News from February 1-5, 2003

EPIC Argues Black Marker Redaction Inappropriate under FOIA for Electronic Records

2/5. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed an amicus curiae brief [PDF] with the Supreme Court in BATF v. City of Chicago, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case. The EPIC argues that "black marker redaction is inappropriate in an age of electronic record keeping".

On November 12, 1998 the City of Chicago filed a complaint in Illinois state court against firearms makers and distributors. It also sought records from the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) under the FOIA regarding multiple sales of handguns and the tracing of firearms involved in crimes. The BATF withheld certain records asserting that they were exempt. Chicago then filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (NDIll). Both parties moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether certain FOIA exemptions protected some of the requested data from disclosure. The District Court granted summary judgment to Chicago, holding that none of the FOIA exemptions permit ATF to withhold any of the requested records. On April 25, 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals (7thCir) issued its opinion affirming the District Court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari. The EPIC has submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court.

The EPIC wrote in its brief that "Even if portions of the City of Chicago's request are properly exempt from disclosure under the FOIA, ATF can provide the City with the requested information by encoding the exempt portions while retaining the integrity of the remainder of the requested information. In interpreting the FOIA in this way so as to encourage access to information while preserving privacy, the Court would be faithful to the language of the Act and the intent of Congress in the new context of pervasively used electronic databases. The definition of redaction propounded by petitioner ATF is outdated in the modern day world of computer technology and is inconsistent with ATF's own system of information distribution and management."

California Court Rules on Electronic Discovery

2/5. The California Court of Appeal issued its opinion [MS Word] in Dodge Warren & Peters v. Riley, a case regarding pre-trial discovery of electronic evidence.

Plaintiff is Dodge Warren & Peters Insurance Services (Dodge), an insurance brokerage. Defendants, James Riley and others (Riley), are former Dodge employees who set up their own insurance brokerage. Before leaving, they copied certain of Dodge's electronic files. Dodge filed a complaint in California Superior Court against Riley alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair business practices, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.

Dodge requested, and the Superior Court granted, a preliminary injunction that requires the preservation of electronic evidence by prohibiting the defendants from destroying, deleting or secreting from discovery any of their electronic storage media. It also requires them to allow a court appointed expert to copy all of it, including computer hard drives and discs, to recover lost or deleted files and to perform automated searches of that evidence under guidelines agreed to by the parties or established by the court.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the grant of the preliminary injunction.

U.S. and India Sign Statement of Principles for Tech Commerce

2/5. Representatives of the U.S. and India signed a document titled "Statement of Principles for U.S. India High Technology Commerce". The statement follows President Bush's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in November of 2002.

The statement provides that "The two Governments note that there is immense untapped potential for India-U.S. high technology commerce and recognise the importance of taking steps to remove systemic tariff and non-tariff barriers, identify and generate awareness of market opportunities, and build additional confidence in the two countries for such trade, in a way that reflects their new relationship and common strategic interests."

The statement further provides that "The Government of India appreciates the importance that the Government of the United States attaches to a supportive regulatory and institutional environment in India for robust bilateral high technology commerce, including easing barriers to such commerce. The Government of India intends to do its utmost in this regard."

Back on October 29, 2002, U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill gave a speech to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi. He stated "Virtually every major American IT firm has a presence in southern India". But, they tend not to sell in the domestic market. Also, there could be much more foreign investment. He said that "Americans hesitate to invest in India because of the uncertainty over India's economic reforms." He cited several problems, including that "taxes and tariffs here are still too high, and there remains too much government interference over business decisions". He also stated that "within the US business community there is an erosion of confidence about whether the sanctity of contracts will be honored in India". See, story titled "US Ambassador Addresses IT in India" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 539, October 31, 2002.

The statement also provides that "The two Governments understand the importance of enhancing trade between India and the United States in “dual-use” items, including controlled “dual use” goods and technologies, while protecting the national security and foreign policy interests of both countries, and intend to take steps to facilitate such trade, which is a component of high technology commerce."

The statement was signed by Kenneth Juster, who is the Under Secretary of Commerce in charge of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and by Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.

Tech Crimes

2/5. The U.S. District Court (MDFl) sentenced Benjamin Carter to 18 months of probation, following his plea of guilty to seven counts of broadcasting without a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 301. See, FCC release.

People and Appointments

2/5. President Bush announced his intent to appoint Richard Parsons to be a Member of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. He is CEO of AOL Time Warner Inc. See, White House release.

2/5. The Senate began its debate on the nomination of Miquel Estrada to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination last week.

More News

2/5. The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing titled "Health of the Telecommunications Sector: A Perspective from Investors and Economists". See, prepared testimony of witnesses: Robert Atkinson (Columbia University), Blake Bath (Lehman Brothers Equity Research), Steve Brouder (Cambridge Strategic Management Group), Robert Crandall (Brookings Institute), and Eric Strumingher (Cobalt Capital). See also, prepared statement for Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), Chairman of the full Committee.

2/5. The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the nomination of William Donaldson to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). See, prepared testimony of Donaldson. See also, opening statement of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Committee, and opening statement of Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), the ranking Democrat. See also, page with links to opening statements of other Committee members.

2/5. The Department of Commerce (DOC) requested nominations for the 2003 National Medal of Technology awards. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans stated in a release that the winners "are the pioneers, explorers and risk-takers who have pushed the boundaries of science and technology - improving all areas of our lives ... Their groundbreaking contributions have helped bring useful technologies to market, create jobs, increase U.S. productivity, stimulate our nation’s economic development and maintain America’s technological leadership.” The deadline for submitting 2003 nominations will be May 23, 2003. See, nomination guidelines.

2/5. The Department of Commerce's (DOC) Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published in its web site a document titled "Annual Report -- Fiscal Year 2002". Chapters 1, 2 and 3 [PDF] cover the export controls, licensing and enforcemetn. Chapter 7 [5 pages in PDF] of the report addresses "Critical Infrastructure Protection". This chapter reviews the activities of the BIS's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO).

2/5. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell released a statement regarding broadcast media ownership. He said that "I am enormously pleased so many citizens have chosen to participate in the broadcast ownership proceeding. The number of comments is staggering -- 13,000 from the general public alone. It is gratifying to witness first hand the unparalleled opportunities technology now provides the American public to participate in the democratic process. This record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age, you don't need a 19th century whistle stop tour to hear from America. In addition to poring through this exhaustive record, I will attend the FCC's hearing in Richmond, Virginia on February 27. I commend others for their interest in attending additional forums."

Administration Officials Discuss Technology Related Budget Items

2/4. Department of Commerce (DOC) officials held a briefing on sections of the President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2004 that pertain to intellectual property, technology, science and innovation. The participants were included Phil Bond, Under Secretary for the Technology Administration (TA), Arden Bement, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NTIA), Jon Dudas, Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Kenneth Juster, Under Secretary for the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and Nancy Victory, Director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Phil BondPhil Bond (at right) stated that "this is a budget that reflects the President's priorities -- technology is the common denominator". He added that "It is a budget that recognizes money is limited but research and innovation are vital to America's world leadership." He stated, for example, that there is a total of $123 Billion for research and development, which is an increase over this year's proposal and "is more basic research and development than the rest of the G8 combined."

Jon Dudas of the USPTO stated that the FY04 budget proposal calls for $1,404 Million, up from the FY03 proposal of $1,334 Million. He also stated that this proposal continues the practice of "fee diversion". However, on the bright side, he said that this proposal "returns to the USPTO a greater share of its revenue than last year". That is, it would decrease from $193 Million to $100 Million under the President's proposals. He also said that this is a "dramatic reduction", and that the administration wants to work with the Congress towards a goal of ultimate elimination of fee diversion. See, full story.

Commerce Department Official Predicts Few Digital Content Bills Will Pass in 2003

2/4. The Department of Commerce's (DOC) Bruce Mehlman gave a speech at a Precursor Group conference titled "Protecting Digital Value" in Washington DC. He predicted that little legislation regarding digital content will pass in 2003.

He said that there are three fundamental trends -- growing broadband access and use, proliferation of consumer electronics that improve consumers’ access to and use of digital content, and increasing consumer interest in digital content.

He also said that there are three "outside elements" that may have an impact in 2003 -- the Verizon case, the success of independents, and the Congress.

He stated that as a result of the Verizon case, "expect RIAA and MPAA to adopt the BSA business model major and bring private lawsuits against corporations, universities or even individuals unwittingly serving as piracy supernodes. Fear of liability could put a downward drag on free but illegal file sharing, by inducing greater network self-regulation among businesses and colleges (which is also good for network management and security)." (Parentheses in original.)

On January 21, the U.S. District Court (DC) issued its opinion in RIAA v. Verizon, ruling that copyright holders can obtain subpoenas pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(h) that require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to reveal the identities of their customers who infringe copyrights on peer to peer filing sharing systems. See also, TLJ story titled District Court Rules DMCA Subpoenas Available for P2P Infringers.

Mehlman also said, "Watch to see whether independent services gain equal access to the labels’ catalogues and full rights to offer desired consumer services ..."

Finally, he addressed legislation. He said, "I would not expect to see much if any legislation move all the way through in 2003. Technology mandates, peer-to-peer restrictions, eased anti-hacker rules for content counter strikes, and expanded fair use exemptions just aren't likely to pass this year. Progress might be made on a narrowly tailored broadcast flag law, if it’s needed (as opposed to FCC action alone), and assuming the warring factions can come to reasonable consensus. A lot of time and money will be spent lobbying without legislative result, ..." (Parentheses in original.)

Mehlman is the DOC's Assistant Secretary for Technology Policy.

Sen. Grassley Introduces Class Action Reform Bill

2/4. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and others introduced S 274, the Class Action Fairness Act of 2003, a bill that Sen. Grassley stated would limit class action abuse.

The bill states in its section on findings and purposes that "Class members often receive little or no benefit from class actions, and are sometimes harmed, such as where ... counsel are awarded large fees, while leaving class members with coupons or other awards of little or no value".

One of the provisions of the bill is that "The court may approve a proposed settlement under which the class members would receive noncash benefits or would otherwise be required to expend funds in order to obtain part or all of the proposed benefits only after a hearing to determine whether, and making a written finding that, the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate for class members."

The bill also prohibits any "proposed settlement that provides for the payment of greater sums to some class members than to others solely on the basis that the class members to whom the greater sums are to be paid are located in closer geographic proximity to the court."

Sen. Charles GrassleyThe bill also prohibits any "proposed settlement that provides for the payment of a greater share of the award to a class representative serving on behalf of a class, on the basis of the formula for distribution to all other class members, than that awarded to the other class members." Sen. Grassley (at right) elaborated on this section in a statement in the Senate. He said that "our bill disallows bounty payments to lead plaintiffs so lawyers looking for victims can't promise them unwarranted payoffs to be their excuse for filing suit." Cong. Record, Feb. 4, 2003, at S1873-4.

The bill would also provide additional grounds for removing class action lawsuits from state to federal court. The bill would also require that notice be given to state attorneys general of any proposed settlements affecting residents of their states. It would also give them an opportunity to object.

The original cosponsors of the bill are Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA), and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).

The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Hatch is the Chairman. Sen. Grassley is a senior member. Sens. Specter and Kohl are also members.

GAO Reports on Government Use of Smart Cards

2/4. The General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report [53 pages in PDF] titled "Electronic Government: Progress in Promoting Adoption of Smart Card Technology".

Smart cards are credit card like devices that use integrated circuit chips to store and process data. The report states that "Results from projects that are already in place indicate that smart cards offer many useful benefits, such as significantly reducing the processing time required for deploying military personnel, tracking immunization records of children, and verifying the identity of individuals accessing buildings and computer systems."

The report also reviews challenges faced by government officials in implementing smart card systems. These include lack of executive level commitment, "obtaining adequate resources for projects that can require extensive modifications to technical infrastructures and software", integrating security practices across agencies, achieving interoperability across agencies, and "maintaining the security of smart card systems and privacy of personal information".

The report also contains several recommendations. First, it recommends that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) "issue governmentwide policy guidance regarding adoption of smart cards for secure access to physical and logical assets".

Second, the report recommends that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) "continue to improve and update the government smart card interoperability specification by addressing governmentwide standards for additional technologies -- such as contactless cards, biometrics, and optical stripe media -- as well as integration with PKI, to ensure broad interoperability among federal agency systems".

The report also contains several recommendations for implementation by the General Services Administration (GSA), including "updating its governmentwide implementation strategy and administrative guidance on implementing smart card systems to address current security priorities, including minimum security standards for federal facilities, computer systems, and data across the government".

The report was prepared at the request of Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), who is now the Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

People and Appointments

2/4. President Bush announced his intent to nominate Janice Obuchowski to be Ambassador to the World Radiocommunication Conference 2003 (WRC 2003). See, White House release. See also, FCC WRC 2003 page. She is currently the President of Freedom Technologies, Inc. Previously, she cofounded, with Al Salmasi, NextWave, which last month won its battle to retain its spectrum licenses. See, opinion [34 pages in PDF] of the Supreme Court. She was also EVP of NextWave from 1995 through 1998. Before that, she was head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) during the first Bush administration. Before that, she was Executive Director of International Affairs at NYNEX. And before that, she held various positions at the FCC, including Senior Advisor to former FCC Chairman Mark Fowler. The web site of Orbital Space Systems Group lists her as a member of its Board of Directors. Finally, see 1995 testimony (at Paragraph 9) of former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY) before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding Obuchowski. Sources: (1) January 3, 1997 MO&O [WP] of the FCC regarding NextWave's spectrum licenses, which discusses Obuchowski's involvement with NextWave and Qualcomm; (2) Orbital Science Corporation's Proxy Statement [PDF], April 16, 2001; (3) Yahoo Insider & Form 144 Filings; and (4) Annenberg Institute bio.

2/4. The Senate confirmed Paul McHale to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Christopher Henry to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

2/4. Michael Dawson was named to the newly created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Compliance Policy, at the Treasury Department. Prior to joining the Treasury Department in 2001, he was Chief of Staff at FOLIOfn, which describes itself as "a financial services technology company that delivers leading edge investment solutions to financial services firms and investors. Through its registered broker-dealer subsidiary, FOLIOfn Investments, Inc., the company offers an integrated brokerage platform featuring its unique basket trading capability and state of the art execution, clearance and settlement services." Dawson also previously worked for the law firm of Covington & Burling. See, Treasury release.

More News

2/4. The House Rules Committee met Tuesday evening and adopted a rule for consideration of HJRes 18, which makes further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2003. The Committee did not adopt a rule for consideration of HR 395, The Do-Not-Call Implementation Act, as previously scheduled.

President Bush Releases Proposed Budget for FY 2004

2/3. President Bush released information regarding his proposed budget for fiscal year 2004. The proposal provides $280 Million for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It provides $842 Million for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for FY 2004, almost twice the FY 2002 level. It provides $191 Million for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The President's proposal also provides $22 Million for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is a huge drop. However, this is due to a proposal to all but eliminate grant programs.

Finally, the proposal provides for $1,404 Million for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), up from an estimated $1,334 Million in FY 2003. The President's budget proposes continuing the practice of diverting fees to other programs. Total projected fees for FY 2004 are $1,504 Million.

See, statement by President Bush, White House summary, Budget and Management Highlights and page with links to more detailed documents.

Administration Releases FCC Budget Estimates

2/3. The Bush administration released a document [15 pages in PDF] titled "Federal Communications Commission, FY 2004 Budget Estimates to Congress". It states that "the FCC is requesting from Congress a Fiscal Year 2004 budget of $280,798,000 and 2,015 full-time equivalents (FTE's)".

The FCC's budget estimates also address the strategic goals of the FCC, which pertain broadband, spectrum, media and homeland security. However, these are all addressed in vague terms.

For example, the document states that "The FCC intends to continue its efforts in FY 2004 to establish regulatory policies that promote competition, innovation, and investment in broadband services. It will also closely monitor and report to Congress and the American people on the Nation’s progress toward the deployment of broadband services in the United States and abroad."

The document also states that "FCC efforts to encourage the highest and best use of spectrum domestically and internationally will become even more essential in FY 2004 if the United States is to encourage the growth and rapid deployment of innovative and efficient communications technologies and services."

It also states that "In conformance with congressional mandates and judicial decisions, in FY 2004 the FCC must revise its media regulations so that media ownership rules promote competition and diversity in a comprehensive, legally sustainable manner and continue to implement the mandated migration to digital modes of delivery."

The proposed FCC budget would enable the FCC to expand its engineering staff. It states that "Managing the electromagnetic spectrum effectively and encouraging the provision of new technologies and services to the public are among the FCC’s most important core functions. Engineering expertise is essential to fulfilling these objectives. The Excellence in Engineering program established in 2001 launched a multi-dimensional, multi-year effort to rebuild the agency’s engineering staff and equipment. These efforts have been necessarily incremental and a number of mission critical functions are not being adequately staffed, including spectrum management, broadband, and competition related engineering matters."

It continues that "We are requesting funding for 20 additional staff with engineering expertise to be devoted to identifying spectrum for new services, handling increased complexities of spectrum sharing and interference analyses, and developing flexible use policies. In addition the increase in staff would enhance the effectiveness of the agency’s work on media-related digital service issues, wireless and network homeland security issues, and advanced wireless and high speed internet access issues."

The White House press office also released a document titled Other Agencies. This document's section on the FCC addresses FCC related legislative proposals. For example, it states that "To continue to promote efficient spectrum use, the Administration is proposing legislation permitting new authority for FCC to set user fees on unauctioned spectrum licenses, based on public-interest and spectrum-management principles. Fee collections are estimated to begin in 2005 and total $1.9 billion in the first 10 years."

It also states that "To encourage television broadcasters to vacate the analog spectrum after 2006, as required by law, the Administration is proposing legislation authorizing FCC to establish an annual lease fee totaling $500 million for the use of analog spectrum by commercial broadcasters beginning in 2007.  Upon return of their analog spectrum license to FCC, individual broadcasters will be exempt from the fee, and fee collections would decline."

Finally, this summary states that "the Administration will again propose establishing a Spectrum Relocation Fund for federal agencies that must move from spectrum that has been auctioned."

Administration Releases Commerce Department Budget Estimates

2/3. The Bush Administration released budget estimates for fiscal year 2004 for the Department of Commerce (DOC), which includes many technology related entities. These include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which has spectrum management responsibilities, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Office of Technology Policy (OTP), and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS or BXA), which manages the system for controlling exports of software, encryption products, and high performance computers.

The following table includes summary statistics from the White House press office's summary of DOC budget estimates. See, HTML or PDF [9 pages] versions.

Department of Commerce
(in Millions)
Entity 2002
BIS 65 73 78
NIST 685 563 498
NTIA -- Total 82 61 22
  Salaries & Expenses 14 17 19
  Grant Programs 68 44 3
OTP 8 8 8
USPTO 1,130 1,334 1,404
  (USPTO Fees) 1,152 1,527 1,504

USPTO. The DOC summary states that the USPTO will be funded at the level of $1,404 Million. The USPTO is funded out of user fees, which are estimated to be $1,504 Million. Hence, $100 Million would be diverted to other government programs. This continues the practice of prior years.

The DOC summary reviews improvements made in the trademark operations of the USPTO. Then, it states that "the patent side struggles to meet performance goals. While patent processing times currently average over two years, including time spent awaiting replies from applicants, patent examiners spend only about 18 hours, on average, on a patent application. PTO faces a backlog of 420,000 patent applications, and, as the accompanying chart shows, patent pendency is likely to rise to over 45 months in 2008 if changes are not made."

The DOC summary continues that "The proposed spending level of $1.4 billion, a $70 million increase over the President’s 2003 Budget, will allow PTO to begin implementation of its strategic plan, which will help address the challenge of accelerating the process for issuing patents. In addition this proposal narrows, by almost half, the amount that PTO’s fees are above spending -- from $193 million in the 2003 Budget to $100 million in the 2004 Budget."

NIST. The DOC summary states that "The budget provides increased funding for National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories in order to meet Commerce's challenge of promoting state of the art industrial standards that support technological innovation. NIST laboratories specialize in electronics, manufacturing, engineering, chemical science, physics, materials science, building and fire research, and information technology."

The DOC summary also stated that "The 2004 Budget provides an increase of $12 million for homeland security standards development related to biometric identification, threat detection, and high-rise safety. These activities will provide more accurate identification of individuals seeking to enter the United States, improve capability to detect nuclear and radiological weapons and help prevent smuggling of them across our borders, and update building and fire standards along with operational guidance for building owners and emergency responders."

The DOC summary states that "the 2004 Budget proposes to terminate the Advanced Technology Program (ATP)".

Administration Releases FTC Budget Estimate

2/3. The Bush Administration released budget estimates for fiscal year 2004 for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has many technology related responsibilities. Its Bureau of Competition reviews some mergers and other transactions involving technology companies. It Consumer Protection Bureau has responsibilities with respect to ID theft, online fraud, and deceptive spam.

The White House press office released a document titled Other Agencies which includes a brief summary of the budget estimates for the FTC. It states that "In 2004, FTC will contribute to the Administration's consumer privacy agenda by helping the victims of identity theft, providing enforcement and outreach on children's on-line privacy, and enforcing against deceptive, mass e-mails (``spam´´).  The Commission also will keep rolling out a national ``do-not-call´´ list that will protect consumers from intrusive telemarketing calls, and bring consistency to the current patchwork of ``do-not-call´´ lists administered by the states and private sector. To carry out these aims, the 2004 Budget proposes $191 million, which will be primarily offset by fee collections from businesses for merger filings and the do-not-call list."

Representatives Introduce Bills to Make R&D Tax Credit Permanent

2/3. Last week, two bills were introduced in the House to make permanent the existing research and development tax credit. Technology companies are among the strongest backers of efforts to make the R&D tax credit permanent. On January 28, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced HR 428, an untitled bill to make permanent the R&D tax credit. On January 29, Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) introduced HR 463, the Investment in America Act of 2003, a bill to make permanent the R&D tax credit, increase the rates of the alternative incremental credit, and provide an alternative simplified credit for qualified research expenses. See, full story.

People and Appointments

2/3. John Muleta commenced duties as the new Chief of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB).

Tech Crime Report

2/3. Joseph Mitchell was sentenced in U.S. District Court (NDCal) to 46 months in prison for trafficking in counterfeit labels for copies of computer programs in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2318. The U.S. Attorneys Office (USAO) stated in a release that Mitchell sold infringing copies of Autodesk and other computer aided design (CAD) software through eBay, Yahoo, Up4sale, Ubid, and Lycos. He also used counterfeit labels. See also, CCIPS release.

2/3. William Fitzgerald plead guilty in U.S. District Court (EDVa) to one count of criminal copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(2) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319(c)(1) in connection with his distribution of pirated software through a web site. He made available for download, but did not sell, copyrighted applications made by Adobe, Autodesk, Macromedia, and Microsoft. See, CCIPS release, USAO release [PDF], USAO statement of facts [PDF], and plea agreement [14 pages in PDF].

More News

2/3. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comment on the operation and implementation of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The deadline to submit comments is 12:00 NOON on Friday, February 28. See, Federal Register, February 3, 2003, Vol. 68, No. 22, at Pages 5327-5328.

2/3. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein gave a speech [5 pages in PDF] titled "Rural America and the Promise of Tomorrow". He spoke at the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) Annual Meeting and Expo in Phoenix, Arizona. He discussed broadband deployment in rural areas, universal service, and the impact of regulatory classifications on contributions to the universal service fund. For example, he stated that "Another issue that’s occupied much of our time lately is whether the FCC should treat broadband offered by incumbent local exchange carriers -- usually DSL -- as a telecommunications service regulated under Title II of the Communications Act -- which is the Common Carrier portion of the Act -- or as an information service under Title I -- the general provisions of the Act. This seemingly simple difference can have huge ramifications for universal service. If these broadband services are classified as information services, the FCC loses much of the oversight that comes with Title II. And information service providers don’t now contribute to universal service. This raises a lot of questions. Does it mean, for example, that revenues from these services can’t contribute toward universal service? We’ve got to think hard about this at a time when the demands on the fund are increasing and contributions are decreasing."

Go to News from January 26-31, 2003.