More Top Stories from 2002

Where Sen. Frist Stands on Tech Issues
12/23. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), who is likely to be the next Senate Majority Leader, has not been active on technology related issues. He is a doctor who has focused more on health, drug, biotech, Medicaid, Medicare, and social security related issues. However, he has a voting record on tech related legislation, and has either sponsored, cosponsored, or spoken about a number of other technology related bills. This article examines his tech record. Basically, despite his focus on health issues, he has a record on tech related issues, and it is pro-technology. See, full story.

Indictment Alleges Dallas Computer Business Was Funded by Middle Eastern Terrorist
12/16. A grand jury of the U.S. District Court (NDTex) returned a 33 count indictment [32 page PDF scan] against seven individuals and one company. The indictment charges five brothers named Elashi who have all worked for a company named Infocom Corporation, which is also charged, that exported computers and computer components to customers in the Middle East. The indictment contains twelve counts naming the Elashi brothers pertaining to exports to Libya and Syria in violation of U.S. export control laws. Also charged is a cousin of the Elashi brothers, Nadia Marzook, and her husband, Mousa Abu Marzook. Mr. Marzook is the Deputy Chief of Hamas' Political Bureau. The U.S. named Mousa Abu Marzook a Specifically Designated Terrorist (SDT) in 1995, thus making certain transactions with him illegal. The remaining counts of the complaint allege that three of the Elashi brothers and Mr. and Mrs. Marzook engaged in various financial transactions that are illegal because of Mr. Marzook's status as a terrorist. More specifically, the indictment alleges that Mr. Marzook invested $250,000 in Infocom through his wife, and that Infocom made various transfers to her as a share of the profits. See, full story.

4th Circuit Rules in Internet Jurisdiction Case
12/13. The U.S. Court of Appeals (4thCir) issued its opinion [12 pages in PDF] in Young v. New Haven Advocate, holding that a court in Virginia does not have jurisdiction over two small newspapers, and their editors and reporters, located in Connecticut, who wrote allegedly defamatory stories about a Virginia prison warden and published them on the Internet. The Court held that the web publication did not establish minimum contacts because the newspapers are not directed at a Virginia audience. See, full story.

Martin Offers Proposal for Resolution of Pending FCC Broadband Proceedings
12/12. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Kevin Martin gave a speech [13 pages in PDF] in which he said that the FCC has "four critical rulemakings that have been pending since the beginning of the year: the Triennial Review of unbundled network elements, the dominant nondominant proceeding, the wireline broadband NPRM, and the cable modem service NPRM." He offered his proposal. See, full story.

So, Just What Are All of These FCC Broadband Proceedings About Anyway?
12/12. This story reviews the broadband related proceedings currently pending before the FCC. See, full story.

6th Circuit Buries Protectionist Statute in Tennessee Casket Case
12/6. The U.S. Court of Appeals (6thCir) issued its opinion in Craigmiles v. Giles, a constitutional law case that may make it easier to overturn some protectionist state statutes that impede electronic commerce. The Court held unconstitutional a state statute that it found to be an "attempt to prevent economic competition". This case does not specifically involve Internet commerce, the use of technology, or even technology companies. It deals with the sale of caskets. This case involves a challenge to an obscure Tennessee statute regarding funeral directors. Nevertheless, this case may have broader consequences for other businesses, and particularly those involved in electronic commerce. The Court held unconstitutional on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds a statute enacted to protect state funeral directors from competition. Numerous state protectionist statutes have the effect of banning many forms of e-commerce, including sales of cars, wines, contact lenses, and other products. These types of laws also obstruct Internet based travel agencies, pharmacies, mortgage brokers, and many other services. See, full story.

Election Outcomes May Affect Tech Policy
11/5. Control of the Senate will switch from the Democrats to the Republicans as a result of the November 5 general election. Democrats and their allies held a slim one vote majority before the election. The Republicans now have at least a 51 vote majority, with two seats still undecided. The change of control will have major consequences across a wide range of policy areas. It will also affect confirmations, particularly of judges. However, the most important consequences for technology lie in the changes in control of a few committees. See, full story.

Virginia Court Affirms Denial of Motion to Quash Subpoena for AOL Records on Anonymous Poster
11/1. The Virginia Supreme Court issued its opinion [MS Word] in AOL v. Nam Tai Electronics, affirming a Virginia trial court order refusing an ISP's (AOL) motion to quash a subpoena duces tecum based upon an electronics company's (Nam Tai) California action against anonymous persons who allegedly published false and defamatory messages about it on a Yahoo message board. See also, opinion [TXT] without footnotes. Bottom line: AOL cannot protect the anonymity of its subscriber in this case. See, full story.

Powell Addresses Spectrum Policy
10/30. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell gave a speech titled "Broadband Migration III: New Directions in Wireless Policy". He spoke to the Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Powell described the speech as "my thoughts about the next generation of spectrum policy". He stated that consumers "deserve a new spectrum policy paradigm that is rooted in modern day technologies and markets." See, full story.

FRB Vice Chairman Addresses Impact of Computer and Software Technology on Productivity Gains
10/24. Federal Reserve Board (FRB) Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson gave a speech at the London Business School titled "Productivity Growth: A Realistic Assessment ". He offered his analysis of why productivity has grown in recent years, and even during the recent economic downturn. His analysis is based in large part on developments in, and adoption of, computer and software technologies. (FRB Chairman Alan Greenspan also gave a speech on productivity gains on October 23.) See, full story.

District Court Holds ADA Does Not Apply to Web Site
10/18. The U.S. District Court (SDFl) issued its Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss in Access Now v. Southwest Airlines, holding that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ban on discrimination in public accommodations does not apply to Southwest's web site. See, full story.

Cox and Wyden Introduce Global Internet Freedom Act
10/10. On October 2, Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) introduced HR 5524, the Global Internet Freedom Act, in the House. On October 10, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced S 3093, the companion bill in the Senate. The bill creates, and authorizes funding for, a new Office of Global Internet Freedom to counter Internet jamming and blocking by repressive regimes. See, full story.

FCC Declines to Approve EchoStar DirectTV Merger
10/10. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced at a press conference that it has "declined to approve the transfer of licenses from EchoStar Communications Corporation and Hughes Electronics Corporation, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, to a new entity". EchoStar and Hughes both provide direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service via their Dish Network and DirecTV. See, FCC release [MS Word]. See, full story.

Reps. Boucher and Doolittle Introduce Digital Media Consumer Rights Act
10/3. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) introduced the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act of 2002. Rep. Boucher gave a lengthy speech at an event to announce the introduction of the bill. He stated that the bill would "reaffirm and reinforce the Fair Use doctrine in this digital era." See, full story.

Rep. Lofgren Introduces Digital Fair Use Bill
10/2. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced a bill titled the Digital Choice and Freedom Act of 2002. This bill would broadly expand the rights of persons who lawfully acquire digital copies of copyrighted works, while diminishing the rights of copyright holders. The bill does five things. First, the bill adds a reference to "analog or digital transmissions" to § 107 (the fair use section) of the Copyright Act. Second, the bill creates a new § 123 in the Copyright Act that limits the basic exclusive rights of § 106. This new section allows copying of lawfully obtained copies for storage, or for use on a preferred digital media device. Third, the bill limits the enforceability of non-negotiable license terms. Fourth, the bill expands the § 109 right of sale to digital works. Fifth, the bill limits the anti circumvention provisions of the DMCA. See, full story.

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on State Impediments to E-Commerce
9/26. The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection held a hearing titled "State Impediments to E-Commerce: Consumer Protection or Veiled Protectionism?" The Subcommittee focused on three specific areas of e-commerce regulation: contact lenses, wine sales, and auctions. See, full story.

FCC Media Ownership NPRM Seeks Comments on Impact of Internet
9/24. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) [68 pages in PDF] regarding its comprehensive review of the FCC's various media ownership rules. The FCC it announced this NPRM back at its September 12 meeting. The document seeks public comment on hundreds of specific questions. One theme that runs through many of the questions is what impact does the Internet now have on achieving the FCC's goals of promoting diversity, competition, and localism in its various ownership rules. See, full story.

4th Circuit Rules No Recovery Under Privacy Act for Disclosure of SSNs Without Showing of Actual Damages
9/20. The U.S. Court of Appeals (4thCir) issued its split opinion [48 pages in PDF] in Doe v. Chao, holding that a plaintiff must prove actual damages to recover under the Privacy Act for improper disclosure of Social Security Numbers by the federal government. See, full story.

CEA CEO Criticizes Record and Movie Companies on Copyright
9/17. Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) P/CEO Gary Shapiro gave a speech titled "The Campaign to Have Copyright Interests Trump Technology and Consumer Rights" at the Optical Storage Symposium, in San Francisco, California. He bluntly criticized the copyright related actions and arguments of the movie and record companies, and their supporters in the Congress and Justice Department. See, full story.

IIPI Conference Addresses Creation of Specialized Courts for Copyright Cases
9/13. The International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) hosted a two day conference in Washington DC titled "Specialized Intellectual Property Courts" on September 12 and 13. One of the topics addressed was the creation of specialized courts with jurisdiction over copyright law. See, full story.

Consumer Groups Petition FTC to Promulgate Rule Banning Deceptive Spam
9/4. The Telecommunications Research and Action Center, the National Consumers League, and Consumer Action submitted a petition [14 pages in PDF] to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting that it initiate a rule making proceeding to adopt a rule pertaining to deceptive practices in the sending of unsolicited commercial e-mail. See, full story.

Lucent May Be Liable in Contract for Delay in Filing SEC Form S-3
9/3. The U.S. Court of Appeals (5thCir) issued its opinion [21 pages in PDF] in Herrmann Holdings v. Lucent, holding, as matter of Texas law, that a clause in a merger contract that provides that the acquiring company will use its best efforts to promptly file an S-3 form with the SEC, may give rise to a breach of contract action. See, full story.

Verizon and Privacy Groups Oppose RIAA Subpoena
8/30. Verizon and a collection of privacy groups have filed briefs with the U.S. District Court (DC) in a proceeding brought by the RIAA for the purpose enforcing a subpoena of Verizon's Internet services subsidiary. The RIAA motion states that it seeks the identity of the user of "a computer connected to the Verizon network that is a hub for significant music piracy". Verizon argues that the asserted basis for the subpoena, the DMCA, does not extend to situations such as this, where the alleged infringing material is stored on the computer of Verizon's customer, as opposed to Verizon's own system, and Verizon only serves an a communications conduit for the customer. Amici assert the First Amendment right of anonymous speech. See, full story.

10th Circuit Disallows R&D Tax Credit for Software Development Costs
8/30. The U.S. Court of Appeals (10thCir) issued its opinion in Tax and Accounting Software Corp. v. IRS, a case regarding when expenses of a software company may qualify for the research and development tax credit. The Appeals Court reversed a District Court summary judgment in favor of a small software development company, on the grounds that its expenses were not for "qualified research". See, full story.

9th Circuit Rules on Application of Wiretap Act and Stored Communications Act to Secure Web Sites
8/23. The U.S. Court of Appeals (9thCir) issued its opinion [39 pages in PDF] in Konop v. Hawaiian Airlines, a case involving application of the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act to password protected discussion web sites. This is the Appeals Courts' second opinion in this case. The Appeals Court held in this second opinion that the unauthorized accessing of messages posted to a password protected web site does not violate the Wiretap Act because the Wiretap Act only covers messages intercepted during transmission, not those intercepted in storage. And hence, the Appeals Court affirmed the District Court's summary judgment on this issue in favor of a defendant who accessed the web site under false pretences. The Appeals Court reversed the District Court's summary judgment for the defendant on the Stored Communications Act issue, but only on narrow grounds peculiar to this case. See, full story.

Rep. Barr Loses Primary Election
8/20. Rep. John Linder (R-GA) defeated Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) in the Republican primary election for the Georgia 7th Congressional District. The two incumbents faced each other as a result of redistricting. Rep. Barr has been active on a wide range of technology related issues, particularly matters pertaining to electronic privacy and Internet taxation. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Chairman of its Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, he has been in a position to pursue his technology related agenda. See, full story.

Music Companies Sue Internet Backbone Companies to Block Access to Pirate Site in PRChina
8/15. Thirteen music companies filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (SDNY) against four Internet backbone companies seeking an order requiring the defendants to block access to the Internet protocol addresses assigned to the Listen4ever servers in the People's Republic of China. The complaint, which does not name Listen4ever as a defendant, alleges that Listen4ever operates a web site that engages in infringement of the music companies' copyrighted sound recording by making them available for download. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for preliminary injunction. See, full story.

7th Circuit Rules on Use of Trademarks in HTML Metatags
8/13. The U.S. Court of Appeals (7thCir) issued its opinion [PDF] in Promatek v. Equitrak, a trademark case involving HTML metatags. The Appeals Court affirmed a District Court injunction. See, full story.

Customs Service Loses 2,251 Computers
8/8. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill requesting that a report written by the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the loss of computers and other items by the U.S. Customs Service be made public. Sen. Grassley wrote in this letter that "The report on Customs states that the Customs Service -- an agency whose responsibilities include tracking material -- has managed to lose or have stolen a stunning 2,251 computers." See, full story.

FTC Files and Settles Complaint Against Microsoft
8/8. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought and settled an administrative complaint [6 pages in PDF] against Microsoft alleging violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) in connection with Microsoft's privacy and security practices. The complaint focuses on Microsoft's sign-on and online wallet services named Passport and Passport Express Purchase. The FTC and Microsoft simultaneously entered into an Agreement Containing Consent Order [8 pages in PDF]. Microsoft admitted to no violations of federal law. Microsoft will pay no fine. However, the agreement, which has a twenty year duration, imposes numerous requirements for Microsoft's information security program. See, full story.

FBI Loses 317 Laptops
8/5. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited and released a series of reports on the control of laptop computers and weapons at five DOJ components. It found a total of 400 missing laptops, and 775 missing weapons. For the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it reported 317 missing laptops and 212 missing weapons. Moreover, the OIG found that the FBI does not know if sensitive data has been lost. See, Executive Summary [43 pages in PDF]. See, full story.

McCain Introduces Consumer Broadband Bill
8/1. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 2863 [17 pages in PDF], the "Consumer Broadband Deregulation Act". The bill would add a new title to the Communications Act of 1934, titled "Consumer Broadband Services". It would provide that "neither the Commission, nor any State, shall have authority to regulate the rates, charges, terms, or conditions for the retail offering of consumer broadband service." See, full story.

Powell's Market Oriented Approach Gives Democrats Heartburn
7/30. The Senate Commerce Committee's hearing on telecommunications and the Internet on July 30 gave several Democratic Senators the opportunity to criticize Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell's market oriented approach to regulation. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC), the Chairman of the Committee, and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), a senior member of the Communications Subcommittee, both stated that Powell gave them "heartburn". See, full story.

Senate Approps Rejects Bush Proposals for Increased Funding for Tech Related Agencies
7/24. The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) reported and released its Commerce Justice State (CJS) FY 2003 appropriations bill. This bill includes appropriations for most of the technology related departments and agencies of the federal government, including the USPTO, FCC, FTC, and Antitrust Division. President Bush's proposal, released back in February, called for significant increases for these entities. The Senate bill provides for no increase, or very small increases, at most agencies. However, it would reinstate the NTIA's TOP grant program which Bush seeks to eliminate. See, full story.

Government Officials Announce 3G Spectrum Plan
7/23. Officials from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Department of Commerce (DOC), and Department of Defense (DOD), along with the heads of the CTIA and TIA, announced a plan for the reallocation of 90 MHz of spectrum for use by Third Generation (3G) wireless services at a press conference in Washington DC. The identified spectrum is located at 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz. The participants also called for legislation amending the spectrum auction process. In particular, the administration proposes creating a trust to be funded out of the proceeds of auctions of the reallocated spectrum; this trust would then provide payments to federal entities that must relocate to other spectrum. See, full story.