The problem with PIPA: the Protect IP Act

The self-appointed innovators and their advocates who are pushing the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are indeed inventive in one key regard -- their propaganda achieves new heights of doublespeak.  Or perhaps the irony is lost on Tom Feeney as he cries “Innovation!'” in his efforts to enact policy that would undermine the greatest engine of creation humanity has ever known: the Internet.

The entertainment industry's supposed creatives are reprising an awfully familiar role as they push PIPA:  Remember when "home taping was killing music" at the dawn of the cassette recorder era?  Rather than catch up with the times, these lumbering dinosaurs want to drag the rest of us back into prehistory -- Feeney once even advocated withholding federal funding from universities whose students download copyrighted content.


Congress needs to shut down rogue websites

Article I of the Constitution authorizes Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  The philosophy is typically American – give authors and innovators property rights for their creations and, in return, America receives more and better innovation. The statement is, perhaps, the highest expression of free market capitalism and property protection anywhere in the Constitution.

Experience tells us that this philosophy works, but only when the property rights are secured by the rule of law.  Permitting thieves to siphon off the value of the property undermines both the system and the individual’s incentive to create, innovate and develop.  Property owners rely on law enforcement and the courts to protect them from that illegal misappropriation.

Today, the intellectual property of any creation placed online is threatened, and America's innovators must have assurance that their products will not be used without their permission.  Too many websites are being operated by sophisticated pirates for the purpose of stealing America's most innovative and creative products.  These often elaborate and well-designed sites appear legitimate but are actually criminal enterprises that sell unsafe counterfeit products like prescription drugs or faulty electronics, provide illegal downloads of copyrighted materials like movies or music, and, in some cases, are involved in identity theft and the spread of malicious computer viruses.


Dial “J” for Jobs: Why antitrust concerns should not impede the AT&T/T-Mobile alliance

The Department of Justice suit against AT&T/T-Mobile seems contrary to the goals of the administration.  Challenging a deal which promises to save thousands of American jobs, and has the potential to create new jobs, will undermine the President’s renewed focus on job creation.   Over 9.2 percent of Americans remain unemployed and restoring economic growth is the nation's most critical priority.
Our antitrust laws play a small but important role in helping to spur employment.  Sound antitrust enforcement can spur economic growth by eliminating unnecessary barriers to entry, or by protecting rivalry.  When antitrust enforcement is used prudently, the benefits of greater competition not only lead to lower prices and output, but hopefully greater job growth.  However, the DOJ’s suit has the possibility to prevent hope for job growth.
The impact on job growth and job preservation is critical to the ongoing debate on the AT&T – T-Mobile merger.  The opponents to the merger sound the alarm that the deal will eliminate thousands of American jobs.  Attacks on the merger that are premised on job losses, however, are ultimately unfounded for several reasons.


Are consumers at the mercy of Google?

The Senate Antitrust Subcommittee has called Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to testify during a hearing examining online competition.  Google seemingly showers consumers with dozens of free services—and connects us to other businesses—so why is its chairman being called to DC?
The issues involve threat to consumer privacy and anticompetitive risks that limit market choices and innovation.  Members of the U.S. Senate are right to ask Schmidt some tough questions about how Google operates, its 100-plus mergers and how its operations impact consumers and healthy marketplace competition.
Whether you realize it or not, Google is virtually impossible to avoid on the Internet. The company’s dominant position in search, search advertising, mobile search, online video, mapping, and website analytics means Google constantly collects your data.  And Google is now leveraging its dominant position to move into other markets, including travel, local information services and mobile phones.


The research and development gap

America is in grave danger of loosing its edge. For over one hundred years, American leadership in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing has been unrivaled. It has created for us not only one of the highest standards of living any civilization has ever achieved, but also brought American preeminence in the world and a strong national defense.

Now, unfortunately, this is all at risk due to the lack of long-term planning, little political will, and slowing investment in science and engineering research.

As every business leader knows, prosperity tomorrow requires investment today. This is true whether the economy is in a period of boom or bust. The United States will not simply “grow” its way out of economic malaise. We need a rebirth of innovation: new products, new ways of doing things, new scientific achievements.


Google's big bet on the mobile future

From the debt ceiling debate to presidential primary rhetoric, national politics are whipping into a partisan frenzy in the march to the 2012 elections. At the moment, the hot air has had a largely deflationary effect on the nation’s spirits (and markets)—leaving the public wondering what our leaders can do to get the one in five un- or under-employed Americans back to work.

Against this bleak backdrop, the U.S. innovation community is buzzing over the fresh news of Google’s bullish $12.5 billion bet on the mobile future. The mega-deal to acquire Motorola Mobility is the largest acquisition yet for the company. And, it puts the online search giant squarely into the device-making business—and right into the competitive crosshairs of Apple and other manufacturers of modern, must-have smartphones and tablets.


Don't forget about the under-banked consumer

Banks have always talked about "banking the unbanked,” however, what they meant was "how can (they) educate these consumers so they can become bankable." Banks have never been willing to change their product offerings to meet the real needs of this massive consumer group by adding services such as check cashing, money transfers, walk up bill payments, and now prepaid Visa/MC debit cards.

More and more today banks are focused on redefining their product set to meet the needs of these consumers by offering them the services they are buying today at the corner check casher or market. This shift in mentality has been pushed along by recent legislative changes in Washington (Durbin, etc.) that will significantly reduce the fee income these banks generate from deposit accounts, debit cards, and credit cards.


Varney's depature is unfortunate for DOJ's antitrust division

On Friday, August 5, Christine Varney will leave her post as assistant attorney general for antitrust just as her staff is in the middle of evaluating one of the most significant transactions this country has seen in decades.

AT&T's proposed $39 billion takeover of national rival T-Mobile would, if approved reshape the telecommunications landscape, handing AT&T and Verizon control over 80 percent of this country's wireless market.

The good news about Varney's departure is that the Antitrust Division's professional staff is well along in its analysis of the deal. The bad news is that her departure presents the opportunity for mischief, which should be denied at all costs.


Make more energy-efficient gadgets

How many electronic devices do you have in your home? How many televisions, computers, iPods, video games, and telephones do you use on a daily basis? Electronic gadgets already account for about 15 percent of household electric consumption, and as these gadgets proliferate, their energy use continues to grow.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2030, new electronic gadgets will triple their energy consumption to 1,700 terawatt hours, the equivalent of the home electricity consumption of the US and Japan combined. According to the IEA, the international community will have to build over 15,000 wind turbines (or 200 nuclear power plants) to power all the TVs, iPods, PCs and other home electronics expected to be plugged in by 2030. The electric bill to power all household electronics will top $200 billion a year, compared with last year’s bill of $80 billion. Most of this increase in consumer electronics will occur in developing countries, where economic growth is outpacing developed nations and ownership rates of gadgets are lowest. 


The SAFE Data Act does not ensure data security

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a markup on H.R. 2577, the SAFE Data Act.  

Unfortunately, the name of the bill is quite deceiving. Passage of the bill will not make consumer data safer. Instead, it preempts important state laws in this area and leaves a weak federal one in their place.

This bill does not even address the recent data breaches at Sony and Epsilon, the very data breaches that prompted the Committee to act in the first place. Both of those breaches involved email addresses; H.R. 2577 does not require companies to secure consumers’ email addresses or to inform them if they’re taken by hackers.