Tech Law Journal logo

Top Stories from 2014

Representatives Introduce Bill to Require Satellite and Internet Radio to Pay Royalties for Pre 1972 Music
5/29. Rep. George Holding (R-NC) and others introduced HR 4772 [LOC | WW | TLJ], the "Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures Act", which comes close to producing the acronymal title of "RESPECT Act". This bill would amend the Copyright Act to address payment of royalties for digital performances of sound recordings made before 1972.

FTC Recommends Legislation to Regulate Data Brokers
5/27. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a document [110 pages in PDF] titled "Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability". It recommends legislation to regulate data brokers and others. See also, FTC release.

Sen. Leahy Announces Failure to Reach Consensus on Patent Bill
5/21. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC), announced in a release that "Because there is not sufficient support behind any comprehensive deal, I am taking the patent bill off the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda."

House Passes Online Sex Ads Bill
5/20. The House passed HR 4225 [LOC | WW], the "Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act of 2014" or "SAVE Act", by a vote of 392-19. See, Roll Call No. 222. This bill would amend 18 U.S.C. 1591 , which currently enables prosecution of a wide range of persons for "participation in a venture" of sex trafficking. This bill would extend the reach of the prohibition to cover "advertising". Specifically, this bill would enable prosecutors to target online service providers that provide a venue for advertising.

FCC Adopts Net Neutrality NPRM
5/15. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted and released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that once again proposes rules for the regulation of the network management practices of broadband internet access service (BIAS) providers.

Rep. Stockman Introduces Bill Regarding Tax Treatment of Virtual Currencies
5/7. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) introduced HR 4602 [LOC | WW], the "Virtual Currency Tax Reform Act", a bill to treat virtual currencies as foreign currency for tax purposes, and to impose a five year moratorium on capital gains taxation of virtual currencies. There are no cosponsors.

Obama Administration Opposes R&D Tax Credit Bill
5/6. The Executive Office of the President's (EOP) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stated in a release that "the Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 4438", and "If the President were presented with H.R. 4438, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

CRJs Propose Record Keeping Requirements for Webcasters
5/2. The Copyright Royalty Judges (CRJ) published a notice in the Federal Register (FR) announces, describes, recites, and requests comments on, proposed rules regarding "filing notice of use and the delivery of records of use of sound recordings under two statutory licenses of the Copyright Act". This pertains to "reports of use of sound recordings for the statutory licenses set forth in sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act". The CRJs also published a second notice in the FR that reaffirms the 2009 rules. The CRJ proposes to revise its rules governing how digital music services (webcasters and others) must report the songs that they play to SoundExchange. This rulemaking is not about the important issue of rates. Rather, it is about the burdensome task of record keeping and reporting. SoundExchange wants much more data.

Campaign Groups File Complaints Alleging Trivial Violations of TV Broadcaster Disclosure Regime
5/1. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and the Sunlight Foundation (SF) announced that they filed eleven complaints with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Enforcement Bureau (EB) against eleven TV broadcast stations licensed by the FCC "for letting political advertisers flout federal disclosure requirements". See, May 1, 2014 CLC release and similar May 1, 2014 SF release. The complaining groups are nitpicking. They seek to pressure the FCC to enlarge its mission as a federal election campaign regulator.

Magistrate Judge Orders Microsoft to Comply with Extraterritorial Warrant for E-Mail
4/25. James Francis, a Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court (SDNY), issued a Memorandum and Order in the matter styled "In the Matter of a Warrant to Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained by Microsoft Corporation". This Magistrate Judge, at the request of the U.S. government, issued a search and seizure warrant that directs Microsoft to produce the contents of one of its customer's e-mail accounts. Microsoft argued that the account data is stored on a server located in Dublin, Ireland, that the U.S. cannot issue extraterritorial search and seizure warrants, and therefore the warrant must be quashed. The Magistrate Judge, relying upon his interpretation of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), at 18 U.S.C. 2703, rejected Microsoft's argument, and order it to produce the contents of the e-mail account.

6th Circuit Holds Refusal to Allow Telecommuting Can Violate ADA
4/22. The U.S. Court of Appeals (6thCir) released its divided opinion [32 pages in PDF] in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, a case regarding telecommuting and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the employer, Ford, on the EEOC's claims of employment discrimination and retaliation. This opinion holds that employers may be required to allow employees who cannot because of a disability make it to the worksite to telecommute instead, even on an unfixed schedule to be determined by the employee, and even for jobs that the employer determines must be performed at the workplace or other designated locations.

DHS Announces Petition for Review Process for Critical Infrastructure Classifications
4/17. The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate published a notice in the Federal Register (FR) that announces that it has made determinations that contain classifications of critical infrastructure in which "a cybersecurity incident could reasonably result in catastrophic regional or national effects", and sets the process challenging such determinations.

Senate Commerce Committee Approves Bill to Allow Access to Data Stored in Vehicle Event Data Recorders
4/9. The Senate Commerce Committee (SCC) held an executive business meeting at which it amended and approved S 1925 [LOC | WW], the "Driver Privacy Act", a bill that allows court and administrative authorities to authorize access to data stored in vehicle event data recorders (EDRs).

TLJ Analysis of S 1925, the Driver Privacy Act
4/9. S 1925 [LOC | WW], the "Driver Privacy Act", is at bottom, about giving prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, litigators and others easy access to EDR data.

OUSTR Releases 2014 Report on Compliance with Telecommunications Trade Agreements
4/4. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) released a report titled "2014 Section 1377 Review On Compliance with Telecommunications Trade Agreements". Much of the report focuses on the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Representatives Introduce Resolution Advocating International Internet Freedom
4/1. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and others introduced HRes 532, a resolution that "calls on the Government of Turkey to lift restrictions on freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and Internet freedom, including social media".

WTO Rules in Rare Earths Case
3/26. The World Trade Organization (WTO) released its panel reports [258 pages in PDF] in its case titled "China -- Measures Related to the Exportation of Rare Earths, Tungsten, and Molybdenum".

HCC/SCT Marks Up STELA Reauthorization Bill
3/25. The House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (SCT) marked up a yet to be introduced bill to extend expiring provisions of the Communications Act related to the retransmission of signals of television broadcast stations.

Netflix's Hastings Complains About Lack of Interconnectivity
3/20. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings published a piece in the Netflix web site titled "Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality". He argues that "net neutrality must be defended and strengthened" to deal with the "lack of sufficient interconnectivity" by some broadband internet access service (BIAS) providers.

Copyright Office Seeks Comments on Music Licensing
3/17. The Copyright Office (CO) published a notice in the Federal Register (FR) that "announces the initiation of a study to evaluate the effectiveness of existing methods of licensing music". This notice contains a summary of current music licensing practices and laws, and 24 questions for public comment.

GSA Seeks Comments on Cyber Security Related Regulation of Federal Suppliers
3/12. The General Services Administration (GSA) published a notice in the Federal Register (FR) that requests public comments regarding "how to implement" the "recommendations" contained in the joint GSA and Department of Defense (DOD) document titled "Final Report of the Joint Working Group on Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience Through Acquisition". This document leverages the federal government procurement process to regulate private sector cyber security practices unrelated to procurement.

House Passes FCC Process Reform Act
3/11. The House passed  HR 3675 [LOC | WW], the "Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act", by voice vote. The Senate has not passed this bill. This is the second time around for this bill.

Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Bill to Limit Exports of IT Products for Recycling
3/6. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced S 2090 [LOC | WW], the "Responsible Electronics Recycling Act", a bill to limit export of "electronic waste". While there is an environmental protection argument to be made in support of this bill, this bill is largely a trade protectionism bill masquerading as environmental protection.

Sen. McCaskill Introduces Bill to Regulate Patent Infringement Demand Letters
2/26. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced S 2049 [LOC | WW | TLJ], the "Transparency in Assertion of Patents Act". This bill would direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to write and enforce rules regarding unfair and deceptive practices in the sending of demand letters alleging patent infringement, and setting pleading like requirements for these letters.

House Passes Bill to Allow Consumers to Unlock Their Cell Phones
2/25. The House passed a revised version of HR 1123 [LOC | WW], the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act", by a vote of 295-114. See, Roll Call No. 64. This bill would reinstate the Copyright Office's (CO) prior exemption for unlocking cell phones for personal use. However, the bill adds that nothing in the bill "shall be construed to permit the unlocking of wireless handsets or other wireless devices, for the purpose of bulk resale".

FCC Proposes Changes to Location Surveillance Rules
2/21. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted and released a huge Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would mandate that wireless service providers develop and deploy technology with more precise capability for detecting the location of wireless devices.

Obama Administration Condemns Patent Trolls
2/20. The White House news office released a statement regarding patents. It employs the term "patent trolls", without explaining the meaning of the term. It calls for legislation, but makes no legislative proposals. It recites recent actions taken by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and some things that the USPTO will do going forward.