In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," an irate mob lynched the creator of the Infinite Probability Drive because the one thing they couldn't stand was a smartass. With the "Commercial Felony Streaming Act," the US government is doing its best impersonation of that angry mob. Nobody's going to be lynched on Capitol Hill, but the bill aims to punish smartass pirates who have been using a loophole in existing laws to stream copyright-protected works with minimal fear of prosecution.
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?
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?
A bill that would promote R&D programs to improve electronic equipment recycling and cut back on the use of hazardous materials used in electronics has passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, eWeek reports.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans tossed out 2.9 million tons of e-waste in 2006, and that number is expected to increase in the coming years as more old TVs are thrown away to make room for digital televisions. What has EPA officials concerned is that many of those electronic devices contain hazardous substances, including lead and cadmium, which end up seeping into soil and water.
"Technology continues to advance, but our ways of disposing of electronic equipment haven't kept up," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said in a statement. "Many states, including Minnesota, are leading the way on recycling electronic equipment, but we need a national solution to ensure that all unwanted electronics are discarded in a safe and responsible manner."
The EPA says that just 15 percent of discarded electronic devices in the U.S. are recycled.
A US Senate Subcommittee heard testimony Monday from cell phone safety researchers. The researchers said that more money was needed for… you guessed it, cell phone safety research. Their solution to this quandary is a one dollar government imposed tax on every mobile phone bill. These funds would go directly to further investigate the effects of cell phone use.
Devra Davis, of the University of Pittsburgh, claimed that additional study may support claims of mobile phones causing cancer. As a counterpoint, Linda Erdreich, of Exponent's Health Sciences Center for Epidemiology, cited current scientific studies demonstrating no causal effect. “The current scientific evidence does not demonstrate that wireless phones cause cancer or other adverse health effects," said Erdreich.
The safety researchers claim that cell phone radiation is causing damage to DNA, leading to cancer. Though, opponents are quick to point out that there is no known mechanism by which cell phones can damage DNA. Only two of the twelve senators on the committee managed to show up, so this probably isn’t going anywhere. If it were, would you be willing to foot the bill for additional research, or is it the manufacturer’s problem? Is it even necessary?
A coalition of some of the biggest names in the OSS world have banded together to create Open Source for America, a brand-new advocacy group that's going to try and highlight the advantages of open-source software to help achieve the goals set out in President Barack Obama's push for an open-data government. But as we pause to "ooh" and "ahh" at the list of companies and open-source celebrities contributing to the new group--Novell, the Mozilla Foundation, the EFF, Tim O'Reilly, and Mark Shuttleworth, amongst many others--let us not forget the uphill battle that the concept of "openness" tends to face in the government sector.
I just can't find myself getting that excited over open-source software when we still have fundamental issues of transparency and openness in governmental data. There's a wealth of information out there that's free and easily accessible to the public. But that doesn't mean that legislators, agencies, and departments are going out of their way to make this information as useful as it could be. In fact, it was only as recently as two months ago that the U.S. Senate itself opened up its own voting records for third-party applications and mashups.
Click the jump and put on your safety helmet--we're going data diving!