News from February 26-28, 2005

Copps Addresses VOIP and 911

2/28. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Michael Copps gave a speech [6 pages in PDF] regarding homeland security, interoperability, public safety spectrum, DTV transition, health care communications, and 911 issues. He addressed the availability of 911 service with voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services. He said that it is ">our solemn and pressing obligation to make sure that it is available".

He stated that "we have a real challenge with VOIP" and 911. He added that "Let me be the first to say that I do not have a ready answer for the VOIP 911 question. Certainly we need to understand that VOIP doesn’t use the same technology as the circuit-switched network and this should be reflected in our rules. And we need to figure out when one player offers an application and another is a service provider."

Then, he stated that "This problem has to be fixed. And it has to be fixed soon. It is simply unacceptable that a child can pick up a phone and dial 9-1-1 to get the police in an emergency and instead she gets a recording saying that 9-1-1 is not available. A 9-1-1 call can be the single most important call that child, or any of us, ever makes. So it is our solemn and pressing obligation to make sure that it is available and that it works."

FCC Denies Several Indecency Complaints

2/28. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released several orders denying complaints regarding broadcast indecency. These orders were adopted on February 3, 2005 and February 14, 2005, but not announced or released until February 28, 2005.

The FCC released a Memorandum Opinion and Order [9 pages in PDF] denying the complaint of the American Family Association (AFA) and others asserting that ABC's 8:00 PM broadcast of the movie titled "Saving Private Ryan" violated the statute and rules regarding indecent materials. The FCC determined that the use of profanity within the overall context of the movie was not indecent. This order was adopted on February 3. It is FCC 05-23. See also, FCC release.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote in a separate statement [PDF] that "we reaffirm that content cannot be evaluated without careful consideration of context. Saving Private Ryan is filled with expletives and material arguably unsuitable for some audiences, but it is not indecent in the unanimous view of the Commission."

He added that "This film is a critically acclaimed artwork that tells a gritty story -- one of bloody battles and supreme heroism. The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels. The true colors are muddy brown and fire red and any accurate depiction of this significant historical tale could not be told properly without bringing that sense to the screen. It is for these reasons that the FCC has previously declined to rule this film indecent."

The FCC released a Memorandum Opinion and Order [4 pages in PDF] denying the complaint of the Parents Television Council (PTC) asserting the Fox Television Stations' broadcast of a program titled "Arrested Development" violated the statute and rules regarding indecent materials. This order was adopted on February 14. It is FCC 05-36. See also, FCC release.

The FCC released a Memorandum Opinion and Order [4 pages in PDF] denying the complaint of the PTC asserting the NBC Telemundo Licensing Co.'s broadcast of a program titled "Will and Grace" violated the statute and rules regarding indecent materials. This order was adopted on February 14. It is FCC 05-38. See also, FCC release.

The FCC released a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying the complaint of the PTC asserting the WBDC Broadcasting, Inc.'s broadcast of a program titled "Angel" violated the statute and rules regarding indecent materials. This order was adopted on February 14. It is FCC 05-37. See also, FCC release.

Attorney General Gonzales Urges Extension of Sunsetting PATRIOT Act Provisions

2/28. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech in Washington DC at which he discussed the USA PATRIOT Act, and extension of the provisions of the Act that sunset at the end of this year.

Alberto GonzalesHe said that in late 2001, "The Bush Administration worked closely with both parties in Congress to shape a proposal that gave law enforcement the tools it needed to secure the homeland while protecting our liberties. It is important to note that this period of intense discussion preceded the enactment of the PATRIOT Act-even as our nation worried about another imminent enemy assault."

"Three years later, we can say the PATRIOT Act is working: it has helped prevent additional terrorist attacks. As we look at the challenges of the future, it is important to remember why the PATRIOT Act is so effective. First, the Act lowered the bureaucratic wall that separated law enforcement from the intelligence community. Second, the Act ensured that law enforcement could battle terrorism by deploying many of the legal tools that had long been used to fight drug smugglers, mobsters, and other criminals."

He continued that "Some of these important provisions are set to expire at the end of 2005. But as the President has warned, the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. The coming Congressional deliberations regarding the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act are important. Debate and discussion reflect our strength as a democracy. We all share the same goal: to give law enforcement the tools they need to keep America safe, while honoring our values, and I look forward to hearing the views of others on this critical question. I am willing to support improvements to our laws that make America safer. What I will not support are changes in the law that would make America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks."

On February 14, 2005, President Bush renewed his call for the Congress to extend the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act. He made his statements at a swearing in ceremony for Gonzales. See, story titled "Bush Seeks Extension of Sunsetting Provisions of the PATRIOT Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,077, Feb. 15.

Christopher Wray Resigns

Christopher Wray2/28. Christopher Wray, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Criminal Division, resigned, "effective on a timetable to ensure as smooth a transition as practicable". See, statement by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales praising Wray.

Wray previously worked for the law firm of King & Spaulding. He replaced Michael Chertoff, who, after a short tenure at the DOJ, was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Chertoff has since been appointed Secretary of Homeland Security.

The DOJ's Criminal Division is significant for technology and communications for several reasons. It is involved in policy with respect to electronic surveillance. It is involved in extension of the technology and surveillance related provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. It is involved in implementation, reinterpretation and amendment of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

The Criminal Division also includes the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), which is involved in both computer security issues and intellectual property issues, especially those pertaining to protection of the digital content of the entertainment industry.

President Bush has not yet announced a replacement.

People and Appointments

2/28. William Blumenthal was named General Counsel of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He is currently a partner in the Washington DC office of the law firm of King & Spalding (KS). His KS biography states that he "practices in the area of antitrust and trade regulation" and "appears regularly before the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the state Attorneys General". See also, FTC release.

2/28. Dean Kamen, Carl Gulbransen, and Andrea Ryan were named to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC). Dean Kamen is an inventor and physicist, President of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, and Chairman of Segway LLC. Carl Gulbrandsen is Managing Director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), Director of the Wisconsin Technology Counsel, and Public Policy Chair of the Association of University Technology Managers. Andrea Ryan is VP and Assistant General Counsel for patents at Wyeth Research. See, USPTO release.

2/28. Joshua Rosenberg, Kathleen Porter, and Parker Livingston were named to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC). Joshua Rosenberg is Director of Trademark Licensing at  Hewlett-Packard. Kathleen Porter is an attorney at the law firm of Oblon Spivak. Parker Livingston is an attorney in the law firm of Burns Doane Swecker & Mathis. See, USPTO release. The TPAC will meet on Tuesday, March 1 from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM, at 600 Dulany Street, Madison West -- 10D31, Alexandria, VA. Jon Dudas, Director of the USPTO, is scheduled to speak at 10:00 AM. See, agenda.

2/28. Deborah Klein was named acting Chief of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Media Bureau (MB). She is currently the Chief of Staff at the MB. She has worked at the FCC since 1994. She will replace Kenneth Ferree, who is leaving on March 4, 2005. See, FCC release [PDF].

More News

2/28. President Bush gave a wide ranging speech on his policy agenda at a White House event for the National Governors Association. However, he said nothing about technology related policies.

2/28. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that acting USTR Peter Allgeier will attend an informal meeting of trade ministers in Mombassa, Kenya, on March 3–4, 2005. The Office of the USTR stated that the meeting will focus on advancing the Doha round of trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). See, USTR release.

2/28. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a notice in the Federal Register stating that it has suspended from its e-rate subsidy program for schools and libraries Qasim Bokhari, aka Syed Qasim Ali Bokhari, aka Kasim Bokhari. Bokhari previously plead guilty to federal criminal charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection with his e-rate fraud. That case is United States v. Bokhari, et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, D.C. No. 04-CR-0056-RTR. See, Federal Register, February 28, 2005, Vol. 70, No. 38, at Pages 9647-9649.

2/28. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created an Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC). April 29, 2005 is the deadline to submit nominations for membership on the ETAAC. The IRS seeks representatives of technology providers, tax software developers, and transmitters of electronic returns, among others. See, notice in the Federal Register, February 28, 2005, Vol. 70, No. 38, at Page 9701-9702.

2/28. John Kneuer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), gave a speech at the eGov Wireless / RFID Conference. See, presentation slides [17 pages in PDF].

2/28. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced the filing of hundreds more complaints, on behalf of record companies, alleging copyright infringement in connection with the use of peer to peer systems. See, RIAA release.

More News

2/26. A grand jury of the U.S. District Court (DC) returned an twelve count indictment that charges Mark W. Everson with tax evasion and other charges. The Department of Justice (DOJ) stated in a release that Everson was a long distance telephone service entrepreneur with interests in Mid-Atlantic Telecom, Esprit Telecom and Telco Communications Group. The DOJ asserts that he realized taxable income, but created an "elaborate evasion scheme to avoid paying the tax that the law requires" through offshore entities and transactions. The DOJ asserts that he "failed to pay approximately $170 million in federal income taxes and $40 million in D.C. income taxes."

Go to News from February 21-25, 2005.