This Week in Tech: Online piracy bill moves front and center


The bill is drawing opposition both from the left and the right, including Tea Party activists worried about the potential regulatory burden, free speech advocates who claim the bill will allow the government to censor content, and Internet companies worried about the bottom line.

>But the bill’s supporters are numerous, well-funded and bolstered by evidence that online piracy is sapping their profits and costing the country jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and lobbying shops for the retail, apparel and entertainment industries have made online piracy a top priority this year.
The House Judiciary Committee hearing is expected to be sympathetic to victims of online piracy, and opponents of the bill have expressed doubt that their voices will be heard. In response, critics have scheduled several briefings the day before in hopes of ensuring their concerns get full airing.
There is flexibility on the legislation’s final terms, according to House Intellectual Property subpanel chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), thought he said that all Internet players would be expected to step up their efforts to eradicate the theft of intellectual property that has become common on the Internet.
Opponents hope that if the House bill differs enough from its Senate counterpart, efforts to reconcile the two will fold and scuttle the entire effort.
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hold a hearing on cybersecurity. Witnesses include Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security; and Richard Downing, chief of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit.
Also Tuesday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing on the re-appointment of Jon Leibowitz as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Leibowitz has led the agency since 2009 and served as a commissioner since 2004.

The House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee on border security will hold a Tuesday hearing examining how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can use military technology to better safeguard the border. 

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce telecom subpanel will mark up two pieces of legislation from chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) aimed at overhauling the way the Federal Communications Commission does business. The bills would consolidate the FCC’s congressional reporting requirements and require further justification before adopting new regulations.

The issue of online gambling hits the Senate on Thursday as the full Indian Affairs Committee will meet to discuss how changes to the current legal structure could affect Native American tribes, which currently aren’t subject to federal taxation on their gaming revenue.

Momentum for legalizing Internet gambling and instituting federal regulation has increased in recent months after the Obama administration shut down the bulk of the online poker industry earlier this year.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s manufacturing subpanel will hold its second hearing on Internet gambling Friday. The hearing is expected to focus on regulation and what federal oversight of online poker or gaming would look like.

The House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Cybersecurity will hold a Thursday hearing on how to encourage innovation in the cybersecurity space despite limitations on the availability of federal funding. David Maurer, director of Homeland Security and Justice issues at the Government Accountability Office, and Tara O’Toole, undersecretary of the Science and Technology Directorate at DHS, will testify.
Off Capitol Hill, the American Bar Association will host the 2011 Antitrust Fall Forum on Thursday at the National Press Club. In the morning, Sharis Pozen, chief of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, will talk about her agency’s current issues and policy priorities. The Antitrust Division is in charge of the government’s lawsuit to block AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. At 11:15, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz will discuss his agency’s law enforcement actions and initiatives. 

After lunch, Joseph Wayland, the Justice Department’s attorney in charge of the AT&T case, will speak on a panel about encouraging innovation. Richard G. Parker, an attorney with O’Melveny & Myers who is representing T-Mobile in the antitrust lawsuit, will speak on a panel at 4:00 p.m. on criminal antitrust enforcement.
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