Internet

Cast pf Firefly

They Aim to Misbehave

Last Monday night, the television world was abuzz with anticipation for what seemed like the perfect end to the “McConaissance”: an Emmy, in the same year as his Oscar, for actor Matthew McConaughey’s performance in the acclaimed HBO drama True Detective. Defying all expectations (and perhaps the Vegas odds) McConaughey lost to repeat winner Bryan Cranston, for his equally acclaimed work on the hit AMC series Breaking Bad. The triumph of TV stardom over movie stardom is rare in Hollywood, and as host Seth Meyers noted at the beginning of the night, “[TV’s] not like that high-maintenance diva movies, who expect you to put on pants and drive all the way over to her house and buy $40 worth of soda.” Perhaps this is why TV is also gaining on movies in another area besides awards: piracy.

Piracy in TV is rapidly increasing, as just about every Emmy-nominated show—broadcast, cable, pay-per-view and streaming—suffers from illegal downloads. In fact, surprisingly, according to Tru Optik, it is Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (OITNB) that secured the second spot this year, behind oft-cited industry statistic, HBO’s Game of Thrones. … Read the rest

Bitcoin Keychain

“BitLicenses” Explained

In the past few years, virtual currencies, particularly Bitcoin, have jumped from an online experiment to a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon. Now, governments are starting to recognize these currencies, hoping to both legitimize and secure them with proposed regulations. On July 17, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) released a proposed regulatory framework for virtual currency that would require businesses that hold, transmit or convert virtual currencies to everyday currencies to apply for “BitLicenses.” This is one of the first proposed regulations on virtual currencies in the United States since the IRS proclaimed Bitcoin to be property subject to capital gains tax last March. While NYSDFS is still only seeking comments on these rules and nothing is final, I will attempt to break down the proposal as is and provide some initial thoughts on the implications for virtual currencies.

What is the purpose of the regulations?

NYSDFS announced these regulations as a result of public hearings it conducted in January 2014. NYSDFS hopes to use these rules to protect consumers, prevent money laundering, and improve cyber security for businesses that use virtual currencies. These regulations represent … Read the rest

Image taken by Bob Mical.

How FITARA Can Help Federal Agencies with Their IT Problem

In 2004, the Department of Veterans Affairs was forced to scrap a multimillion-dollar computer system that was designed to streamline the agency’s costs. Ironically, the project cost taxpayers $265 million, and is one of many examples of federal IT projects which go massively over budget and under deliver. Part of the reason for these failures is the last time we made significant changes to how our government acquired its own IT was the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. This law was enacted the year before Google.com was registered as a domain name, back when Windows 95 was the new big thing. Almost two decades later, while innovation has continued to press forward, our government’s ability to efficiently acquire new IT has lagged miserably behind.

Luckily, a few lawmakers are trying to remedy that. In March 2013, Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Gerry Connelly (D-VA) introduced H.R. 1232, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), to overhaul the federal government’s approach to acquiring IT. The bill seeks to designate clear responsibility and authority over federal IT investment, enhance the government’s ability to get good IT, strengthen the federal IT … Read the rest

InternetTaxblog

Misinformation in the Internet Tax Freedom Act Debate

In 1998, Congress recognized that taxation could slow the growth of the Internet adoption and suppress the enormous potential of the digital economy and so it passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) to prohibit states from imposing new taxes on Internet access. After being renewed in 2001, 2004, and 2007, ITFA is once again set to expire and there is a lively debate over whether it should reauthorized and made permanent.

Unfortunately, not all participants in the debate are presenting the facts accurately. Michael Mazerov, a Senior Fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Fiscal Project, recently wrote a blog post opposing the extension, and one of his key assertions was that there are no differences in broadband subscription rates between states with and without taxes placed on Internet access. To back this dubious claim, Mazerov cites a 2006 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

But there’s only one problem: the GAO didn’t say this.  In fact, when presenting its finding, the GAO states very clearly that their ability to properly analyze the problem was compromised by a lack of broadband pricing data. The only … Read the rest

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ITIF’s Top 10 Net Neutrality Hits

This past Thursday, the FCC voted to kick off a new attempt at open Internet regulations, marking yet another milestone in the history of the net neutrality debate. Over the years ITIF has been at the forefront of this debate, and will continue to do so. Below is a top-10 list of ITIF publications that both explain how advanced IP networks actually work and advance our “third way,” middle-ground approach.  To see all of ITIF’s work in this area, please go to www.itif.org and click on “issues: broadband”

1. A “Third Way” on Network Neutrality

In May, 2006 Rob Atkinson and Phil Weiser bemoaned the fact that “the network neutrality debate denies the reasonable concerns articulated by each side and obscures the contours of a sensible solution.” Eight years later, and this paper’s diagnosis and cure still hold value. It argues that policymakers should ensure a baseline of a high-bandwidth, best-efforts Internet connection while taking an “antitrust-like” approach to any discriminatory access arrangements.

2. Designed for Change: End-to-end Arguments, Internet Innovation, and the Net Neutrality Debate

One of the meatier ITIF publications on net neutrality, this report digs into the … Read the rest

The Nanny Police Are at IT Again

The Washington Post printed a story about how the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has submitted the opinions of six experts on child development to the Federal Trade Commission in support of CCFC’s complaint against toy maker Fisher-Price for marketing its “Laugh and Learn” app for infants and small children.

One of the six experts, Herbert Ginsburg writes, “Existing research suggests that infants and very young children are not cognitively ready to learn key abstract ideas about numbers. Although some children at the upper bounds of this age range might learn to parrot some number words they are highly unlikely to learn important concepts of numbers.”

To be sure I am not a child development expert (although I did study child development in college.) I am a parent of a wonderful daughter. When she was 19 months old I ran across a Fisher Price online game, “The ABC Game“, which taught infants and toddlers their letters. (This was pre-tablet so I used a laptop). My daughter would press keys on my laptop and up would pop a picture of the letter, a picture of an animal whose first … Read the rest

Taylor Swift

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

A few days ago, Marvin Ammori published a piece on Slate titled, “Hollywood’s Copyright Lobbyists Are Like Exes Who Won’t Give Up”, in reference to  the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet holding a hearing regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice and takedown system. In it, he alleges that the hearing’s existence, created to discuss the potential of voluntary initiatives among copyright stakeholders, is proof of a conspiratorial secret resurgence of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Ignoring the ludicrous nature of this claim — does every hearing that every committee holds in the entirety of the U.S. Congress have some secret ulterior purpose now? — his argument is demonstrably false.  Let’s start with the facts: the DMCA notice and takedown system is the process by which content creators notify service providers that they are illegally distributing content.  In exchange for working collaboratively with rights holders, service providers receive a “safe harbor” from prosecution. The House Judiciary subcommittee hearing tomorrow is an opportunity to discuss voluntary initiatives among stakeholders to curb piracy, not a chance to propose new legislation (and in case anyone … Read the rest

Kim DotCom Thinks You Are a MegaIdiot

On Sunday evening, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a report that reviewed the trials and tribulations of Kim DotCom—the self-styled villainous creator of the website MegaUpload. Prior to its infamous shutdown in 2012, MegaUpload was the premiere website for the illegal sharing of copyrighted works such as movies, TV shows, and music.

The 60 Minutes piece focuses primarily on the perspective of DotCom, including his delusion that he has been unfairly targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He repeatedly states that he should not be held responsible for the actions of his users; the website was designed for file sharing, and what his users chose to share is not his concern. In fact, DotCom expresses a desire for his work to be compared to that of movie heroes such as James Bond, only to have Bob Simon aptly point out that he is in fact much closer in persona to Dr. No — the flamboyant lifestyle, the private island, etc. It is this persona that DotCom alleges is responsible for the FBI targeting him, rather than the fact that he built a website designed to illegally exploit copyrighted works … Read the rest

pirate

It’s Our Pirate Party, We Can Do What We Want

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University rolled out a new website this morning— piracydata.org—that attempts to collect data about whether or not the most pirated movies (as ranked by TorrentFreak) are available for lawful viewing online. The site’s authors seem to suggest that 1) the content industry is doing a poor job of making content available; and 2) piracy would go away if the content industry would just release more movies sooner, cheaper or in a different format. Both arguments are wrong.

First, let’s look at the fact. The website had several errors at launch, and it still had some errors as of this afternoon. (For example, Pacific Rim is currently available via YouTube rental.) But using corrected data we can see that six of the ten movies listed are available legally on various digital sites (Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, etc.). In addition (and not mentioned on the website), three of the ten are available for purchase On-Demand via Comcast and four of the ten are available on AT&T U-Verse. The idea that studios are not making movies available to consumers is nonsense. Today there are more ways … Read the rest

Snow_White_Disney2

Why America Gets Copyright Correct and (Some) Libertarians Do Not

It’s an interesting phenomenon—issues we thought were long settled in American politics are being re-litigated, including tax policy, food stamps, and even the role of the federal government in general.  Therefore it’s perhaps not surprising that the issue of copyright has come under question. Historically, conservatives have been supporters of strong copyright protection because for them a key function of government was the protection of property rights.  These conservatives have long accepted and even embraced the role of the state to grant and enforce copyright status.

However, there is one strain of conservative thinking that actually favors limited or even no copyright enforcement. With their overarching focus on freedom, some libertarians now argue that copyright, as the grant of monopoly by government, impinges on the freedom of individuals.  Because for these libertarians, liberty trumps property rights, individuals should be free to use digital content in ways they want and content holders, not others such as digital intermediaries or governments, should be responsible for policing its use.

We see this in the recent writings of libertarians such as Simon Lester, a prominent trade policy analyst for the Cato Institute, economists Michele … Read the rest