When content theft is hate

For Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere of New Jersey, the photo was a beautiful reminder of the day they were engaged. Instead, the iconic photo of the two men kissing was stolen by an anti-gay group and used in a political mailer to attack a Colorado state Senate’s support for gay marriage. While there is no doubt that their likeness was misappropriated and the photographer’s work was stolen, really something more happened here: Brian and Tom were the victims of hate.
It’s a teenager’s worst nightmare: provocative photos are stolen and posted online by classmates who want to ruin your life. Or an ex-boyfriend lets the world see a sex-video that you thought was just for you and him. It’s called “slut-shaming,” and it’s the latest and most vicious form of cyber bullying.


We must remain steadfast on space flight safety

Ten years ago, the U.S. space program and the Nation suffered a tragedy that was a stark reminder of the challenges and risks involved in human spaceflight. On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas on its way home. Commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and David Brown, payload commander Michael Anderson, and Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, were all lost when part of Columbia’s heat-resistant surface failed to protect the Shuttle orbiter as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.


SHIELD Act will help address patent system abuses

As the country continues to endure tough economic times, policy makers play a role in aiding in America’s recovery. This begins with creating an environment for start-up companies and established businesses to grow and thrive. In an ever-growing global market, it has never been more important that companies have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Our economy is driven by innovation and therefore, the government is tasked with finding ways to ensure intellectual property protection incentivizes development of new and improved products, and isn’t used as an impediment, stifling competition.


The real privacy issue

It is Data Privacy Day, a day organized by privacy advocates to call attention to the risks to us all from the use of personal information. The advocates don’t lack for outlets for their fears: whether it is a company developing new features based on social network data or scientists identifying anonymous individuals based on genomic data, privacy issues continue to make headlines. And accompanying these news stories are grumblings and misgivings from privacy advocates lamenting technological progress and the inevitable demise of our culture and commerce should we continue down this path unabated.


Google antitrust settlement surprises everyone

The recent settlement by the Federal Trade Commission with Google leaves privacy advocates shocked and dismayed but smartphone manufacturers will be jubilant.

Following an investigation of Google’s business practices, the FTC’s settlement has been deemed feeble by most and even outrageous by some corporations, like Microsoft. Microsoft has contended that Google have been stifling the competition and feels that the company has been let off the hook. It is true that Google has been looking to lock consumers into its suite of services through Google+ and its acquisition of Motorola Mobility worried many smartphone developers that it would squeeze the competition. The merger saw Google acquire invaluable telecommunications patents so that it could have even more control over the development of smartphones and tablet devices, thereby relying less on third party manufacturers and become a more aggressive competitor to Apple.


The broadband economy: A square deal all around

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt launched an era of activist government, checking the excesses of the Industrial Age with new antitrust, labor and social safety net rules. Yet the “Trust-buster” was no anti-capitalist; he also inveighed against the political left who argued that private enterprise was irredeemably corrupt.
“We demand that big business give the people a square deal,” Roosevelt said. “In return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right, he shall himself be given a square deal.”
Roosevelt’s point was that the free market was the engine of unprecedented opportunity and prosperity. But, like anything else, it has flaws and breakdowns; we need the gird of government to make markets work more efficiently and fairly.
This balance is the kind of sensible compromise that most voters — and most economists — seem to endorse today. The breakdown of the auto, banking and health care industries were all met with activist intervention by the federal government. The jury seems to be in, at least on the auto and banking industries.


FTC did the right thing on Google

After investigating Google’s search practices for almost two years, the Federal Trade Commission and its staff undoubtedly wanted more than the few voluntary modifications to which Google has agreed. But the Commission demonstrated its professionalism by concluding that the evidence did not support bringing an antitrust case and that no additional remedy was likely to benefit consumers.
The principal complaint against Google — primarily by its competitors, including specialized search and shopping services — was that its searches were “biased.” For example, Google now tries to directly answer users’ queries rather than simply referring users to other sites. When users search for travel information, Google gives them a list of the best flights to their destination in addition to links to other travel sites. Google’s primary competitor, Bing, provides similar information in its search results.


The question at the core of the data caps debate

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) regularly insist that data caps are a legitimate tool to ease congestion on their networks and an effective way to signal value to consumers. But, as we have argued, data caps do not resolve congestion, are confusing to consumers, and lend themselves to unfair and anticompetitive behavior. 

In light of this disagreement, it is a promising sign that a recent study published by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and co-authored by Steven S. Wildman, the new Chief Economist of the FCC, moves beyond some of the previous rhetoric and takes a significant step towards focusing the debate on real areas of conflict. 

Unfortunately, it stops short of recognizing a critical distinction in understanding the heart of the disagreement. Let’s take a look:


The future of independent voices on cable TV

On January 1, Time Warner Cable (TWC) rung in the New Year by dropping our network, Ovation, from its channel lineup. Other independent networks may face the same fate. These are not isolated incidents but the disturbing result of years of consolidation in the pay TV industry with a small number of dominant carriers offering the networks of a small number of media conglomerates. The result is the homogenization of cable TV and the betrayal of cable’s promise to deliver diversity. Policymakers, concerned citizens and industry leaders need to understand and seek to arrest this trend before it is too late.


No reversal of fortune for Google's opponents

We all remember the movie “Reversal of Fortune” that retells the real life story of Claus von Bulow, accused of attempting to kill his super-wealthy wife. When the movie begins life looks extremely bleak for Claus – he has been convicted of murder, the factual evidence seems compelling and he seems like a wholly unsavory character. Yet Alan Dershowitz arrives on the scene, and although he believes Claus is guilty, he finds new legal avenues, undermines the key evidence, and reverses the conviction.

Google’s opponents probably feel like Claus with the news that the decision in the ongoing Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation has been delayed. The FTC seemed poised to close the investigation into search, perhaps with some enforceable voluntary commitments by Google. Then the announcement was delayed beyond the end of 2012, and we still remain in limbo awaiting the Commission’s decision.