Boy, times sure have changed, haven't they? Our technology makes Thomas Edison's predictions look downright silly, we might have cured HIV, and – most insanely of all – Duke Nukem Forever has a friggin' release date. Oh, but you know what hasn't changed? Like, at all? Congressman Joe Baca.
Yep, he's at it again. Same “WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent games has been linked to blah, blah, blah” bit, same alleged proof that games cause violence, same ignorance of all evidence to the contrary. Hell, he's even regurgitating the same two year-old press release!
This time, though, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia is his co-sponsor, which means an entire two people now support this hilariously misguided cause. Seeing as the bill flopped last time and then proceeded to disappear for a couple years, its passing is about as likely as Baca changing his first name to “Chew.” (Which would completely change our opinion of him, but we digress.)
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA, was recently passed through committee, and is set to move on to the full Senate. The bill would make it easier for the Justice Department to take domestic websites suspected of copyright infringement offline. It would also empower them to force ISPs to redirect traffic away from foreign infringing sites. But PC World is reporting that Senator Ron Wyden (D) from Oregon has promised to block the measure.
Wyden believes the bill is overreaching and could affect innovation on the internet. He does have the option to block it for now, which likely means the bill is dead in this session of Congress. The bill would have to be reintroduced next year. Opponents and supporters of the bill are both staunch in their positions. Supporters say drastic steps are necessary to combat rampant copyright infringement online. But the detractors believe these tools would be wielded clumsily, and would have the effect of censorship.
The bill was a bipartisan effort, but with the new atmosphere in Washington, it is unclear if the two sides will be able to bring the bill back next session. Do you think COICA is a good idea?
It was just in 2006 when the US Congress approved a ban on internet gambling, but reports indicate the legislature is mulling the possibility of legalizing it again. The move in 2006 forced many online casinos out of business as US customers found they were unable to buy in. Many felt that online gambling was too tempting, and trapped people into losing large sums of money too easily.
As usual, this change would probably be aimed at increasing revenue. The bill passed through a committee this week would direct the government to license and collect taxes from online casinos. The bill would allow states to continue with a ban if they choose. This brings up the larger issue of the ever-expanding availability of the Internet. If people have access to a gambling online, or even on their phone, would more people get themselves in trouble?
If you ask us, there are plenty of other things people can spend too much money on around the Internet. Why single this out? Gambling doesn't seem more dangerous than other possible activities. How much control should the government exert over online business?
Huzzah! Throw up the flags! Send off the fireworks! Summon the townspeople! Apple has lost! The people have won! Huzzah!
I’m referring, of course, to Monday’s ruling by The Library of Congress, which explicitly carves out a legal exception for those looking to jailbreak their iPhones. No longer will industrious little hackers (or those who downloaded a one-button jailbreak app off the Interwebs) be subject to Digital Millennium Copyright Act smack-downs over their choice of Cydia instead of the App Store.
In short, so long as you’re jailbreaking your iPhone to make it work with a third-party application that, itself, isn’t kosher on a vanilla iPhone, you’re in the clear. I’m not quite sure what you would do with a jailbroken phone otherwise—perhaps smash it with a hammer to test its durability or something--but there you have it.
Now, we’ve won, right? The choice of how and why you use your iPhone has finally been wrested out of the turtleneck-laden hands of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The people are in control now, and we all have carte blanche to do with our handheld devices as we please! Yay!
A US Senate committee today approved an expansive cyber security bill that many fear could harm the Internet. The legislation can now move on to the Senate floor for a vote, where it will likely pass. Some have suggested the bill would allow the President to shut down parts of the Internet in the event of a terrorist attack. The so-called Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act is backed by several Senators, but Joseph Lieberman has been perhaps its staunchest supporter.
Backers of the legislation say that there is no provision for an "Internet kill-switch" as some have warned. Instead the bill only expands existing powers of the President to close "any facility or stations for wire communication" in case of war. The main purpose of the law would be to establish a centralized White House Office for Cyberspace Policy. Through this office, network operators could be ordered to implement emergency response plans in the event of attack. We suppose that could mean shutting something down, but the bill is unclear.
The vagueness of the bill is what concerns civil libertarians and security experts so much. It's true the bill would expand executive authority over communication infrastructure, but it is not entirely clear what is covered. There may not be a straight up "Internet kill-switch" in the bill, but we can't help but feel a little fretful about it. Where do you come down?
The FCC headed by Julius Genachowski has made it clear that Net Neutrality is a top priority. So much so that they intend to boost their authority in order to impose rules on all purveyors of IP data. Both AT&T and Verizon have voiced concern with the prospect of being weighed down by new regulations. The two are now pushing for Congress to intervene and come up with Net Neutrality compromise legislation.
The principal of Net Neutrality holds that an ISP should be required to treat all data in exactly the same way. For instance, an ISP could not filter torrent traffic and delay/ block it. By asking Congress to head the FCC off at the pass, the telecoms are hoping they can lobby their way to weaker regulations.
We're concerned that any congressional action would rules would likely be filled with loopholes enabling ISPs to continue non-neutral practices. Do you think the FCC should move ahead with making rules, or should the legislative branch tackle it?
Caller ID spoofing will soon become a thing of the past, or at least a lot less prominent. You can thank the U.S. Congress, who last week passed the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010."
There isn't much to the short bill, which gets straight to the point.
"It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any real time voice communications service, regardless of the technology or network utilized, to cause any caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, with the intent to defraud or deceive," the bill reads.
Under the new bill, you would still be allowed to block your phone number from showing up on other people's phones, and law enforcement would be exempt from the restrictions. VoIP calls, however, would not be exempt and was actually the focus of the bill, according to the Congressional Research Service summary.
Congress held a hearing today to review the proposed purchase of NBC by Comcast. In that hearing Rep. Rick Boucher asked NBC CEO Jeff Zucker about the blocking of Boxee from Hulu content. Mr. Zucker’s answer was uncompromising, if a bit ham-handed. “What Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal,” said Zucker. He added, “What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.” He also said NBC was willing to negotiate with Boxee.
Boxee has responded to the assertion that they were engaged in illegal activity. Boxee’s Avner Ronen pointed out that they were in no way “taking” the video. Boxee simply accesses the content on Hulu via a web browser. The video is not copied, and it playes in its original form straight from the Hulu website. The process is no different than using Firefox or IE to load Hulu; there’s certainly nothing illegal about that. Ronen said he believes that Boxee users can add value to Hulu’s content, hinting that many users may be willing to pay for access to Hulu.
Ronen wrote that he intends to take NBC up on the offer to negotiate, and will contact them. However, if NBC continues to throw around words like “illegal”, the negotiations could be rocky indeed. Is this a case of a CEO being disingenuous to Congress, or just confused about technology? You can view the C-Span footage of the exchange here if you like.
Although the task force didn’t name any decent ways to express dissent, it is suggested that indignant consumers learn the art of protesting from the true masters of the art: the Palestinians, who have pioneered some of the most effective and economical techniques, including stone pelting and the fabled catch-and-hurl-back-teargas-grenade technique.
Coming back to the subject of broadband access, the task force is busy preparing a report on ways to enhance broadband penetration in rural and urban areas. The panel will submit its final report to Congress in February. It said in an interim report that anywhere between $20 and $350 billion might be needed for installing necessary wireless and landline infrastructure. Its estimate depends on the internet speed.
The panel said in its report that while nearly 2/3 of Americans are wallowing in broadband bliss and 1/3 have access but haven’t subscribed, 4% have no access whatsoever. The panel also expects smartphones to march ahead of blander phones by 2011.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is taking a hard stance against peer-to-peer file sharing, claiming the practice is "jeopardizing" national security.
"At any time your computer is connected to the Internet, other computer users with similar software could simply search your hard drive and copy unprotected files. Unfortunately, that is the sad reality for many unsuspecting computer users," said Chairman Edophus Towns.
Towns went on to single out LimeWire, a popular P2P file sharing program, noting a startling amount of sensitive data made freely available by using the app. In addition to music and movies, Committee staff also unearthed federal tax returns, the Social Security numbers and family information for every master sergeant in the Army, medical records of about 24,000 patients of a Texas hospital, FBI files, and the safe house location for the First Family.
Naturally, Mark Gorton of the Lime Group saw things differently.
"I am confident that with LimeWire 5.2.8 any sharing is intentional sharing. LimeWire does not share any Documents by default," Gorton explained.