News Briefs from May 1-5, 2001

NIPC Advisory. 5/5. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) released an advisory regarding potential DDoS attacks. It stated that "The NIPC has received reliable information indicating ongoing attempts to disrupt web access to several sites. The activity has been seen from several networks, and consists entirely of fragmented large UDP packets directed at port 80. Analysis indicates that this activity may be intended to bypass standard port/protocol blocking techniques, as certain major routing equipment manufacturer's products will block the first fragment of a large UDP packet, but may not block subsequent packets, thereby permitting the denial of service to continue."
Trade and E-Commerce. 5/5. Igor Abramov, Special Advisor to the U.S. Department of Commerce, gave a speech in Baku, Azerbaijan, regarding the importance of the rule of law. He stated that "Electronic commerce, for example, spans continents to create larger and more dynamic markets, making geographic and territorial boundaries almost irrelevant. This means that businesses can no longer afford to rely only on personal relations. Today, they must also be able to call on rule-based institutions for assurance that partners will employ proper business practices or, when necessary, that they have recourse to effective mechanisms for resolving commercial disputes."
5/4. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), a leading protectionist in the Senate, gave an address in the Senate on trade and fast track trade negotiating authority. He stated that "The administration wants fast track. The administration says it needs this deviation from the traditional prerogatives of Congress in order to negotiate multilateral trade agreements. ... Under the Constitution, which I hold in my hand, Congress has this responsibility. We ought to read it. ... we don't need fast track. We need to live by this Constitution which I hold in my hand."
5/4. The GAO released a report [PDF] titled "Financial Privacy: Too Soon to Assess the Privacy Provisions in the Gramm- Leach- Bliley Act of 1999." The report, which was mandated by the Act, concluded that "As of March 31, 2001, federal regulatory and enforcement agencies had not taken any enforcement actions or prosecuted any cases under this law. FTC staff have begun to monitor firms' compliance with the statute's provisions and have several pending nonpublic investigations. However, FTC staff and Department of Justice officials told us that until they have fully prosecuted cases under the statute, they would lack the necessary experience to assess the effectiveness of Subtitle B provisions. The federal financial regulatory agencies are still in the process of taking steps to ensure that the financial institutions that they regulate have reasonable controls to protect against fraudulent access to financial information. ... Lastly, we found that there are limited data available to indicate the impact of Subtitle B on the prevalence of fraudulent access to financial information."
5/4. The U.S. District Court (EDVa) dismissed Rambus' claims for patent infringement against Infineon involving SDRAM and DDR SDRAM technology. Rambus stated that it will appeal. See, Rambus release.
5/4. The FCC published a summary in the Federal Register of its Second Order on Reconsideration [PDF] in its CALEA proceeding (CC Docket No. 97-213). It adopted this order on April 9, 2001, and released it on April 16, 2001. See, story in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert of April 17, 2001. The FCC rejected two FBI petitions for reconsideration which asked the FCC to impose further "personnel security obligations" upon carriers, and to require carriers to generate an automated message that would permit LEAs "to confirm periodically that the software used to conduct an interception is working correctly and is accessing the equipment, facilities, or services of the correct subscriber." However, the FCC did make minor revisions to §§ 64.2103 and 64.2104 of its rules to clarify the arrangements telecommunications carriers subject to CALEA must make to ensure that LEAs can contact them when necessary, and the interception activity that triggers a record keeping requirement. The new rules go into effect on June 4, 2001.
TRIPS, Software and E-Commerce. 5/4. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) wrote a letter to USTR Robert Zoellick identifying several trade issues that affect software companies. The letter states that "Software piracy continues to be a serious problem. Many WTO members have yet to fully implement their TRIPs obligations; and too many others are not taking effective enforcement actions." The letter also states that "Tariffs on computers and peripherals are still very high in some countries, creating a substantial impediment to U.S. exports of information technology equipment." Finally, the letter addresses two e-commerce issues. First, it addresses "the classification for trade purposes of downloaded products. Since software can be downloaded (as a good) or delivered by an ASP (as a service), software provided via the Internet can be either as a good or a service, depending on the business model. It is our firmly held view that software and other products acquired through networks by means of a download, should be treated as a good for classification purposes, and subject to the same trade rules as like products acquired through more traditional means." Also, the letter states that there is "the need to update our trade agreements to reflect the array of new Internet-related products and services that have evolved over the past 10 years since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round."
5/3. Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX) introduced HR 1693, which is described in the Congressional Record as a "bill to improve science, mathematics, and technology education in elementary and secondary schools, advance knowledge on the effective uses of information technologies in education, increase participation in science, mathematics, and engineering careers by groups underrepresented in those fields, provide for more effective coordination of public and private sector efforts to improve science, mathematics, and technology education, and for other purposes." It was referred to the House Science Committee, and the House Education and Workforce Committee.
5/3. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced HR 1707, a bill to give the Commerce Department jurisdiction over exports of commercial satellites. The State Department currently has this authority. The bill was referred to the House International Relations Committee and House Armed Services Committee. See, Berman release.
5/3. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the American Broadband Competition Act of 2001, another bill in the debate over incenting the deployment of broadband services. Its content contrasts sharply with another bill, HR 1542, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). See also, statement by Rep. Cannon.
Overturn Goldwasser. The Cannon Conyers bill would amend the Clayton Act to provide that a violation of the Communications Act can constitute a violation of antitrust law. The bill provides that "the court shall not dismiss such claim on the ground that the defendant's conduct was or is subject to the Communications Act of 1934 ..." It also provides that the trial court "may consider any conduct that violates any obligations or requirements imposed by the Communications Act of 1934 ... in determining whether the defendant has engaged in anticompetitive or exclusionary conduct." The bill thus addresses the July 25, 2000, opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals (7thCir) in Goldwasser v. Ameritech.
Fast Arbitration of Interconnection Disputes. The bill would also require the Justice Department to establish an alternative dispute resolution process for the arbitration of disputes related to an interconnection agreement with an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), such as Verizon, BellSouth and SBC. In this arbitration process, disputes must be arbitrated within 45 days, the Commercial Dispute Resolution Procedures of the American Arbitration Association would apply, discovery would be available, and decisions would be enforceable in federal court.
No Joint Marketing of DSL by Bells. The bill would also amend the Clayton Act to provide that an ILEC "and all affiliates of such carrier may not jointly market in such State any advanced telecommunications service with any other telecommunications or information services offered by such carrier or by any of such affiliates."
Commerce v. Judiciary. The Cannon Conyers bill would benefit competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), while the Tauzin Dingell bill would benefit ILECs. In addition to the conflict between constituencies, there is a conflict between two committees, both of which seek authority over legislation affecting the Internet. Both Cannon and Conyers are members of the House Judiciary Committee. Their bill would amend antitrust law, which falls within the jurisdiction of their Judiciary Committee. Tauzin and Dingell are the Chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Commerce Committee. Their bill would amend communications law, which falls within the jurisdiction of their Commerce Committee. In addition, Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has also asserted jurisdiction over the Tauzin Dingell bill.
Reaction. The USTA, whose membership includes ILECs, issued a release condemning the Cannon Conyers bill. USTA President Gary Lytle said that "HR 1542 is the best vehicle for spurring broadband deployment." The main provision of HR 1542 would exempt interLATA data traffic from the requirements of Section 271 ot the Telecom Act of 1996, which requires the Bells to open up their facilities to competitors before they are allowed to provided interLATA (or long distance) services. In contrast, the Consumers Union (CU) and Consumer Federation of America praised the Cannon Conyers bill. "By attempting to streamline dispute resolution and increase penalties for failure to comply with network opening requirements, this legislation offers consumers a much better chance of seeing local markets open to competition than either the Tauzin-Dingell bill or the status quo," said the CU's Gene Kimmelman. "We are concerned that the Tauzin Dingell bill would have exactly the opposite effect of its professed aim. Due to the economic slowdown, many of those who were the real innovators for Internet services and local phone competition are faltering. Tauzin-Dingell would hobble those innovators by giving the monopoly Bell companies further advantage over their potential competitors."
5/3. The U.S. Court of Appeals (5thCir) issued its opinion in COMSAT v. FCC, a petition for review of the Sixteenth Order on Reconsideration in Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, CC Docket No. 96-45. The Appeals Court ruled that the FCC's order permitting the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers to recoup universal services costs through access charges is contrary to the plain language of § 254(e). It reversed and remanded.
5/3. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and a leading free trade advocate, gave an address in the Senate on trade. He stated that "despite a strong feeling in the Congress that we need to continue the aggressive pursuit of trade liberalization and market opening around the world, we have made no progress at all this year." He said that progress is being held up by the dispute over how to deal with environmental labor standards in trade agreements, and specifically, with the U.S. Jordan Free Trade Agreement. He concluded: "We need to delink Jordan from the rest of our trade agenda."
5/3. The Senate Commerce Committee approved several nominations, including Brenda Becker to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce, and Theodore Kassinger to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce. See, release.
5/3. The Senate Judiciary Committee held its Thursday executive business meeting. The agenda included votes on the nominations of Ted Olson to be Solicitor General, and Larry Thompson to be Deputy Attorney General. The votes were held over, at least until next week. The reason for the delay was an unrelated ongoing dispute between Democrats and Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) over procedure for Senate confirmation of judges. Other matters ripe for consideration by the Committee include the nominations of Charles James to be an Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division and Daniel Bryant to be an Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
5/3. The FCC published a notice in the Federal Register that it has made minor technical corrections to it rule implementing the Children's Internet Protection Act [PDF]. See, Federal Register, May 3, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 86, at Pages 22133. The FCC published its original rule at Federal Register, April 16, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 73, Pages 19394 - 19398.
5/3. The U.S. Copyright Office published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register regarding proposed amendments to its regulation governing notices of termination of transfers and licenses covering the extended renewal term. The current regulation is limited to notices of terminations made under section 304(c) of the copyright law. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act created a separate termination right under section 304(d). Under the proposed regulation, procedures governing notices of termination of the extended renewal term would cover notices made under either section 304(c) or 304(d). Comments are due by June 18, 2001. See, Federal Register, May 3, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 86, at Pages 22139 - 22140. See also, PDF copy in CO web site.
5/3. The Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved ASM Lithography Holding NV's acquisition of Silicon Valley Group. ASM is a Dutch company. SVG is Intel's primary supplier of automated wafer processing equipment for making semiconductors. See, SVG release.
5/3. The SEC launched of a web-based survey that asks investors to provide information about how they use electronic media, including the Internet, to make investment decisions. See, SEC release.
5/3. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) submitted another comment [PDF] to the FCC regarding the compatibility between digital cable systems and consumer electronic products. See also, CEA release. PP Docket No. 00-67.
5/3. The U.S. Attorney (DNJ) charged two individuals and one company by criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The complaint alleges that Hai Lin and Kai Ku, citizens of the People's Republic of China, while working at Lucent, conspired to steal source code and software associated with an Internet server developed by Lucent, and to transfer the stolen technology to a company owned by the PRC. The FBI also arrested Lin and Ku, and a third individual, and executed search warrants at their homes. The complaint also charged ComTriad Technologies, Inc., a New Jersey corporation founded by Lin and Ku. The U.S. Atty also stated that "It is expected that the matter will be presented to a grand jury." See, release.
5/3. May 3 was the deadline to submit comments to the NTIA regarding "the advantages accorded signatories of the INTELSAT, in terms of immunities, market access, or otherwise, in the countries or regions served by INTELSAT, the reason for such advantages, and an assessment of progress toward fulfilling a pro- competitive privatization of that organization." The NTIA published copies of comments which it received in its web site.
PanAmSat submitted a comment in which it stated that it and other private satellite operators face market entry barriers. Motient, which operates a mobile satellite service (MSS) system in L-band, stated that Inmarsat has not complied with ORBIT Act.
In contrast, INTELSAT stated that its "privatization process continues apace" and "in a manner consistent with the ORBIT Act." Lockheed Martin stated that International Satellite Organizations (ISOs) have no competitive advantages that negatively impact the satellite market. See, comments of  ITSO, Lockheed Martin, Motient Services, and PanAmSat. See also, copy of notice requesting comments.
5/3. The USTR announced several staff appointments. Naotaka Matsukata will be Special Assistant for Policy Planning. He previously was on the staff of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT). Dayna Cade will be a Deputy Assistant USTR for Congressional Affairs. She previously worked on the Bush Cheney campaign. Before that she was the Director of Government Affairs for the Airports Council International (ACI). Matt Niemeyer will be a Deputy Assistant USTR for Congressional Affairs. He was previously the Deputy Political Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Prior to that he worked for the Independent Insurance Agents of America, for former Rep. Gerald Solomon (R-NY), and for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Heather Wingate will be an Assistant USTR for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison. She was previously Chief of Staff to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS). Before that she worked for the NRA. Richard Mills will be Press Secretary. He was previously Communications Director for House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA). Before that he worked as Press Secretary to the Senate Banking Committee. See release.
5/3. Eric Holder will join the Washington DC law firm of Covington & Burling as a partner. He previously was the Deputy Attorney General. He will handle complex civil and criminal cases, domestic and international advisory matters, and internal corporate investigations. See, CB release.
5/3. A grand jury of the U.S. District Court (DConn) returned a superseding indictment against Aleksey Ivanov charging him with conspiring to make unauthorized intrusions into computer systems owned by companies in the U.S., transmitting threats to damage those computer systems, extortion, and stealing credit card numbers and merchant account numbers. Ivanov, of Chelyabinsk, Russia, was arrested in the U.S. last year while traveling to met with an undercover company established by the FBI. See, release.
5/2. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Charles James to be an Assistant Attorney General. If confirmed by the Senate, he will oversee the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). He will have major responsibility for determining whether or how to proceed with the government's antitrust case against Microsoft. He cruised through the hearing with no opposition, no criticism, and almost no questions relevant to the Microsoft case. He revealed little about how he would proceed.
James was introduced and praised by Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Chairman of the Committee, called James "one of the most qualified people for this job." He added that "you appear to be well on your way to being confirmed." Hatch said that "I intend to put you on our markup for tomorrow," but any member could hold the matter over until next week.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the newly elected Senator from Microsoft's home state of Washington, asked James about antitrust issues involving apples -- the fruit, not the computers. She expressed her concern about concentration in the apple processing market. Similarly, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) devoted all of his questions to the impact of antitrust on rural communities. He too is concerned about increased agribusiness concentration.
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, asked James not to involve himself in any matters affecting his former clients at the law firm of Jones Day. He also asked James not to seek recusal waivers.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) asked James a thinly veiled question about how he will proceed in the Microsoft case. Specter asked James for his "views regarding the continuity of the Department." James gave a rambling and vague response that left observers scratching their heads and comparing their notes. "Well, Senator Specter, it is certainly my perspective that, whenever the Department begins a litigation, commences, if there is at some juncture of the case, an adverse ruling, the appropriate thing for the Department to do, and that is, is to evaluate the nature of the ruling, and evaluate (inaudible word) the procedural posture is, and determine whether there are appropriate issues that can be carried forward legitimately to an appeal, and certainly, with the, my expectation, is (inaudible) to follow that procedure in the future." Then James concluded, "We will look as closely as possible to preserving victories, and rectifying defeats."
Sen. Hatch also addressed antitrust and high tech generally. He asked, "Should the antitrust laws be applied to the high tech industry?" James responded, "Absolutely." Hatch also referenced "network effects" and asked, "Do you think monopoly is more likely to occur in high tech industries than in other industries? And if so, what are the implications of your conclusions for antitrust enforcement." James addressed network effects, and added that he hopes to publish "some clear statements of policy" -- in the future.
5/2. Peter Tenhula, Senior Legal Advisor to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, spoke at luncheon hosted by the Federal Communications Bar Association's Telecommunications Competition Issues Committee. He discussed Chairman Powell's approach to merger reviews and the public interest standard. "You will see less competitive analysis that is duplicative of the antitrust authorities," said Tenhula. "We are not going to spend a lot of time negotiating conditions. We have got better things to do." However, he added that while Powell may not have supported imposing certain conditions in previous merger reviews, "he is going to enforce them."
Tenhula also stated that Powell has said that the public interest standard is "an empty vessel." But, "that is not to say that the pendulum is going to swing back. We have got to live with our precedents." Nevertheless, he stated that "it is going to be more limited" and "we are not going to legislate through mergers." Tenhula spoke to, and answered questions from, a group of lawyers who work for law firms, trade groups, the FCC, and the DOJ's Antitrust Division.
5/2. The Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Business Rights, and Competition Subcommittee held a hearing titled The Telecom Act Five Years Later: Is it Promoting Competition? Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), the Chairman and ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee conducted the hearing. Both Senators suggested that it might be time to revisit the Telecom Act of 1996. "We've been waiting for local phone competition for five years, and we are still being kept on hold," said Sen. Kohl. "The biggest lesson seems to be this: Congress can't mandate competition, and if competition doesn't make sense, laws like the Telecom Act won't really work." He concluded: "maybe we need to tinker with the Act a little more. We need to ask whether the Act needs more enforcement authority -- through antitrust laws or by the FCC -- and we also should ask whether we need to give the Regional Bells more of an incentive to open up their networks."
However, witnesses praised the competitive and deregulatory provisions of the 1996 Act, and urged Congress to give it more time. Pat Wood, Chairman of the Texas Public Utilities Commission, stated that "the Act can work," and discussed his State of Texas as an example. See, Wood's prepared testimony. "We did the right thing in 1996. Stick with it," said former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. See, Hundt's prepared testimony. See also, prepared statements of other witnesses: David Dorman (AT&T), James Robbins (Cox Communications), Larissa Herda (Time Warner Telecom), and James Ellis (SBC).
Reed Hundt also commented to reporters afterwards regarding HR 1542, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). He said that "a lot of people on the Senate side think the bill is a solution in search of a problem." He also added that even if it were passed, "it may not happen soon enough to matter to the businesses."
5/2. Anthony Wayne, Assistant Secretary of State For Economic and Business Affairs, gave a speech in Brussels, Belgium, to the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) Opening Plenary. He touched on e-commerce disputes. "The third issue is e-commerce codes of conduct, including Alternative Dispute Resolution. I know this is a top priority for Commissioner Byrne and DG SANCO. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Commerce have sponsored a number of workshops on the issue. There are a number of interesting models for alternative dispute resolution. I understand that TACD NGOs have met with the Global Electronic Business Dialogue (GBDE) to discuss ADR and other e-commerce issues. Already, we can see the potential benefits of collaboration."
5/2. The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held an oversight hearing on the U.S. Copyright Office. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), the Chairman of the Subcommittee presided. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a new member of the Subcommittee, also participated. Marybeth Peters, the Register of Copyrights, was the sole witness. See, Peters' prepared testimony.
Rep. Baldwin asked Peters for an update on distance learning issues. On March 7, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) introduced S 487, the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act. On March 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on bill; Peters provided testimony. The bill would amend §§ 110(2) and 112 of the Copyright Act to extend the distance learning exemptions enacted in 1976 to digital delivery media. The TEACH Act incorporates many of the recommendations made by the Copyright Office in 1999 in a study mandated by the the DMCA. Under current law, there are exemptions for "face-to-face" and "transmission" teaching activities; but Internet based education is not referenced. Peters told Baldwin that there are some differences between the two sides -- the education community and copyright owners. Peters said that talks began last week to work out their differences, and "hopefully they will be able to reach an agreement, and that will form the basis of the bill."
Rep. Coble questioned Peters regarding the Copyright Office's Section 104 proceeding. This section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [PDF] directs the Copyright Office and the NTIA to prepare a report for the Congress examining the effects of the amendments made by Title 1 of the DMCA and the development of electronic commerce on the operation of §§ 109 and 117, and the relationship between existing and emerging technology and the operation of these sections. Peters stated that the 104 report would be completed, "hopefully in the month of May." See also, Copyright Office web page on 104.
5/2. The Senate Appropriations Committee's Legislative Branch Subcommittee held a hearing on proposed budget estimates for FY 2001 for the Library of Congress, Joint Economic Committee, Joint Tax Committee, and the Congressional Research Service. The Librarian of Congress, James Billington, submitted prepared testimony on the Library of Congress, including its Copyright Office. He stated that the "The Library requests a decrease in the Copyright Office's Offsetting Collections Authority -- from $23,500,000 to $21,880,000. The $1,620,000 decrease in Offsetting Collections Authority is based on projected annual registration receipts of $21,500,000 and the use of $380,000 from the Copyright Office no-year account."
Billington's testimony also addressed DMCA proceedings. "The DCMA requires the Copyright Office to conduct a rulemaking every three years on exemptions that permit circumvention of technological access control measures in order to engage in noninfringing uses of copyrighted works. Two relatively narrow exemptions were granted on October 28, 2000, but at the conclusion of this process of conducting the rulemaking, I expressed several concerns that might warrant congressional consideration. The rapid changes in technology may require the rulemaking process to be conducted at intervals shorter than the triennial review enacted under the DMCA. In addition, I ask that the Congress address the further refinement of the appropriate criteria for assessing the harm to noninfringing uses in scholarly, academic, and library communities as well as guidance on the precise scope of the term "class of works."
5/2. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) stated at the oversight hearing for the Copyright Office that he is opposed to the diversion of USPTO user fees to fund other government programs. "I spoke with the President about it, in fact, ten days ago. I don't mean to be -- you never know who is listening to you -- I don't mean to put the President on the spot. But, he seemed to be very understanding. And he seemed to share my concern. I don't want to that in the Post tomorrow that I am quoting the President as defending it. But, he said, "This doesn't seem right." And it doesn't seem right. Well, these exclusively, exclusive user fees, that all of a sudden become fair game for everybody who wants to appropriate here, there, and yonder."
TLJ asked Rep. Coble after the hearing about the next head of the USPTO. He stated that he was aware of reports that it would be former Rep. James Rogan (R-CA). He stated that "I would be very comfortable with him at the helm." Rogan was a member of the Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee until he lost his bid for re-election last November.
5/2. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson regarding medical privacy regulations. He stated that "Now that the President has decided to finalize the medical privacy regulation under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), I write to suggest specific changes to that controversial regulation, in hopes you will use your authority to strengthen rather than endanger the medical privacy of all Americans." Specifically, Armey suggested that "We demand federal agents obtain a search warrant before going through our ... medical records."
5/2. The CDT, EPIC, ACLU, Free Congress Foundation, and other groups wrote a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft regarding three privacy issues: Carnivore, electronic surveillance by law enforcement, and medical records. The letter stated that "The FBI's current use of the Carnivore system ... threatens the privacy of electronic communications and cannot be squared with the Fourth Amendment, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." The letter also stated that "The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and the other surveillance statutes should be updated". Finally, the letter stated that the HHS Department regulation implementing HIPAA "does not meaningfully limit law enforcement access to sensitive medical information."
5/2. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) sent a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) asking for economic data on how consumers, state and local governments and Internet businesses would fare under additional Internet sales taxes. See, release and letter.
5/2. The National Academies' Computer Science & Telecommunications Board and the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology hosted a tutorial titled Internet's Coming of Age.
5/2. The House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Research held a hearing titled Improving Math and Science Education so that No Child is Left Behind.
5/2. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) issued an advisory regarding a buffer overflow vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Information Services 5.0. The advisory stated that "the threat level of the above vulnerability is high." See also, Microsoft's Security Bulletin MS01-023.
5/2. The U.S. Court of Appeals (FedCir) issued its opinion in Oak Technology v. ITC, an appeal of a Section 337 determination by the U.S. International Trade Commission pertaining to the importation of CD-ROM drive controllers. The ITC instituted an investigation of MediaTek, United Microelectronics, Lite-On Technology, and AOpen at the request of Oak Technology. Oak asserted that MediaTek and the others imported articles into the U.S. in violation of Oak's U.S. Patent No. 5,581,715. The ITC ruled, pursuant to Section 337, that the '715 patent was not infringed by MediaTek and the others. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
5/2. The Washington DC based law firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding opened its office in McLean, Virginia. See, release. The office will be run by Michael Senkowski and Rand Allen, head of the firm's Telecommunications and Government Contracts practice groups, respectively. Partners Greg Cirillo and Dan Hassett, whose practices involve representing technology companies, will also work out of this office.
5/2. Tim Simeone joined the Washington DC law firm of Harris Wiltshire & Grannis as an associate. Simeone taught courses titled "Computer Law" and "The First Amendment in Cyberspace" last year at Villanova University Law School. Before that he was a legal consultant to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in connection with the Microsoft litigation. He also clerked for Justice David Souter. See, HWG release.
5/2. The Senate confirmed Brenda Becker to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Theodore Kassinger to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce.
5/1. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill in the Senate titled the E-Government Act of 2001 [94 pages in PDF]. Sen. Lieberman stated that "What our bill tries to do is put information technology to work to overcome arbitrary or jurisdictional boundaries so that we can provide the public with seamless, secure online services. We focus on delivering services and information to the citizen, organized according to the citizen’s needs. To do this, we will need leadership and coordination between agency decision-makers. We are calling for a Federal Chief Information Officer, to be located in the Office of Management and Budget ..." See Lieberman's statement and summary of the bill.
Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology praised the bill. He stated that "this is the first bill ever to comprehensively require the federal government to use the Internet to serve citizens." Robert Atkinson, VP of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Democratic think tank, also commended the bill: "The E-government Act of 2001 will enable the federal government to make a quantum leap toward an electronic, customer-centric government of the 21st century." See, PPI release. Microsoft also praised the bill. See, release.
5/1. HR 1542, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), has not proceeded to markup by the full House Commerce Committee. Last week, on short notice, the Commerce Committee held a hearing on the bill, and its Telecom Subcommittee marked up the bill. Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) stated at the mark up session that the full committee markup would take place on Wednesday, May 2.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) asserting that the Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction over HR 1542, on the basis that it deals with the regulation of monopoly power, a subject which lies within his Committee's jurisdiction. Also, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), another member of the Committee, announced that they plan to introduce a bill on the same topic.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Business Rights, and Competition Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on the implementation of the Telecommunications Act and its impact on competition for Wednesday, May 2, at 2:00 PM. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) are the Chairman and ranking Democrat.
The House Commerce Committee released a copy of an April 25 letter from Robert Sachs, P/CEO of the NCTA, to Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and other members of the House Commerce Committee, stating that his group does not oppose HR 1542. However, the NCTA, which represents the cable industry, "would strongly oppose efforts to classify cable Internet services as telecommunications services or otherwise extend common carrier-like regulation, including mandatory access requirements, to cable Internet services and facilities."
5/1. Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) introduced HR 1655, a bill to amend Title 18 to punish the placing of sezual explicit photographs on the Internet without the permission of the persons photographed. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
5/1. The U.S. Court of Appeals (2ndCir) heard oral argument in Universal Studios v. Remeirdes, a case involving DeCSS and the DMCA. This is an appeal of the Final Judgment of the U.S. District Court (SDNY), Judge Lewis Kaplan presiding, enjoining the publication on web sites of any computer program that may be used to decrypt or unscramble the contents of digital versatile discs (DVDs) that are protected by the Contents Scramble System (CSS). The District Court Opinion [98 pages in PDF] applied the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The appellants argue that the DMCA, as applied to computer code, violates the First Amendment.
5/1. Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton aide, and Matt Drudge, an Internet journalist, settled the lawsuit, Blumenthal v. Drudge and AOL, which has been languishing with little action for years in the U.S. District Court (DDC). Under the terms of the settlement, Blumenthal will pay $2,500 to Drudge. Blumenthal and his wife sued Drudge alleging defamation for a story that Drudge published about Blumenthal which quoted an anonymous source as saying that Blumenthal had abused his wife. Drudge also issued a retraction. The Blumenthals demanded $30,000,001.00 in damages on each of 21 counts. Blumenthal also named AOL as a defendant, alleging that it was liable for Drudge's alleged defamation, because Drudge also published his story on AOL. AOL was dismissed from the suit in 1998, pursuant to Section 230 of the Telecom Act of 1996 , which bars claims against "interactive computer services" for "information provided by another content provider". Judge Friedman's opinion is one of the leading precedents on the immunity of interactive computer services. Blumenthal did not appeal the dismissal of AOL. See also, TLJ case summary.
5/1. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved several nominations, including Kenneth Dam to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, John Taylor to be Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, David Aufhauser to be General Counsel of the Department of Treasury, and Grant Aldonas to be Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. See, release [PDF].
5/1. Sterling Brennan was named managing partner of the Orange County office of the law firm of Morrison & Foerster. He succeeds Dean Zipser, who served as managing partner for over three years. Zipser will continue to chair the litigation group in Orange County. See, MoFo release.
5/1. The U.S. Court of Appeals (7thCir) issued its opinion in S Industries v. Centra 2000, a case regarding attorneys fees in trademark infringement cases. S Industries filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (NDIll) alleging, among other things, that Centra 2000, a producer of data management software, infringed its "Sentra" trademark in violation of the Lanham Act. S Industries did not hold a federal registration for the "Sentra" mark for use on computer hardware or software. The District Court held that the claim was unfounded, and eventually awarded $136,803 in attorneys fees. The District Court based this award on S Industries' unfounded claims, and procedural maneuvering, including frivolous and dilatory tactics, that increased the cost of defending the suit. The Appeals Court affirmed.
5/1. James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs regarding trade with the People's Republic of China. He stated in his prepared testimony that "Our trade with China is in our interest. That is not changed by the fact that trade also happens to be good for China. As the President said to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 5, the marketplace promotes American values; trade encourages more freedom and individual liberties. You can see that happening today in China, where trade has led to greater openness and fewer government controls on day-to-day life, particularly in the coastal region most affected by international trade. We do not claim that trade will remake China, but it helps. For these reasons, as well as our economic interests, and to help foster China's greater integration in the international community of nations, we support China's WTO entry as soon as China is ready to meet WTO standards. Taiwan is ready for entry now, and we expect both to enter the WTO in close proximity."
5/1. FBI Director Louis Freeh announced that he will retire from the FBI in June. Freeh released a statement in which he thanked various individuals and entities, and reviewed the recent accomplishments of the FBI. For example, he stated that "We have received the human, technical, and financial resources needed to keep the FBI at the cutting edge of investigations, particularly in the rapidly evolving area of cyber-crime. Over the nearly eight years that I have been Director, Congress has increased the FBI's budget by more than $1.27 billion to the 2001 Budget Appropriation level of $3.44 billion. That is a 58% increase over 1993's budget. At the same time, we have benefitted from laws that have strengthened our crime-fighting abilities, including the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act ..." He also thanked former President Clinton for appointing him, and President Bush for asking him to continue as Director of the FBI. He also stated that Bush "brought great honor and integrity to the Oval Office." He did not say what Clinton brought to Oval Office.
5/1. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) issued an alert that it "has reliable information indicating a very significant increase in attempts to exploit known weaknesses in the lpd/LPRng and RPC daemons of Unix-based operating systems." The alert adds that this "is consistent with past activities involving the installation and operation of the "mstream" Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) tool."
5/1. The Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary held a hearing on the Department of Commerce FY 2002 budget. Donald Evans, Secretary of Commerce, addressed funding for several tech related offices, including the USPTO, NTIA, and BXA, in his prepared testimony. He stated that the USPTO "requests a total program level of $1,139 million, a $100 million increase to manage its growing workload." He stated that the NTIA "requests $73.0 million. This includes a program increase of $2.1 million for the Radio Spectrum Measurement van and suitcase necessary for NTIA's analysis of critical new wireless technologies. We are requesting a decrease of $30 million in the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), for a total request of $15.5 million. This funding will enable NTIA to support approximately thirty new grants to under-served communities to demonstrate innovative uses of emerging information technologies." He also said that the "Bureau of Export Administration requests $68.9 million in FY 2002. This request includes a program increase of $1.6 million for the redesign and replacement of the Export Control Automated Support System, which will enable better and faster decisions on license applications to accelerate U.S. competitiveness in global markets. An increase of $0.5 million is also requested to achieve efficiencies in processing export licenses."
5/1. Bertelsmann and EMI announced that they will not merge, citing government regulatory obstacles as one reason. Bertelsmann stated that "After intensive exploratory talks, Britain's EMI Group plc and Bertelsmann AG have decided not to continue the negotiations about merging their music businesses. The companies have mutually concluded that the regulatory hurdles Brussels and Washington would most likely impose on an EMI/Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) merger would require a complicated, lengthy investigation and approval procedure. Also, preliminary talks indicated that there would be significant stipulations, which might have called the project’s economic viability into question." See, release.
5/1. The U.S. Court of Appeals (5thCir) issued its opinion in Bennett v. Yamaha, an antitrust case involving allegations of violation of the Sherman Act in connection with resale price maintenance, advertising programs, and monopolization in the sale of Yamaha personal watercraft. The District Court held in favor of defendants on all counts. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
5/1. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) gave an address in the Senate on U.S. China Policy. He stated that "Last year Congress approved, by a wide margin, legislation granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations status to China once they join the World Trade Organization. The benefits of incorporating China into the world trade community were clear. American farmers, businesses, and workers would be well served by a growing and liberalized economy in China. Economic growth in China would, over the long term, lead to a larger middle class making its own demands on the government for greater accountability and personal choice, just as happened in South Korea and Taiwan. Membership in the WTO would bring international disciplines to the Chinese economy. And the reformers, led by Premier Zhu Rongji, would be strengthened. If anything, nurturing growth in our economic and trade relationship with China is more important than ever." He added that "we want full access for American goods and services to the largest country in the world with the fastest growing economy. That means completing China's accession to the WTO, granting them PNTR, and supporting our businesses' efforts to penetrate the Chinese economy. It does not mean revoking China's established normal trade status."
5/1. The GAO released a report [PDF] titled "Computer-Based Patient Records; Better Planning and Oversight by VA, DOD, and IHS Would Enhance Health Data Sharing."
5/1. The GAO released a report [PDF] titled "Electronic Records: Clinton Administration's Management of Executive Office of the President's E-Mail System."

Go to News Briefs from April 26-30, 2001.