Justice Leaves Mixed Fourth Amendment Legacy

Sarah Lai Stirland
Ãà’Æ’Ã†Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ãƒà’†Ãƒ¢â‚¬â„¢Ãà’ƒÂ¢Ãà’¢â€šÂ¬Ãà’…¡Ãà’Æ’Ãâ€ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÆ’à’¢â‚¬Å¡Ãà’ƒâ€šÃà’‚© National Journal Group, Inc.

Like her colleagues on the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor often sided with law enforcers in legal clashes over the Fourth Amendment. Nevertheless, her opinions in many landmark cases have inspired a long-time privacy advocate to call for a successor who can follow in her footsteps.

"O'Connor was an important voice on the court in terms of privacy interests," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). "We think that to fill that position on the court, both parties need to understand that there are important constitutional values, particularly with privacy, that Justice O'Connor was particularly sympathetic toward."

Some of these opinions are pertinent to law enforcement cases in the high-tech era because they acknowledge the increasingly central role that databases now play in the world of criminal justice, Rotenberg said. O'Connor's opinions also recognized that the practice of mass surveillance may cross constitutional boundaries and affirmed the importance of anonymous speech.

...

But others view O'Connor's legacy as one that favored the law enforcement community.

"Justice O'Connor was generally a friend of law enforcement in search and seizure cases," said Orin Kerr, an associate professor at George Washington University Law School, who has written extensively about law enforcement investigations and their constitutionality in the high-tech era.

"I would point out her conclusion in United States v. Place (1983) that a dog sniff is not a search, [and] her vote to permit the state [to] force a person to give up their name during a traffic stop in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court (2004)," he said.

Both men agree that O'Connor's successor will be faced with more high-tech cases in the law enforcement arena because of the increasing array of technological tools at the law enforcement community's disposal.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Justices Torn Between Copyright Enforcement, Innovation

By Sarah Lai Stirland

The nine Supreme Court justices hearing arguments in a case over file-sharing networks on Tuesday appeared torn between the how to make enforcement of copyright law effective and how to preserve a legal environment that fosters innovation.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor asked both sides about "active inducement," and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg asked Richard Taranto, a lawyer for the file-sharing firms in the case, what questions would be left to address if the case were remanded to a district court in California for a new trial.

Active inducement in patent law comes from the same section of the legal code as the concept of "contributory infringement" that the justices applied in the 1984 opinion Sony v. Universal City Studios. In that case, they said manufacturers of products
that have substantial legal uses are not liable for contributing to copyright infringement by users.

But there is no statutory definition of the term. Some
friend-of-the-court briefs in the current case against the Grokster file-sharing firm provided the court advice on how to define the term.

Taranto responded by trying to persuade the justices that a portion of the case was not really relevant to the proceedings because the past acts of his clients fell outside the purview of the district court at the time. But Justices Antonin Scalia and David Souter appeared skeptical. Scalia noted that "it was these past acts that got the respondents here."

...

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Supreme Court Struggles To Find Guidance On File Sharing

By Sarah Lai Stirland

Justices on the nation's highest court Tuesday struggled to elicit consistent guidance during arguments on how to adapt a landmark legal standard to cover the activities of file-sharing
companies.

In the case, MGM v. Grokster, the justices appeared concerned that the legal test proposed by the entertainment industry would chill the development of innovative technologies like Apple Computer's iPod music player. But they also did not appear
copasetic with arguments made by the file-sharing companies that the justices should leave untouched the Supreme Court's 1984 decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios.

In its Sony ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that technology companies with products that have substantial legal uses cannot be held liable for the copyright infringement of people using the products.
Richard Taranto, a Farr & Taranto attorney arguing the case on behalf of Grokster and Streamcast Networks, told the justices that they should only apply the Sony decision to the Grokster
case.
...

The justices also tried to elicit a coherent legal standard from Donald Verrilli, a Jenner & Block attorney, who argued the case on behalf of the recording industry and the movie studios, and
Paul Clement, the nation's acting solicitor general.

Verrilli said the high court should look at the business models of the companies accused of contributory infringement. A study conducted by the entertainment industry showed that 90 percent
of the content on Grokster and Streamcast's networks was illegal, he said.

But the justices questioned how new technologies with uncertain business models would be treated under this rule. Verrilli did not answer the question directly. Instead, he said it was "obvious" that there are significant non-infringing uses for the
iPod.

And he stressed throughout the argument that the justices could not simply affirm the appellate court's decision because it would give companies a "free pass" to build their companies upon the infringing activities of their users. Clement said the court could not make decisions based on theoretical ideas about substantial non-infringing uses and smatterings of anecdotal evidence of non-infringing uses of the
networks.

...

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Tuesday, March 8, 2005
Intellectual Property
Mobile Industry's Role In Grokster Case May Alter Debate

By Sarah Lai Stirland

In the latest Supreme Court battle between the entertainment and technology industries, the entertainment industry often has emphasized its broad support from federal officials, state prosecutors, children's rights groups and economists.

But the battle over file-sharing networks now is drawing new voices into the debate, a development that could alter the lobbying equation when the issue returns to Congress after a ruling in MGM v. Grokster.

Interests as varied as Intel, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association of Shareholder and Consumer Attorneys, have filed briefs in the case. One of the other players that filed a brief in support of the peer-to-peer software maker Grokster was the wireless industry group CTIA.

Until then, the group had maintained a low profile in the debate. The association's involvement is significant because, according to numbers from Consect consulting firm, the cell-phone industry represents a major growth market for the
music industry via ring tones, according to the Consect consulting firm.

CTIA officials did not return a call for comment on its joint brief with nine other telecommunications and technology organizations. But an industry source said the case worries the group because a ruling could subject providers of wireless, high-speed Internet access to liability for copyright infringement by their subscribers.

...

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Friday, January 28, 2005
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Tech Groups Struggle As They Replay Betamax Case Issues

By Sarah Lai Stirland

When the Senate Judiciary Committee considered legislation last year to address holding file-sharing companies liable for encouraging copyright infringement, association lobbyists fought hard to uphold the decades-old legal shield provided to their
member companies by a landmark 1984 Supreme Court decision.

At the time, the leaders of the technology associations said copyright law must be respected -- but so must the 1984 decision, which they say created an environment that cultivated an explosion of innovation.

The theater of battle has shifted to the Supreme Court. Lawyers for the technology and entertainment industries offered their opinions to the high court by filing briefs, furthering arguments over how third parties should be held liable for actively encouraging people to steal copyrighted works.

This time around, however, everyone has their own idea about how and where this should be accomplished, and the differences reflect the increasingly symbiotic relationship between the
technology and media industries.

...

An industry source said some technology associations filing this week faced a challenge in getting executives within the same member companies to agree on what to address in the briefs.

"It's fair to say that the engineering divisions of every
company do not want any limitations on their ability to innovate," said the source. "But at the same time, nobody's trying to promote infringement ... Every one of [the technology companies] have business relationships, and some of them sell goods to the content industries -- these are multimillion dollar
contracts and one does not want to cross swords with their customers."

To read more, sign up for National Journal's Technology Daily.

Friday, February 25, 2005

LOBBYING & LAW

Will Congress Stop High-Tech Trolls?

By Sarah Lai Stirland, special to National Journal

Early last year, Thomas Warfield, a proprietor of Goodsol Development, a small software-games business in Springfield, Ill., received a letter from a law firm representing an individual named Sheldon Goldberg.

The letter informed Warfield that the computerized card games he had created and sold through his Web site violated several of Goldberg's patents. But, the letter continued, Goldberg would be open to licensing his patented ideas for "a onetime lump-sum payment or, alternatively, an annual royalty for the life of the Goldberg patents."

Goldberg's attorney said in the letter that his client's patent covers the playing of card games, among other aspects of the online game-playing experience. He gave Warfield 30 days to respond. An angry Warfield later vented his frustrations on his Web log.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Warfield's experience is becoming increasingly routine -- to the point where the technology industry has come up with a name for companies that do not manufacture or invent anything, but merely own patents. The business model of these firms is to make money by forcing other companies to pay licensing fees for patent claims that some would call questionable.

...

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Monday, February 7, 2005

Issue Of The Week
A Baffling Case About Patent Lingo
by Sarah Lai Stirland

It may seem that few professionals other than poets and playwrights depend entirely upon the clever manipulation of semantics for their livelihoods.

But a slew of court briefs filed in recent months at the federal appeals court for patents serves as a reminder that semantics also determine the fate of inventors' lives and the value of technology companies' patent portfolios.

As the briefs note, the scope of protection that ideas receive depends largely upon the judiciary's interpretation of key words within the patents themselves.

The question facing the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday is whether judges presiding over patent litigation should primarily rely upon dictionaries to interpret patent claims or on the patent holders' use of the terms within the context of the patent-application process. There are currently no clear rules on the matter.

The lack of rules, experts in patent law said, has led to a chaotic legal system with no certainty about what patents courts will uphold. That has forced companies to spend unnecessarily large amounts of time and money protecting and licensing innovations, as well as fighting frivolous patent-infringement lawsuits, according to academics who have studied the matter.

The Courts' Dictionary Dilemma
The court will rehear oral arguments in Phillips v. AWH, a case where the question of whether AWH infringed upon Phillips' patent turns on the court's interpretation of the word "baffle."

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the noun baffle as "a device (as a plate, wall or screen) to deflect, check or regulate flow (as of a fluid, light or sound)." If used as a verb, the dictionary describes baffle as something "to defeat or check by confusing or puzzling." Phillips never defined the term in its patent but used it to describe how its invention of vandalism-resistant modular wall panels work.

The court agreed to rehear the case in July and asked the legal community to submit friend-of-the-court briefs with suggestions on how the judicial system should consistently approach the issue. At least 34 briefs have been filed on behalf of a wide range of legal, technology and biotechnology organizations, as well as the federal government.

The outcome will affect the future value of millions of dollars' worth of patent portfolios, observers said.

"If people have been writing patents where they know people will refer to dictionaries, and the court rules the other way, that could have a substantial impact," said Dennis Crouch, an attorney who has monitored the issue for the law firm of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago.

...

To read more, sign up for National Journal's Technology Daily.

 

January 6, 2005
Lobbying
Anti-Piracy Strategies Prove Complicated For Tech Industry

When the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced legislation last June to make file-sharing companies liable for the piracy happening on their networks, he thanked the Business Software Alliance (BSA) for its help in crafting the legislation. The trade group, in turn, was one of the first lobbying outfits to praise the introduction of the legislation.

But as the congressional session wore on, some of the group's members began to realize the potential ramifications of the proposed law. The association ultimately opposed Chairman Orrin Hatch's plan, dubbed the "Induce Act," to impose civil liabilities on companies that induce third parties to infringe upon copyrights.

"We are right in the middle of both innovative technology companies and also companies who care about copyright," BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said at a Wednesday roundtable with National Journal Group reporters.

"We believe there needs to be an effective balance, and we believe that [Hatch's anti-piracy legislation] did not strike that balance."

In a BSA report released Thursday outlining the group's lobbying agenda, the alliance emphasized that piracy on peer-to-peer computer networks still poses a major problem for the software industry.

"It's a complex issue," said Bruce Chizen, president and CEO of Adobe, a BSA member. "I think the Induce Act was an example of that. On the surface, it probably made a lot of sense, but when you start looking at some of the details behind it, you end up potentially hurting good business practices and good technology."

"If I wanted to take Adobe Photoshop and allow people to exchange stock photography, potentially the Induce Act would have eliminated that opportunity," he said. "We have to be careful that [lawmakers] don't legislate things that weren't intended to be legislated."

In the 109th Congress BSA is taking another tack by pushing for more cooperation from Internet service providers (ISPs).

"What we're encouraging [legislators] to do is to work with us and to work with the ISPs to get ISP cooperation because right now it's not as aggressive as we need it to be," Chizen said.

...

To read more, sign up for National Journal's Technology Daily.

Issue of the Week:Monday, January 3, 2004
Rambus Case Ruffles Antitrust Law

The FTC has charged Rambus with violating federal antitrust law by deceiving its competitors while it participated in a process for crafting and setting the standards for a form of computer memory called dynamic random access memory. The FTC's original complaint said Rambus participated silently in industry standards-setting meetings for years, but did not properly disclose that it had applied for some patents that included some of the technology under discussion. Instead, the company asserted its patents after the industry had accepted and deployed the agreed-upon standard, thereby locking the industry into using the Rambus-patented technology. The FTC said the conduct amounts to unfair competition, and it wants to stop Rambus from asserting its related patents.

Read full story.

December 21, 2004
Lobbying: Lobbyists Hone In On 'Networks' In File-Sharing Debate

Is 'Network' a Dirty Word?

Grokster advertises itself as a network. Sharman Networks owns Kazaa. eDonkey says it is a "decentralized peer-to-peer network," as well as "the
most advanced file-sharing application around." But for some technology industry lobbyists, "network" has become a dirty word.

"The knowingly false continued use by the movie industry of the word 'networks' to imply control by the software developers is a fraud on public-policy process and must stop," said Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, a group representing peer-to-peer software firms.

Eisgrau said the companies should be called software developers. He argued that when software companies use the word "network," they suggest that
their software enables individuals to create ad hoc networks among themselves -- rather than a centrally controlled network like a phone system or cable network.

"These P2P software programs are vastly less engaged than the cable or phone companies, or even Norton Utilities, which provides you updates," he
said, referring to a popular collection of programs used by personal-computer owners to monitor the health of their operating systems.

"The P2P companies like to be called software suppliers," said Marty Lafferty, CEO of the Distributed Computing Industry Association. "The
legal strategy of those who oppose P2P is to imply control, so words like 'service' and 'network' are words that are used to describe Grokster, Kazaa and eDonkey."

The lobbyists are fighting hard to alter popular perceptions of the fundamental nature of file-sharing companies. The effort has been sparked in part by litigation and proposed legislation to clarify the issue of secondary liability, or whether file-sharing companies can be held liable for fostering copyright infringement by their users. The Supreme Court
earlier this month decided to address that question, fueling the lobbyists' campaign.

...

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December 10, 2004

Intellectual Property: High Court Will Address Dispute Over File-Sharing Networks

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case that will give the court a voice in the legal and rhetorical boxing match over when file-sharing networks should be held liable for users who steal music, movies and other copyrighted material on their networks.

The court agreed to review a 9th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court ruling issued from August. That ruling found that Grokster, a file-sharing network, was not liable for copyright infringement by its users if the networks do not engage in direct piracy and if the networks have other legal uses.

Both the movie and music industries had asked the high court to review the ruling, which relied heavily on the precedent of a 1984 Supreme Court decision, Sony v. Universal City Studios.

Attorneys for the industries had argued that the 9th circuit erroneously interpreted the 1984 decision, known informally as the Betamax doctrine.

That ruling says that technology companies cannot be held liable for copyright infringement if their products have substantial non-infringing uses.

...

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December 8, 2004

Privacy: Appeals Court Considers Landmark Privacy Case

A panel of seven appeals-court judges Wednesday heard arguments for the second time in a case on the rules that govern the privacy of electronic communications. Some privacy advocates said the outcome of the case could determine the level of privacy protection for e-mail and spur new efforts
in Congress to more fully address the question.

In the June opinion on the case, United States v. Bradford C. Councilman, two of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges, Juan Torruella and Conrad Cyr, affirmed a lower-court opinion.

The lower court ruled that an Internet service provider did not violate the Wiretap Act by snooping on a customer's e-mail because the e-mail was in temporary storage while in transmission. The law applies to communications while in transit.

A third appeals-court judge, Kermit Lipez, dissented. He said legislative history indicates that the Wiretap Act also covers e-mail communications despite their temporary storage on servers between communicators.

The Justice Department then found itself on the same side as groups it usually opposes, the Center for Democracy and Technology and Electronic Frontier Foundation, when they asked the court to rehear the case. Both organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs asking for a rehearing. They argue that the June opinion would eviscerate privacy protections for real-time communications.

...

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December 7, 2004

E-Commerce: High Court Hears Arguments Over State Bans On Wine Sales

Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared skeptical of the arguments made by solicitor generals in two states that prohibit out-of-state wineries from making direct shipments to residents of those states.

The justices are reviewing consolidated cases that pit the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce as guaranteed in the Constitution against the Constitution's 21st Amendment, which gives states the right to regulate in-state alcohol sales. The outcome will affect companies that wish to freely sell wine directly to customers, either through the Internet or other channels. Twenty-four states currently bar interstate wine shipments.

...

December 3, 2004

Courts: High Court Agrees To Review Cable-Modem 'Brand X' Case

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to the request by the Bush administration and the FCC to review an appeals court decision on the regulation of cable companies.

The cable industry's association hailed the decision to take the case.

"We are ... optimistic that the court will affirm the FCC's decision that cable-modem service is an interstate information service, fostering a deregulatory environment for cable high-speed Internet access," said Robert Sachs, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. "Establishing a deregulatory environment for cable-modem service is critical to the universal deployment in the U.S. of broadband services, including emerging services such as voice-over-Internet protocol service."

The legal fight is over whether cable companies must provide competitors with access to their networks, among other things. The FCC has classified cable companies that provide high-speed Internet access as "interstate information services." The designation means that cable companies -- unlike the telephone companies that provide similar services -- are not obligated to open their networks to competitors for offering high-speed
Internet services.

...

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November 19, 2004

Intellectual Property: Negotiators Cut Most-Contested Parts Of Omnibus IP Bill

The latest version of a package of intellectual property bills before Congress does not include the provisions that a coalition of public-interest and technology trade groups had opposed most.

The omnibus bill, H.R. 2391, had contained the language of many separate measures to significantly change legal liability standards in copyright law. But the version released Thursday does not have those provisions, including language to ban the use of commercial-skipping technology for people watching television.

...

(National Journal's Technology Daily)

November 10, 2004

Civil Liberties: Nonprofits Resist Rule To Check Names Against Watch-Lists

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 12 nonprofit organizations on Wednesday sued the federal government's human-resources office. They charge that a new rule that requires charities to check their employees and expenditures against the government's terrorist watch-lists is both unconstitutional and unworkable.

The lawsuit asks the federal district court for the District of Columbia to prevent the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) from enforcing the rule, which requires the charities to certify that none of its employees are on the watch-lists. It also requires the charities to certify that none of their funds go toward any organizations on the lists or similar lists of foreign governments.

The Treasury and State departments maintain the primary lists, but the rule also applies to "other terrorist-related lists promulgated by the U.S. government, the United Nations or the European Union." OPM started implementing the rule earlier this year.

...

(National Journal's Technology Daily)

November 27, 2004

On The Hill: Legal Tools, Copyright Top Agenda For Judiciary Panels

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of stories this week to
examine how a shift in partisan power after next week's election could impact congressional committees with jurisdiction over technology-related issues.

The limits of government power in pursuing the war on terrorism and secondary liability issues in copyright-infringement lawsuits will be among the top technology-related items for the Senate and House Judiciary committees in the 109th Congress. How those issues will be shaped depends on partisan control of both chambers.

Under Senate GOP rules, current Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah must relinquish the top spot on Senate Judiciary. If re-elected, Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is expected to become chairman, assuming Republicans maintain Senate control. If Democrats seize control of the chamber, current committee ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont will become chairman.

Regardless of which party controls the committee, the new chairman will find himself adjudicating at least two battles on the civil liberties and intellectual property fronts.

Many provisions of the anti-terrorism law known as the USA PATRIOT Act will expire by December 2005 unless Congress renews them. Lawmakers also will have to re-examine the extent of the FBI's authority to issue subpoenas known as national security letters.

...

(National Journal's Technology Daily)

November 27, 2004

Courts: Court Hears Challenge To Another Part Of Net Porn Law

In the latest battle over free speech on the Internet, a federal court in New York began to hear oral arguments Wednesday in a constitutional challenge to a 1996 anti-pornography law.

The case, Nitke et al v. Ashcroft, concerns the obscenity provisions of the Communications Decency Act, which banned "indecent" and "obscene" materials from being published online.

Although civil libertarians claimed victory in 1997 when the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the law concerning indecency, the court did not overturn another key portion of the law regarding obscenity. Instead, the justices referred to one of their prior decisions on obscenity, Miller v. California, in defining obscene materials.

...

(National Journal's Technology Daily)

Issue Of The Week: November 1, 2004
The 'Vicious' World Of Political Animation


by Sarah Lai Stirland

Eric Blumrich was disappointed last year when an anti-war demonstration that he attended in New York City did not garner widespread media coverage. Instead, he said, the event prompted an on-air slur about its participants from conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh.

The comment angered Blumrich, so the 33-year-old freelance Web developer from Montclair, N.J., decided to act. He created a three-minute animation featuring photographs of the anti-war protest, a well as the cyberspace equivalent of an activist pamphlet with images of deformed and injured children and the caption, "Your tax dollars at work." He later posted more animations and links to online games, cartoons and sites that offer downloads of political documentaries.

As of late last week, the site had recorded just less than 8,000 unique visitors a day, Blumrich said. And Technorati, a service that tracks the influence of online content by counting the number of links to online journals known as Web logs, or blogs, shows at least 635 links to Blumrich's content from 395 other sites.

His is one political voice in a growing multimedia cacophony that has taken independent campaigning high-tech and online. The Institute for Politics, Democracy and The Internet recently documented the phenomenon in a report that explores the use of Web videos in the 2004 presidential campaigns.

The institute found that the angry and polarized electorate's sentiments have manifested themselves through online creations that Carol Darr, director of the institute, said often are "beyond the pale." "Spurred by the advent of inexpensive digital film equipment and widely available broadband, amateur videographers have discovered a new and particularly effective vehicle for venting their political spleens," the authors of the report wrote. "These activists have produced fiery and sometimes downright vicious political commentary."

Bipolar America

Although two-thirds of the videos collected by the institute criticized Bush, such sites are not limited to any particular political view. Anti-Kerry efforts include the parody site Kerrycore.com and Crushkerry.com. The organizers of those sites did not respond to requests for interviews by press time.

Blumrich uses a suite of standard desktop publishing tools to compose the short animations. The commercial value of the software he uses amounts to about $855. He pulls photographs for his animations off the Yahoo and Google news and image search engines. The music in the animations mostly come from his personal collection of compact discs.

He does not apologize for the nature of the site and added that his push to stir political passions is constructive. "What's wrong with polarizing people?" he asked. "If people get polarized enough, maybe they'll get incensed enough to vote. People need to be polarized."

...

September 15, 2004 Wednesday

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Patent Experts Hope Ruling Will Foster More Innovation

By Sarah Lai Stirland

Some patent lawyers are cheering a ruling by the nation's patent appeals court earlier this week, and they predict that the overturning of a key legal standard will blunt efforts by some patent holders to unfairly get money from potential competitors.

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said judges should not assume that companies are guilty of willful patent infringement if they either refuse to disclose whether they sought legal advice before selling a product or did not seek advice at all. The ruling reversed the court's previous opinion, that courts had relied upon for guidance.

...

(National Journal's Technology Daily)

 

(National Journal's Technology Daily)

Issue Of The Week: September 13, 2004
The Copyright Criminal Next Door


by Sarah Lai Stirland

Peter Royal, a software developer in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a dance and electronic music enthusiast. One outlet that plays his favorite music is BBC Radio, which broadcasts a show called The Essential Mix every Saturday.

Though BBC appears to have made recent editions of the show available at its Web site, Royal said he uses the BitTorrent file-sharing program to download copies from other sites to his hard drive, which contains more than 3,000 tunes. Royal also uses Apple's Airport Express Wireless router with Airtunes to stream his music to speakers across his apartment.

Royal, who bought 90 percent of the music on his hard drive, said content creators should be paid for their work. But in the spectrum of criminal activity, he equates music sharing to jaywalking. "File sharing isn't stealing, it's copyright infringement," he said. "Digital files aren't really anything. They're just atoms arranged a certain way. The person who creates the music doesn't lose anything tangible from having the file shared. They just lost an [economic] opportunity."

But he and other patrons of file-sharing networks may be surprised to discover that existing law does make mass copyright infringement a crime. And legislation now before Congress attempts to take aim at the illegal kinds of behavior that might be enhanced by software such as BitTorrent.

The Standard Of Criminality

A Senate bill, S. 2560, on "inducing" copyright infringement has garnered the most attention in the latest battle over shaping digital copyright law, but a House measure, H.R. 4077, focused on file-sharing activities also is generating concern among technology industry lobbyists.

...

 

Issue Of The Week: May 10, 2004
Google's Future In Washington

by Sarah Lai Stirland

Google's plan for an advertising-supported e-mail service has made the search-engine firm the latest whipping boy for watchdogs in the digital era. Without even having formally launched its Gmail service, Google has re-ignited the global debate about expectations of privacy online.

The service offers a gigabyte of e-mail storage for free on one condition: Users agree to have their personal mail on the service scanned for keywords so Google can then direct relevant advertisements based on those keywords. Global protests erupted after the service was announced April 1, and within five days, 31 privacy advocates had issued an open letter asking Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to suspend the test phase of Gmail. By April 12, California state Sen. Liz Figueroa had announced plans for legislation to ban such services.

But privacy likely will be just one of many policy debates that Google's services will provoke. Although Google cannot discuss its policy agenda during its mandatory quiet period before its initial public offering (IPO) of stock, the company previously has addressed issues such as online freedom of speech, intellectual property, and media and telecommunications policy -- all issues that will be central to both its business and to policy debates in the digital era.

"As long as they're the leading search engine, they're going to be a central player, and they should expect to be the center of focus," said David Hart, an associate professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Keeping A Low Lobbying Profile

Andrew McLaughlin is Google's chief policy officer, and his friends said the company could not have chosen a better person to handle what is sure to become a controversial role.

...

A profile of Michael Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Beyond WiFi ...
Did you know that "the airwaves" are a managed resource -- just as the nation's forests and mines are resources? Emerging technologies are rendering our traditional assumptions about the way they work moot. This phenomenon, in turn, is forcing governments around the world to re-think the way they manage this mysterious and elusive New Economy goldmine. This article takes a look at some of those technologies, and how they can benefit our society.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Digital art forming new battleground over royalties
The reality behind 'sharing' culture legally is that it's a bureaucratic and administrative nightmare.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Open spectrum advocates say it will boost technology
If the Federal Communications Commission's rules are tweaked the right way, technology companies in the next five years will have brought to market the equipment that will make the notion of electromagnetic-spectrum scarcity, a fundamental issue of telecom economics, seem quaint.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Reluctant Snoops: For Internet Services, War Against Terror Means Flood of Subpoenas
As law-enforcement authorities ratchet up efforts to track and combat terrorist and other criminal activity online, Internet Service Providers are walking a treacherous tightrope between complying with international privacy laws and meeting investigators' mounting requests for information.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Story postscript: Interestingly, this article is required reading for a course at the Seattle University School of Law.

A chat with the affable Howard Schmidt, vice chairman of the US President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

U.S. civil defense expands to frontiers of cyberspace
A few details on the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board's plans for securing the U.S. "portion" of Cyberspace.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

A Closer Look at "Open Access"
A feature story that examines the challanges that face the Federal Communications Commission as new technologies render the existing regulatory structure increasingly untenable.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Letting Public into Domain
+
Cornerstones of Copyrights: How copyright has evolved
The Internet, once lauded as a frontier of freedom and a place for innovation to flourish, has become a battleground in an emerging war over who should own vast swaths of information and the next good idea.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Postscript: This article provoked an interesting public discussion, with more than two hundred comments debating the role of the public domain. The discussion is archived on Slashdot.

Discussion/Debate on Copyright Awareness Week, an event organized by the Copyright Society
A discussion between myself and Maria Danzilo, the president elect of the Copyright Society. The discussion was aired live on On The Line, a morning program of politics and social issues on New York City's local public radio station, WNYC. The interviewer/moderator was Mike Pesca. The segment is under the headline: "Are You Aware?" on Friday April 26.

The Parody Police: Bash Barney Online; Soon You've Got Mail
An online clearinghouse helps you to figure out whether the bullies have a legal leg to stand on or not.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)


Other People's Property
How Hollywood, in the form of the octogenarian Jack Valenti, is co-opting the debate over our rights to create in Cyberspace.

Revealing the surprises in software's fine print
A story that gives you yet another reason to back up your work and life on your computer now! It's about the sneaky terms in the contracts you sign when you click on the "I agree" button. Software contracts are a controversial and hotly-debated area of the law.
(Seattle Times site registration needed)

Copyright Law Enforcement Provokes Global Wave of Protests
Programmers and civil libertarians protest the unprecedented arrest of a Russian programmer for writing, selling and demonstrating software that unlocks eBooks. Dmitry Sklyarov of Elcomsoft was charged with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Software enables new way to bypass global laws
Civil disobedience techniques in Cyberspace

WTO trade agreement called hypocritical
Activists criticize the WTO's intellectual property agreements protecting pharmaceutical companies' patents over life-saving drugs.

Why It's Hard To Call New York
The phones were jammed on September 11. But I bet you didn't know that AT&T fixed its networks to make it easier for New Yorkers to call out of NYC than for relatives to call in.

Is your bank selling your financial secrets?
How to protect your financial privacy

Shouldering costs is at the center of the junk e-mail debate
The financial services industry's role in shaping the federal laws on junk e-mail.

Will carelessness kill the Internet?
This is really quite an old write-up of a speech, but the issues are still relevant. Especially the stuff about the end-to-end principle.

The Private Sector
(you need Adobe Acrobat to read this. Click on this link if you need to download this free software.)
Advice for financial advisors on how to comply with the Gramm Leach Bliley Act

White Hat Hackers
A computer security expert shows me how easy it is to bust into a company's network and wreak havoc.

Virtual Gumshoes: on the Trail of e-Fraud
 
A profile of the Securities and Exchange Commission's fraud squad

A few clips from Red Herring

Who will incubate the incubators?
Captures the craziness of the times

The Chinese Puzzle
A profile of Richard Li's PCCW in Hong Kong

VCs in India
A dispatch from Mumbai

China's VC Syndrome
A dispatch from Beijing

China's New Economy Attracts VC Cash
The road to the new economy is filled with obstacles, VCs find as they look to invest in Chinese high-tech firms

 

 
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