Democracy and Technology Blog

$8.2 Billion in Annual Losses to Advertisers and Media from Infringement and Fraud

The U.S. digital marketing, advertising and media industry lose $8.2 billion annually, according to a study prepared by EY for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as a result of ad fraud; stolen video programming, music and editorial content; and malware. The report observes that each of these categories, i.e., “invalid traffic,” “infringed content” and “malvertising,” can be interrelated. An excellent example is a consumer who visits an infringed content site containing malware and infects the consumer’s browser with a robot that is later used to drive invalid traffic. If the industry can eliminate the profits earned by serving ads next to infringed content, it can reduce the amount of money available to drive illegal activities in the supply chain. Thus, for Read More ›


More On What’s In Store for the FCC’s Open Internet Rules

Hal Singer has discovered that total wireline broadband investment has declined 12% in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014. The net decrease was $3.3 billion across the six largest ISPs. As far as what could have caused this, the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order “is the best explanation for the capex meltdown,” Singer writes. Despite numerous warnings from economists and other experts, the FCC confidently predicted in paragraph 40 of the Open Internet Order that “recent events have demonstrated that our rules will not disrupt capital markets or investment.” Chairman Wheeler acknowledged that diminished investment in the network is unacceptable when the commission adopted the Open Internet Order by a partisan 3-2 vote. Read More ›


Special Access Regulation Would Harm Competition

A British telecom executive alleges that Verizon and AT&T may be overcharging corporate customers approximately $9 billion a year for wholesale “special access,” services, according to the Financial Times. The Federal Communications Commission is presently evaluating proprietary data from both providers and purchasers of high-capacity, private line (i.e., special access) services. Some competitors want nothing less than for the FCC to regulate Verizon’s and AT&T’s prices and terms of service. There’s a real danger the FCC could be persuaded-as it has in the past-to set wholesale prices at or below cost in the name of promoting competition. That discourages investment in the network by incumbents and new entrants alike. As researcher Susan Gately explained in 2007, a study by her Read More ›


Google probe may be revived

Attorneys general from forty states and the District of Columbia have asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to lift a preliminary injunction preventing a state attorney general from investigating Google’s business practices.

In 2011, Google signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in which it acknowledged that it improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacy advertisers target U.S. consumers. Google agreed to forfeit $500 million and to adopt compliance and reporting measures.

“State Attorneys General have reason to believe that Google’s services are still being used for unlawful activities,” according to a brief filed on behalf of Mississippi AG James M. Hood, III at the end of June.

Google asserts that it’s not liable for displaying information created by third parties. “Congress broadly immunized interactive computer service providers from state regulation for displaying information created by others,” according to the company’s December 2014 motion for preliminary injunction.

However, three federal appellate courts have ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to which Google refers, does not confer unlimited immunity.

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Modernize the Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office would be given greater autonomy pursuant to a proposal unveiled by two members of Congress last week, and the agency’s Director would be appointed for a ten year term by the President upon the advice of a bipartisan, bicameral commission and with the consent of the Senate.

The Copyright Office was established as a separate department in the Library of Congress in 1897. The head of the Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights, serves at the pleasure of the Librarian of Congress. But the Copyright Office has outgrown the Library of Congress. For example, the Library of Congress hasn’t delivered the necessary information technology environment so the Copyright Office can meet or exceed customer expectations in the Digital Age.

An efficient copyright system increases the supply of creative content by incentivizing content creators and rewarding investors who underwrite the cost of bringing the creations to market. The Copyright Office must make extensive use of IT to process copyright registration applications, preserve deposited copies of copyrighted works and maintain records of the transfer of copyright ownership. If the Copyright Office fails, there could be unintended consequences for the copyright system.

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The Wrong Way to End the Terrestrial Radio Exemption

A bill before Congress would for the first time require radio broadcasters to pay royalty fees to recording artists and record labels pursuant to the Copyright Act. The proposed Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1733) would “[make] sure that all radio services play by the same rules, and all artists are fairly compensated,” according to Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). … AM/FM radio has used whatever music it wants without paying a cent to the musicians, vocalists, and labels that created it. Satellite radio has paid below market royalties for the music it uses … The bill would still allow for different fees for AM/FM radio, satellite radio and Internet radio, but it would mandate a “minimum fee” for each Read More ›


This Is Not How We Should Ensure Net Neutrality

Chairman Thomas E. Wheeler of the Federal Communications Commission unveiled his proposal this week for regulating broadband Internet access under a 1934 law. Since there are three Democrats and two Republicans on the FCC, Wheeler’s proposal is likely to pass on a party-line vote and is almost certain to be appealed. Free market advocates have pointed out that FCC regulation is not only unnecessary for continued Internet openness, but it could lead to years of disruptive litigation and jeopardize investment and innovation in the network. Writing in WIRED magazine, Wheeler argues that the Internet wouldn’t even exist if the FCC hadn’t mandated open access for telephone network equipment in the 1960s, and that his mid-1980s startup either failed or was Read More ›


Secret conspiracy to revive SOPA?

According to Google, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has: "conspired to achieve [the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)]'s goals through non-legislative means,"; "pointed its guns at Google," and "did the legal legwork for the Mississippi State Attorney General." Where to begin? If MPAA and its members are protecting their rights through "non-legislative means," is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. Read More ›

The Myth That Title II Regulation of Broadband and Wireless Would Be Comparable

Supporters of Title II reclassification for broadband Internet access services point to the fact that some wireless services have been governed by a subset of Title II provisions since 1993. No one is complaining about that. So what, then, is the basis for opposition to similar regulatory treatment for broadband? Austin Schlick, the former FCC general counsel, outlined the so-called “Third Way” legal framework for broadband in a 2010 memo that proposed Title II reclassification along with forbearance of all but six of Title II’s 48 provisions. He noted that “this third way is a proven success for wireless communications.” This is the model that President Obama is backing. Title II reclassification “doesn’t have to be a big deal,” Harold Read More ›


Combating online piracy with better and more convenient legitimate services

The motion picture industry has established a search site to help consumers find non-pirated movies and TV shows available on the Internet: WheretoWatch.com. A study by NetNames estimated that 23.8% of all the bandwidth consumed in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific in January 2013 was used to access pirated content. There are more than 100 legal online services offering movie and television content in the U.S., according to Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd of the Motion Picture Association of America, and a study by KPMG found that 94% of the most popular and critically acclaimed films were legally available online in December 2013. Read More ›