Intellectual Property Roundup

D.C. Court Decision is an Important Victory for Whistleblowers Who Report Piracy

SIIA announced that it has prevailed in its nine-year battle to protect the identity of an anonymous informant who reported an alleged copyright infringement to SIIA. This case is a critical victory for SIIA and its anti-piracy efforts for corporate whistleblowers generally. The nine-year battle, and eventual win, demonstrates the lengths SIIA will go to protect against the disclosure of the identity of those who allege piracy. Read the full announcement here.

Enforcement News 

Apple Declines to Fund Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures (GigaOM)
Intellectual Ventures is seeking a major new investment to expand its controversial patent trolling operations, but Apple has turned down an invitation to join Microsoft and Sony in backing a new IV patent acquisition fund.

RIAA Sues Megaupload Over Copyright Infringement (Ars Technica)
Just three days after the Motion Picture Association brought a civil lawsuit against Megaupload, the Recording Industry Association jumped in with its own case, bringing the number of lawsuits filed against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues to three.

Media, Rights Groups Urge Court to Revisit Takedown of Anti-Muslim YouTube Video(Ars Technica)
Several media groups and rights organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, have rallied behind Google to urge a federal appeals court to revisit its takedown order of an inflammatory anti-Muslim video on YouTube, saying the decision allows subjects of news events to control coverage.

Broadcasters Seek an Aereo ‘Plan B’ (The Wall Street Journal)
The nation’s largest television broadcasters are considering contingency plans in case they lose a high-stakes Supreme Court battle against online video startup Aereo Inc.

IP Policy News

Leahy Walks Tightrope on Senate Patent Bill (The Hill)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is hoping to advance a complex patent reform bill when the Senate returns from its two-week recess, but will have to balance the competing interests of Republicans and Democrats to get his bill across the finish line.

Keeping the Internet Free – For Now (The Wall Street Journal)
Less than a month after announcing its plan to relinquish control of ICANN, the White House is having second thoughts about surrendering America’s online oversight, following objections by Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican Senators, and critical congressional hearings.

Pirated Downloads Now Prohibited in the Netherlands (PC World)
The Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice has banned downloading pirated content following a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, finally making this illegal for people in the Netherlands.
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SIIA Applauds DOJ and FTC Guidance that Sharing of Cybersecurity Information Does Not Violate Antitrust Laws

Companies have sometimes been reluctant to share cyber threat information due to concerns over violating antitrust laws. Last Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) addressed these concerns by issuing a joint policy statement affirming the legality of cybersecurity information sharing under the antitrust laws. The Agencies (DOJ and FTC) acknowledged that information sharing is critical to mitigating the severity and frequency of cyber attacks and therefore issued guidance.

SIIA applauds the Agencies’ commitment to protecting American enterprise and advocating for the necessary information sharing to combat the increasing number of cyber threats. This is an important step forward.  Congress can add to it by passing legislation that would provide a safe harbor against the risk of frivolous lawsuits for companies that share cybersecurity threat information.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole in remarks at the Pen and Pad Briefing had this to say,

“Some companies have told us that concerns about antitrust liability has been a barrier to being able to openly share cyber threat information with each other. We have heard you. And speaking on behalf of everyone here today, this guidance responds to those concerns, lets everyone know that antitrust concerns should not get in the way of sharing cybersecurity information, and signals our continued commitment to expanding the sharing of cybersecurity information.”

The importance of sharing cyber threat information, in the interest of protecting and improving the safety of American networks cannot be overstated. This system of sharing as indicated by Cole has three parts:

  1. Companies sharing with government
  2. Government sharing with companies
  3. Companies sharing with each other

Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer reiterated,

“As we are well aware, cyber threats are increasing in number and sophistication, and sharing information about threats, such as incident reports, indicators and threat signatures, is something companies can do to protect their information systems and help secure our nation’s infrastructure. This kind of information sharing is good public policy. And the antitrust agencies support it.”

To read the Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission “Antitrust Policy Statement on Sharing of Cybersecurity Information” please click here.

Sabrina Eyob is the Communications and Public Policy Intern at SIIA. She is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied Comparative Cultures and Politics, and International Relations.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Enforcement News

ISP’s “Six-Strike” System is Now in Full Force, Says Industry Official (GigaOM)
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official stated that the “six-strike” anti-piracy program involving major Internet service providers is now in full effect, more than a year after news of the so-called Copyright Alert System was first reported.

ICANN Chief: Russia, China Will Not Hijack Internet Oversight (Reuters)
The head of ICANN defended the U.S. government’s move to cede oversight of the body, and downplayed concerns that Russia, china or other countries could exert control and restrict the web’s openness.

Rightscorp Finds Shortcut to Expose Alleged Bittorrent Pirates (TorrentFreak)
Anti-piracy firm Rightscorp has found a shortcut to obtaining the personal details of account holders connected to pirating IP-addresses. Instead of having a judge decide, Rightscorp obtains DMCA subpoenas which only a court clerk has to sign off on.

Document Reveals When Copyright Trolls Drop Piracy Cases (TorrentFreak)
A submission to an Illinois court that was supposed to remain under seal has revealed when Malibu Media, a so-called “copyright-troll,” will dismiss cases against alleged pirates.

Diller Sees Aereo in Every Major City if Backed by Court (Bloomberg)
Barry Diller plans to expand Aereo’s streaming-TV service into every major U.S. city if the startup prevails in its fight with broadcasters before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Studios File New Lawsuit Against MegaUpload and Its Founder (The New York Times)
Hollywood’s major film studios added a new civil lawsuit on copyright infringement to the legal challenges facing MegaUpload’s owners.

Policy News

House Republican Working on Patent Demand Letter Bill (The Hill)
Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb) pledged to introduce a bipartisan bill to curb demand letters from “patent trolls,” saying the bill will likely establish requirements about what information must be included in demand letters.

Senate Patent Markup Pushed Back Again (The Hill)
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Chairman Patrick Leahy’s patent reform bill, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, has been pushed back a third time as committee members negotiate contentious provisions.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

Digital Policy Roundup

District Court Upholds FTC Data Security Authority

On April 7, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in New Jersey upheld the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to bring cases against firms for failure to observe reasonable security practices. The FTC has brought over 30 data security cases in the last decade, but the hotel chain Wyndham World challenged that authority in court in 2012 after the FTC brought a case against them. The judge refused to “carve out a data-security exception to the FTC’s authority” to protect consumers, saying Wyndham’s position would “bring us into unchartered territory.” The judge, however, also said her ruling “does not give the FTC a blank check to sustain a lawsuit against every business that has been hacked.” The ruling was silent on the merits of the underlying complaint, and Wyndham said it continued to believe that the FTC lacked authority to bring the case.

European Court Rejects Data Retention Mandate

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled today that the 2006 EU directive requiring telecom operators to retain data for two years in invalid. The directive, which was passed as an anti-terrorism measure after the July 7, 2005 London subway and bus terrorist bombings, obliged telecom firms to keep data for two years about customer locations, calls texts and emails. The operators were not obliged to keep the contents of these communications. However, the ECJ still ruled that the directive contravened the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and therefore recommended that the directive be overturned. The directive has been controversial since it was passed and some member states such as Germany have not passed legislation implementing it. The ECJ heard the case in response to complaints from civil society groups about telephone data retention laws in Ireland and Austria. Those laws can now be challenged. Member of the European Parliament and General Data Protection Regulation Rapporteur, Jens Albrecht, welcomed the ruling.

House Committee Ponders Preservation and Reuse of Copyrighted Works

Last week, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, IP and the Internet held a hearingon Preservation and Reuse of Copyrighted Works. The hearing spanned a wide range of topics, and Committee Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) expressed interest in several key issues, including digitization in cases of deterioration of works caused by age and decay; the notion that Copyright Act is outdated in the digital age; how to best allow public access to works that may have been abandoned; and technological platforms to connect users and copyright owners. However, there was no uniform view from the six witnesses testifying, nor were there consensus positions demonstrated by committee members. In all, the hearing provided another significant input into the Committee’s ongoing copyright review process. For more information about the hearing and witness testimony, check out the Cmte site.

Recommended Read: The Global War for Internet Governance

Professor Laura DeNardis discussed her book: “The Global War for Internet Governance” at the New America Foundation on April 3. DeNardis book is timely, especially given the Commerce Department’s March 14 decision to privatize the Internet Domain Name Function. She stated that this decision was, in fact, a “big deal.” Brazilian Embassy Minister Counselor Benoni Belli said that as a result of the decision, the atmosphere surrounding the April 23-24 Internet Governance “Netmundial” conference in Sao Paulo is much better. Briefly, the management of the Internet’s root zone file will be transferred from ICANN and Verisign to a multistakeholder body as early as 2015 when the ICANN/Versign contracts with the Department of Commerce lapse. There are conditions though, chiefly that whatever model emerges supports and enhances the multistakeholder approach. DeNardis supports “multistakeholderism,” although she cautioned that the multistakeholder approach is not the answer to every Internet Governance challenge.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPubPolicy.

Preserving Incentives for R&D – Letter to Committee on Ways and Means

This morning, in a letter emailed to members of the Committee on Ways and Means, SIIA along with twenty software association cosigners wrote in support of preserving incentives for domestic research and development. Emphasizing the important role R&D plays in our economy, the letter noted:

“In 2011 alone, businesses invested $267.3 billion in R&D in the United States. Thus, efforts of the Ways and Means Committee to make this tax credit permanent are consistent with sound tax and economic policy.”

Research and development in general is essential to innovation. With particular emphasis on the unique value of R&D in software, the letter encouraged a strong and inclusive R&D tax credit. To read the full letter click here.

Sabrina Eyob is the Communications and Public Policy Intern at SIIA. She is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied Comparative Cultures and Politics, and International Relations.

SIIA Supports FY15 Funding for ConnectEDucators

Our K-12 education system continues its embrace of technology and digital learning to improve school operations and student learning. According to SIIA’s Vision K-20 educator survey, 81% of responding K-12 educators report technology integration as highly important to them. While educator support is strong, teacher knowledge and skills continue to slow progress. The same SIIA survey found that only 20% say their institution currently has a high level of technology integration. To that end, SIIA supports President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal for ConnectEDucators, which would provide $200-$500 million in funding “to help educators leverage technology and data to provide high-quality college- and career-ready instruction that meets the needs of all students.”

Support for teachers, principals and other educators is critical to the effective use of technology in education, which in turn is necessary to ensure student success in the digital age and global economy. Educators need support not only in how to use the technology, but as importantly, in how to redesign their curriculum and instruction to a more engaging, student-centered model. This means using data systems to better understand the performance and needs of each student on a regular basis, and using the Internet, creativity and communication tools, and digital learning repositories to mix and match resources that best meet each student’s unique needs.

The budget proposal is one element of President Obama’s ConnectEd initiative announced last year, which centers around ensuring student highspeed broadband connectivity. The proposed ConnectEDucators program, would provide: (1) formula-based State Leadership Grants to help enhance state and local capacity to support the transition to digital learning; and (2) competitive, 3-year grants to school districts to support the implementation of comprehensive plans to ensure that educators have the skills and supports needed to dramatically improve student access to high-quality instruction through technology and digital learning.  Among the envisioned uses of funds are support for educators to: deliver high-quality digital learning resources and content, use a wide range of devices and digital tools, use real-time data to personalize learning, use technology to increase engagement with families and other teachers, and access online professional learning.

SIIA calls on the U.S. Congress to respond to the needs of our teachers and students and appropriate at least $200 million in FY15 funding for the ConnectEDucators program.

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.


Intellectual Property Roundup

Enforcement News

Apple’s War on Samsung Has Google in Crossfire (The New York Times)
Officially, it’s Apple versus Samsung Electronics in another tech patent face-off in a San Jose courtroom this week, but Google also has a lot at stake in the case.

Hollywood’s Antipiracy Efforts Add New Voice (The New York Times)
Ruth Vitale, executive director of CreativeFuture, is aiming to steer Hollywood’s digital future.

Top EU Court Backs Internet Bootlegging Ruling (The Wall Street Journal)
The European Union’s highest court said that Internet service providers may have to block access to websites that infringe copyrights.

Aereo to Supreme Court: We Have Broken No Law (CNET)
In a brief to the Supreme Court, Aereo says that it has stayed within the realm of U.S. copyright law and that TV broadcasters have no right to royalties from its television streaming.

Policy News

House Republicans Move to Block Internet Management Switch (The Hill)
A group of House Republicans introduced a bill that would prohibit the Obama administration from moving forward with its announced plans to relinquish oversight of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system.

Pat Leahy’s Patent Reform Bill To Be Taken Up Again This Week (Washington Examiner)
The Senate Judiciary Committee took up the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, or Senate Bill 1720, but was tabled until the April 3rd meeting.

U.S. Top Court Wary of Major Change to Software Patent Law (Reuters)
U.S. Supreme Court justices stepped gingerly into a raging debate over computer software on Monday, voicing concerns about vaguely defined patents but signaling they would avoid any radical change to existing law.
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