Digital thieves are stealing from me

I am an author living in Texas. My Congressman, Lamar Smith, introduced a bill this fall to help protect copyrights online. I wish this effort every success. 

Since 1995, I've been a published author, first under contract to Kensington Publishing and, since 1997, to HarperCollins/Avon. For the last three years, I've been watching as digital thieves began offering my books – free – to anyone, sometimes in an effort to make money for themselves (with sites such as Filesonic), and sometimes, just because they could. "Love Karen Ranney's books – here they are, all thirty of them!"

For the last three years, I've been watching my royalties drop, even as I actively fight digital thieves. Each month, I routinely take down between a hundred to two hundred links to my "free" books. Each day, I go to twenty-seven digital thief sites (I refuse to call them pirates – they're thieves). Each day, this costs me an hour to an hour and a half of work time.

As a writer, I am often frustrated when I hear people justify illegal downloading by claiming that no one is hurt from piracy – or that "all information on the Internet should be free, man." Guess what? I don't create information. I create entertainment, with my imagination and by sitting in a chair for twelve to sixteen hours a day, day after day.


The copyright lobby comeuppance

As a representative of some of America’s most innovative companies, I have long fought against the legendary copyright lobby. But rarely in my 30 years of battle have I witnessed the copyright owners (Hollywood, the music industry, etc.) perform such a blatant power grab with a pair of bills moving through Congress today.

Their legislation – the PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and its House equivalent, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R.3261) – is so far reaching that, if enacted, it will chill Internet innovation, economic progress and job growth for the next generation.


Internet piracy bill: A free speech 'kill switch'

What began as an attempt to restrain foreign piracy on the Internet has morphed into a domestic “kill switch” on First Amendment freedom in the fastest-growing corner of the marketplace of ideas.

Proposed federal legislation purporting to protect online intellectual property would also impose sweeping new government mandates on internet service providers – a positively Orwellian power grab that would permit the U.S. Justice Department to shut down any internet site it doesn’t like (and cut off its sources of income) on nothing more than a whim.


FCC plays fast and loose with the law…again

The FCC may be starting to wish it hadn’t released that draft report critical of AT&T’s application to merge with T-Mobile USA after all.

Analysts, legal scholars, and economists have already uncovered plenty of reasons to question the quality of the staff’s analysis of the deal, which was never voted on by the Commissioners.  That is, other than Chairman Julius Genachowski, who released it even after the parties withdrew their application to concentrate on an upcoming antitrust trial.

Now another disturbing irregularity has turned up, this time hiding in a footnote.  It seems the report’s strongly-worded recommendation to reject the deal is based in large part on fudging one of two preliminary calculations the agency uses to start its merger reviews:  the spectrum screen.


The downside of eCommerce

By most accounts, Black Friday this year was a big success.  Sales figures exceeded expectations as throngs turned out to snap up $20 toasters and $200 flat-screen TVs.   But for all the millions who got up from turkey and pie to head for the nearest local mall, many shoppers ventured no farther than the computer in the next room.  

E-commerce has come to play a critical role in the U.S. economy.  On-line sales for “Cyber Monday,” last week jumped roughly a third compared to last year—reaching well over $1 billion in a single day.  On a yearly basis, e-commerce generated more than $160 billion in sales in 2010 alone.  

There’s much to cheer about in these numbers, and not just for retailers.  The Internet offers consumers access to a remarkable array of options and far better information for discriminating among them.  A market of buyers and sellers unbound by geography can achieve levels of competitiveness and efficiency Adam Smith never dreamed of, driving prices down and spurring manufacturers to innovate relentlessly.  


Another opportunity to question Google practices

As the year draws to a close, one of the biggest stories of 2011 in technology and regulatory policy has been the increasing scrutiny of Google – its market power and its behavior.  This week brings yet another opportunity to hear policymakers address this important issue when a House Judiciary subcommittee looks at “Oversight of the Antitrust Agencies.”  

The hearing will present an opportunity to raise one of the most important issues facing our antitrust officials today - the question of how to address the growing market power of Google. 

Consumers and businesses who rely on the Internet for their information are worried about the power that Google has in the marketplace.  Depending on the source, Google has anywhere from 65 to 85 percent share of the online search marketplace, and dominates online video, mobile search and mapping.  


The preseason does not count: Why the FCC staff paper won’t impact the ATT/TMobile merger trial

In early August, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Baltimore Ravens 13-6.  The Eagles, who had bulked up their team in the offseason, were being declared “America’s Team” and inevitable champions.  Perhaps the defeat of the Ravens was a sign of the potential Super Bowl victory that awaited long beleaguered Eagles fans.  Indeed, the Eagles won three of their first four games.

There was only one problem.  It was the preseason. And the preseason does not count, as evidenced by the Eagles’ current 4-8 record.

This is a vital lesson to the scores of commentators pouring over the FCC staff’s paper on the ATT/TMobile merger.  Even though regulatory staffs traditionally guard their staff work from public disclosure, the FCC bucked tradition by sharing it in the public domain.  

Now the merger opponents will argue that the FCC decision dooms the ATT/TMobile merger.  They will claim it provides a perfect roadmap for Judge Huvelle to find the merger anticompetitive and block it.  They will demand that it demonstrates without dispute that the merger is anticompetitive.  

They could not be more wrong.


Dead mergers

Watching AT&T try to save its proposed merger with T-Mobile is like watching a remake of The Sixth Sense: The lead character is dead but doesn’t know it yet. 

As much as AT&T pretends to the contrary, the takeover flat-lined last week when the FCC indicated it would oppose the deal. While some observers framed the FCC’s move to designate the merger for an “administrative hearing” as just another setback for AT&T, it was actually a fatal blow. The Department of Justice blocks mergers with lawsuits; the FCC does the same with hearings.

More damning than what the FCC was about to do were the reasons behind that decision. The agency rejected the claims in AT&T’s advertising and lobbying blitz, concluding that the merger would be a massive jobs killer that wouldn’t lead to faster rollout of 4G services to rural America. The FCC also confirmed the Department of Justice’s analysis that the merger would do immeasurable harm to competition and innovation.


Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum

There are no priorities before Congress more pressing than spurring private sector job growth and reducing the deficit.

That’s why, under my direction, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee has dedicated the past year to exploring how spectrum policy can help accomplish these goals.

Following multiple hearings, negotiations, and input from job creators, public safety officials, and other stakeholders, I am disappointed that we could not develop a bipartisan bill. But for the sake of the economy and public safety, we decided to take the best ideas and move forward today with unveiling the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011.


The Supercommittee can increase revenues and add jobs through spectrum auctions

Few proposals lawmakers have been considering in recent weeks aimed at restoring our fiscal discipline have the immediate ability to generate revenue for the Treasury, stimulate direct domestic investment, spur innovation, and create jobs than spectrum auctions.

At the moment, spectrum is in short supply.  Currently in use for “over the air” television delivery, which is consumed by fewer than 10 percent of American households, this underutilized spectrum could be reallocated for mobile broadband usage. Cisco estimates the volume of mobile data in the United States will double every year through 2014, increasing 39 times between 2009 and 2014, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 108 percent.

Industry studies have determined there are currently more than 276 million wireless subscribers in the United States, which represents a penetration rate of 89 percent. The number of subscribers increased by 40 percent between June 2005 and June 2009 while the number of wireless-only households nearly tripled.