December 21, 2006
Anita Ramasastry on the Whosarat Website
Website Listing Informant Names Has Law Enforcement Concerned
Matt Apuzzo reports on a website that lists the names of suspected police informants. Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges are concerned that it will make those named targets for violence, and make them reluctant to testify. The website is www.whosarat.com.
December 20, 2006
Fox Appeals FCC Rulings on Profanity at Billboard Music Awards
The Fox Network is appealing the FCC's rulings on four letter words uttered by Cher and Nicole Ritchie at the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards, saying that the same words said during the broadcast of the film Saving Private Ryan did not earn a sanction. Fox's attorney told a federal appellate court that such lack of uniformity leaves broadcasters without clear rules to follow. Read more in an article by CNN's Jeffrey Toobin here, and by John Dunbar of the Associated Press here. The Dunbar article quotes David Solomon, formerly with the FCC, as saying, “I think there's a significant likelihood that the FCC will lose.”
December 19, 2006
British Broadband Customers No Longer Need Pay to Switch
Ofcom, the British watchdog agency, has told broadband providers they may not charge their customers a fee to give them a MAC (migration authorization code) to move to another broadband provider. Beginning on February 14 of 2007, all broadband providers must provide MACs for free. Consumers had run into problems because of long delays in switching to new providers; their initial free MACs had run out and they had requested new ones, but at least one former provider had caused a ruckus by refusing to give out additional MACs without charging a fee. Said Ofcom:
"A Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) is a unique alphanumeric reference that enables customers to switch broadband provider smoothly and with minimal disruption.
"Without a MAC, customers can be left without broadband for some time while the transfer is made. Previously, MACs formed part of a voluntary code of practice supported by a number of broadband providers. However, Ofcom is receiving an increasing number of complaints from consumers who find it difficult to obtain a MAC from their provider.
"Therefore, from 14 February 2007, General Condition 22: Service Migrations will require broadband providers to supply consumers with a MAC upon request and free of charge."
Dan Tench on the "Kiss and Tell" Decision
Dan Tench, a partner at Olswang, discusses the recent McKennitt v. Ash decision here.
Oxford Media Convention Announcement
December 18, 2006
The Limits of Fair Use
Dan Burk, University of Minnesota Law School, has published "The Mereology of Digital Copyright" as Minnesota Legal Research Studies Paper 06-66. Here is the abstract.
Among the most controversial of current information technology projects on the Internet is the Google Book Search project. Google, owner and operator of a leading Internet search engine, has contracted with a variety of libraries with to scan the contents of the books held in these libraries, many of which are under current copyright. From the scanned images, Google uses search engine technology to map the relationship of words in the scanned text to the other words in the text. Access to this index is provided via an on-line interface. However, Google has not sought the permission of copyright holders, and book publishers have sued Google for copyright infringement, charging that the scanning process creates an unauthorized digital copy of many copyrighted works. While Google has asserted a defense to these claims under the doctrine of fair use, a far more difficult and more far-reaching issue for database technologies is the legal status of the index created by Google, which maps the positions of the words in the books. This metadata is not technically a “copy” of the books in questions, but the books can be recreated from such metadata. The ownership and control of such metadata is becoming an increasingly contested question in database construction, and in the resolution of the presents a difficult but critically important problem of copyright doctrine and policy.
Download the entire paper from SSRN here.
Comparative Law of Broadcast Regulation
Lesley Hitchens, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, has published BROADCASTING PLURALISM AND DIVERSITY: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF POLICY AND REGULATION, Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2006. Here is the abstract.
Broadcasting Pluralism and Diversity is a study of the policy and regulatory measures relating to the promotion of media diversity in three jurisdictions: the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. A central focus of the study is regulation of media ownership and control, and, taking an historical approach, it argues that early policy and regulatory decisions continue to have a significant influence on current reforms. Whilst policy and reform debates focus on ownership and control measures, the study also argues that such measures can not be considered in isolation from other regulatory instruments, and that a holistic regulatory approach is required. As such, content regulation and competition regulation are also considered. Underlying the study is the contention that much of the policy informing pluralism and diversity regulation, although making reference to the importance of the media's role in the democratic process, has also been skewed by a futile focus on the different regulatory treatment of the press and broadcasting, which is adversely influencing current policy debates. The study argues that a different approach, using the public sphere concept, needs to be adopted and used as a measure against which regulatory reform in the changing media environment can be assessed.