New Media Rights files comments with CPUC on AT&T T-Mobile merger

New Media Rights, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and UCAN have submitted comments to the CPUC on the proposed AT&T and T- Mobile merger. All three groups feel that this merger would have serious effects on consumer protection- including prices and choice of carriers, telecom jobs, innovation, broadband access and network discrimination.

The CPUC investigation of the merger is a great opportunity for YOU to get involved by attending California public hearings and workshops to speak up about how this merger would effect you. To better understand it's implications on your phone bill, local and national media landscape, as well as jobs in your community, we will be publishing our simple Merger Factsheet next week.

 

Here are the TABLE OF CONTENTS for the attached document:

I.    Introduction. 1

II.   Reduced Competition Will Lead to More Gatekeeping and Less Innovation. 2

A.   AT&T uses its gatekeeping role to stifle innovations in voice telephony and control the way consumers access the internet 2

B.   AT&T enables its partners to control the way consumers access the internet 3

C.   AT&T’s broader history of censoring speech and use of its network. 5

D.   AT&T’s past spectrum bids illustrate an unwillingness to embrace innovation and openness. 5

E.   The effects of increasing AT&T’s power as a gatekeeper by granting this merger. 6

F.    T-mobile’s role in encouraging competition by openness to innovation. 7

G.   The effect on consumers who rely solely on wireless broadband. 8

III.  The Impact on Consumers: Reduced Service Offerings, Price Competition, and Customer Service Quality  10

A.  Prices and Services. 11

B.  Carrier Practices. 13

IV.  Market Dominance and the Harms of Duopoly. 20

A.   The emerging duopoly and the U.S. experience with over-concentrated markets. 20

B.   Mexico as an example of the high prices and stagnation that arises from market over-concentration  21

C.   The United Kingdom and other countries as examples of the benefits of competition. 22

V.   Consumer Privacy. 23

VI.  Conclusion. 23

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AT&T and T-Mobile merger factsheet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) are reviewing the $39 billion dollar merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, AT&T spent $6.8 million in the first three months of 2011 to hire lobbyists and lawyers to support this merger. Without hesitation, New Media Rights can say the merger threatens innovation, consumer choice, lower prices, and the future of the internet for millions who rely on access through wireless devices.

The merged company will control 40% of the wireless market nationally. Together, AT&T and Verizon Wireless will hold nearly 80% of the nation-wide market would create a duopoly structure in the marketplace. This merger will only exacerbate current challenges in loss of jobs, lack of competition in markets, and an increase in phone and broadband access charges. 

California Facts

In addition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is reviewing this merger. Please plan to comment to the CPUC about opposing the merger. Dates for public hearings and workshops in your region can be found here

The merged company will control 55% of the mobile broadband market in California source

The merged company will control 47% of the wireless market source

Together, AT&T and Verizon Wireless will hold over 77% of the California wireless market source

 

National Facts

  • Increased rates nation-wide

AT&T President, James Cicconi has stated publicly that it will be changing the T-Mobile pricing plans if the merger is approved source

The deal would reduce the reasons for AT&T and T-Mobile to lower prices or offer better products into the market source

The average AT&T customer pays between $15 and $50 more per month than a T-Mobile customer for a comparable plan source

This could result in T-Mobile consumers potentially paying up to $600 more per year under an AT&T plan source

  • Increased gatekeeping power to control the way we access and use the internet and stifle innovations in wireless industry

AT&T blocked the use of competing applications like Google Voice and Skype that could offer additional communications choices to consumers. source

AT&T blocked access to sites such as 4chan in 2009 source

AT&T censored the broadcast of a Pearl Jam concert in 2007 because the lyrics to a song were critical of then-President Bush source

  • Merger will decrease job opportunities

AT&T had 20,000 layoffs between 2007 and 2009 source

  • AT&T wants to control your access to the internet

AT&T, along with Verizon Wireless have continually lobbied against Net Neutrality rules for wireless broadband source

 

Sources and Resources:

New Media Rights encourages state regulators in California to investigate the AT&T T-Mobile merger

New Media Rights Petition to Deny at FCC

New Media Rights CPUC Letter

Public Knowledge Factsheet (PK)

"AT&T, T-Mobile file merger application; Q&A with James Cicconi" by Cecelia Kang

"AT&T ramps up lobby for proposed T-Mobile merger" by Cecelia Kang

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July Newsletter: New Media Rights takes on the Future of Media Report and AT&T T-Mobile merger

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In our last newsletter we shared with you that we filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to meet their responsibilities and investigate the harms of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. After NMR, along with TURN, Greenlining, Media Alliance, and others voiced their concern, the CPUC decided to consider an investigation.

For us, it's not enough that the CPUC has considered investigating, we are serious about the CPUC leading a real investigation that considers the real harms that this merger would have on consumers and the wireless market.

If you are living in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Santa Clara, please consider attending these Public Hearings and Workshops to share your thoughts on the proposed AT&T T-Mobile merger.  Keep an eye out on for future public hearings on the merger in San Diego and Orange County, which we will list here.

On Thursday, July 7th there will be a public hearing in San Francisco.  If you or people in your network can attend please encourage them, here is your invite: http://ow.ly/5xs8d

To find specific ways you will be effected check out these filings and statements we have created:

New Media Rights letter to CPUC encouraging investigation of the AT&T T-Mobile merger

New Media Rights files Petition to Deny the AT&T - T-mobile Merger at the FCC

Federal Policy Analysis

We've now had a chance to read the recent FCC Future of Media Report. In May of 2010 we filed comments in the FCC's Future of Media proceeding. The FCC asked for opinions on everything from journalism to open standards on the internet. While many of the findings and statements do reflect how we believe media is transforming in America, the report lacks specific goals and recommendations. 

These are our thoughts on the future of media, and goals and recommendations that will help us achieve a better future for media in this country.

The Supreme Court ruled June 27 to strike down California's ban on distributing violent video games to minors. The ruling is a victory for free speech, and some see potential ramifications for future communications regulation.

California Policy Work

On June 22, 2011, New Media Rights' Director Art Neill offered the following comments to the California Broadband Council at the State House in Sacramento. The comments suggested additional workgroups, an expanded definition of digital literacy, making all data and materials produced by the Council public domain or openly licensed, as well as observations on challenges with the Comcast's FCC mandated reduced price low-speed internet service.

You can find NMR's comments on community inclusion at the first Broadband Council meeting you can find them here

We apply the trends that we are seeing in our one-to-one assistance to improve media policy. Check out the new Policy Center page at http://www.newmediarights.org/policy

 

NMR In the Media:

San Diego CityBeat:

Art Neill talks with Peter Holslin about Fair Use, sampling, and the case of TV Girl's song takedown

PC World:

Art Neill speaks to PC World about what to do if you are caught in a filesharing case

 

New Testimonies:

Read innovator and entrenpreuer David Almilli's testimonial here

Read all of the testimonies of people who have been assisted by New Media Rights at our testimonials center

 

Events:

Save the Date! Mozilla Drumbeat Media, Freedom, and the Web Nov. 4-6

 

New Media Rights Blogger Network

We are firing up the New Media Rights Blogger Network with more fuel than ever. We have started a Google Group for approved bloggers that are ready to add their quality blogs on new media and tech law to our website. Check out the Blogger's Guidelines and Expectations to learn more what it means to be a part of the network!

Here are some of the latest posts from our NMR bloggers:

Microsoft v Datel and the DMCA by Thomas Yohannan

If you are interested in being a part of the NMR blogger network, contact Mera at mera@newmediarights.org

Remix and Creative Commons news

New Media Rights offers legal help to creators on the use of Creative Commons licenses. We were interested to see how Youtube has recently begun to incorporate this progressive licensing structure into their video options. Although we welcome Creative Commons license inclusion into Youtube's service, the way that Youtube has rolled out its CC license options raises serious questions about the future of the online video ecosystem and how "open" that ecosystem will be.

Kirby Ferguson is a remix artists who has created the Everything is Remix series. He believes that the best creative ideas come from combining already created works, to form something different ("copy, transform, and combine" as he calls this process). Check out all three videos of the series!

Get Involved!

Are you ready to support the empowerment of individuals and non-profits being legally protected in the online space and when creating and sharing their works?

New Media Rights offers quality pro-bono legal assistance, advocacy and educational resources on people's individual rights. We also offer a free public media studio that is available to non-commercial projects.

Please DONATE to us as an important way of supporting NMR. We want to continue defending your consumer and digital rights at CA and national agencies such as the CPUC and FCC, your donations make this possible.

This is an important year for us, as a community, to work together making New Media Rights sustainable for years to come. If you have any ideas that might support the longevity of our work, please email: support@newmediarights.org

More ways YOU can get involved!

Don't forget that we rely on you to help shape our work. We want you to stay involved with New Media Rights, and here's a couple ways you can do so:

- We would love to hear your feedback about the newsletters. Write to us at support@newmediarights.org or leave us a comment on our newsletter page.

- Please connect with us on social media, including our Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube.

- Offer us a donation in whatever amount is suitable to you by visiting our secure donation page

- Comment on the New Media Rights website on our blogs and guides

- Become a part of the Drumbeat San Diego community. Stay updated by visiting: http://www.newmediarights.org/drumbeat and signing up for Drumbeat updates.

- Suggest new resources, projects, and advocacy efforts for us to participate in by using our contact us form

 

 Our website is:

www.newmediarights.org

The blog is updated weekly:

http://www.newmediarights.org/blog

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CPUC AT&T T-Mobile merger Public Hearings and Workshops

Here are the in-person meetings that we encourage you to attend in order to comment on the highly detrimental AT&T T-mobile merger. If it is impossible for you to be there in person please submit a written comment to: public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov 

There are additional public hearings to be announced for localities including San Diego, so keep an eye on this page.

Public Hearings and Workshops

Public Participation Hearing San Diego

  • Monday, July 25, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
  • Al Bahr Shriners Center, 5440 Kearny Mesa Road

Public Participation Hearing: July 21, 2011, 4 p.m.

  • Four Points by Sheraton Culver City – Marina B, 5990 Green Valley Cir., Culver City

Public Participation Hearing: July 27 at 6 p.m

  • Wednesday, July 27 at 6 p.m.
  • Holiday Inn at Fresno Airport, Kings Canyon / Sequoia Room, 5090 East Clinton Way, Fresno

Workshop: July 8, 2011, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Marks Conference Center (lower level), Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building
  • 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco
  • Agenda
  • Presenter Bios
  • TOPIC: Facilities-based competition issues, with a particular focus on special access backhaul, lease and other contract arrangements, spectrum issues, interconnection, roaming, and related issues.

Workshop: July 15, 2011, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Locatelli Center at Santa Clara University
  • 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
  • TOPIC: Innovation issues, including (but not limited to) handsets, distributed antenna systems, broadband, and data transfer.

Workshop: July 22, 2011, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • California Department of Transportation Building, Conference Room A
  • 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles
  • TOPIC: Customer issues, including (but not limited to) price, service quality, customer service, coverage and coverage disclosures, other consumer disclosures – with small/individual, small business, and large enterprise representatives.

Source: CPUC website

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New Media Rights responds to the FCC Future of Media Report

New Media Rights has been reading and analyzing the recent FCC Future of Media Report. In May of 2010 we filed comments in the FCC's Future of Media proceeding, a proceeding that asked for opinion on everything from journalism to open standards on the internet. While many of the findings and statements do reflect how we believe media is transforming in America, we feel that the report lacks specific FCC goals and recommendations. 

Organizations around the country took the time to share their experiences and expertise on journalism, radio, television, open mobile and internet standards, a worthy undertaking for the highest media regulatory agency in the United States. There was a staff-level group of journalists, entrepreneurs, scholars and government officials to collect over a thousand public comments, review existed research, and hold multiple hearings. This group was lead by Steve Waldman, a former reporter and founder of Belief.net who was commissioned to conduct the report.

We have broken our analysis into topics that we feel strongly about, and we have italicized quotes from the FCC Future of Media report:

FCC report should include more market wireless and broadband market analysis

An important element lacking from the report was a market analysis of the broadband and wireless market. This is critical in order for the FCC to create adequate decisions based on highly consolidated broadband and wireless markets that desperately need more competition to lower prices and open the door to digital inclusion. The looming AT&T merger will have a significant effect on prices and service availability in the wireless market, and a thorough study of the broadband and wireless markets would be helpful for the public to have greater transparency regarding the context in which the FCC is making its decisions.

New Media Rights has filed a petition to deny the merger with the FCC as well as filed comments to the CPUC about the importance of investigating the proposed AT&T T-mobile merger.

FCC should have laid out more ambitious goals

The FCC's published major findings and recommendations can be found here.

America's media landscape has gone through distinct changes as print media and radio try to thrive in the internet age. The FCC does a good job of addressing many of these changes in their report. We found that the report, however, does very little to chart a path forward, such as a strategy to improve the media system by increasing opportunities for non-profit and new media outlets through funding public and independent media creators, and fostering citizen journalism.

As the main federal agency to regulate national communications, the FCC should be more specific about tangible steps forward.

We have found this to be a similar issue at the California Broadband Council (CBC), (see the following paragraphs for more info on this council) where CBC praised Comcast for an FCC-mandated reduced price broadband (1.5 mbits down / 384 kbits up) option for low income consumers- which to us indicated the need for higher goal setting across the board at the state and national level. You can see our recent recommendations to the CBC on additional workgroups, an expanded definition of digital literacy, and making all data produced by the council public domain or openly licensed here.

We can't stress enough that to meet the challenges we face, we must set higher goals as a country for our media and communications system, and identify specific tasks to fulfill those goals so that America's communities and international competitiveness does not further suffer.

Broadband and Wireless Buildout

The FCC’s 2010 National Broadband Plan sketched a strategy for providing high-speed access for 100 million Americans over the next decade. A key element of the strategy is to move communities toward less dependence on the two platforms that dominate today—cable and telephone wires—by encouraging the growth of the wireless Internet sector. This will expand access and, by bringing competition to the existing ISPs, potentially lower consumer prices. The plan also set a long-term goal for the United States to lead the world in mobile innovation and have the fastest and most extensive wireless networks anywhere. In early 2011, President Obama announced an initiative to make available fourth-generation high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans. source: pg. 304

Things that could be improved:

How we build broadband out in America is critical and it's important to include community groups in this. New Media Rights' work with the California Broadband Policy Network (CBPN) in Sacramento has helped us better understand the various ways that community groups should play a critical role in expanding broadband to their communities. The California Broadband Council includes Assemblyman Bradford, Senator Padilla, representatives of various state regulatory bodies, and the chair of the council, president of the California Public Utilities Commisison, Michael Peevey. Peevey is a controversial figure who has come under fire from critics for rubber stamping energy regulation decisions at the CPUC.

The CA Broadband Council, established by Senate bill 1462, has been charged with the responsibility of deploying over $500 million funds for increasing the quality of broadband infrastructure in California, increasing public computer centers, and enhancing digital literacy.

New Media Rights and our CA allies including Media Alliance and Access Humboldt, have emphasized how important it is to include the voices of local community media centers, public access TV stations, technology groups and other community voices in the broadband buildout process.

Across the country, as stimulus monies are spent to promote digital inclusion, meaningful community group involvement and transparency on how monies are being spent will be critical. We must make sure that the process allows for individuals and groups in the community to share their needs.

Also, as we spend billions of dollars across the country to build out broadband, we should be discussing the need to, and the benefit of, retaining an ownership stake for the public that is paying for the buildout. 

Without an inclusive process and retention of ownership for the public, carriers will simply find a way to use public monies to pad their bottom lines.

To read our comments before the Broadband Council see here and here.

Linking as a right: Copyright and IP

Today, of course, most linking happens without permission. Tim Berners-Lee, one of the inventors of the World Wide Web, has said that a link is nothing more than a digital referral or footnote, and that the ability to refer to a document is a fundamental right of free speech. source pg. 340

New Media Rights agrees with Mr. Berners-Lee on this topic and was particularly concerned about the State Department employees suggesting that even linking to the Wikileaks documents could hurt job seekers chances of working at the State Department. In a letter that we signed with EFF, the ACLU, and about 30 other organizations, we stated that internet users are protected under the First Amendment to publish 'truthful political information free of prior restraint' and publish information even if the 'original disclosure of that information to the publisher was unlawful, under Bartnicki v. Vopper'.

Also relevant here is the Protect IP Act, which the Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously passed. This is a dangerous law that if passed could potentially trample on internet users rights to link to other websites. The Protect IP Act if passed would prohibit search engines from linking to blocked, blacklisted sites. This would be extremely detrimental to freedom on the internet as articulated in this linked articles by EFF.

As the Future of Media Report suggests, the shift from the paper medium to digital media has increased the opportunity to build sites that can include news articles and content created by other people. In fact, such sites, known as aggregators and filterers, are critical to our ability to find anything on the internet in the first place. A strong definition of what is in the public domain, and what is protectable by copyright, coupled with a strong Fair Use defense, will help make sure that those who help us find what we're looking for in a sea of content can continue to innovate.

Open Internet Standards

Some of the incipient optimism about media innovation comes from the emergence of small, independent, web-based news providers—precisely the sort that would be at a disadvantage in a tiered pricing system. A world without an open Internet would be one in which the very innovation we
are depending on to save journalism would lose its oxygen before it had a chance to flourish. source: pg. 307

In one of it's first references to the reports findings on the importance of an open internet, the FCC commissioned report recommends:

Universal Broadband and Open Internet are an essential prerequisite to media innovation and will make it more likely that digital media will be able to develop sustainable business models. source: pg. 33

We encourage the FCC to explore how their Net Neutrality rules might play a part in preserving this general cocept of openness and freedom on the internet.  The key ways for the FCC to do this are to make sure that they 1) expand open internet rules to the wireless market, and 2) actually enforce their anti-discrimination rules against Internet Access Providers that discriminate against any web content or web/phone applications.

Compensation for news sources

But as news organizations’ revenue dwindles, major news publishers point fingers at the vast numbers of websites they see “scrap[ing], syndicat[ing] and monetize[ing]” their original news content “without fair compensation to those who produce, report and verify it, and they wonder if changes to federal copyright and related intellectual property law policies can help stem their monetary losses. source: pg.340

Again, we have to be careful not to over regulate and chill innovation of legitimate aggregating and filtering services that are critical to our ability to find information on the internet. See Art Neill's article on filtering aggregation.

New Media Rights supports start-up journalism ventures by offering free online publishing legal assistance, and also is very interested in helping bloggers and new journalism ventures be connected to emerging business models that help information dissemination and keep journalists employed. One thing that New Media Rights does not support is news organizations supporting "copyright trolls" to sue smaller forum websites and internet users, as in the Righthaven cases.

The strong lobbying power of corporate media makes their agenda and lobbying efforts more influential than individual creators. As an organization that respects the need for copyright reform, we encourage media companies to look elsewhere to grow their revenue, that does not include intimidation and threatening people's right to share and link to work.

FCC Transparency and Public Hearings

In addition, the Commission has recently taken steps to expand access to communications service, including mobile service, across the nation, for low-income consumers, Native Americans, and persons with disabilities. source pg. 308

There are at least 15 reservations in Southern California alone and we find it critical that these communities have a voice in their digital future and that rural communities and tribes have the same access to quality, affordable broadband can help expand educational opportunities, community health, as well as save lives in the case of an emergency.

We have also helped the Broadband Communities Coalition, which includes representatives of our regional tribes, to make filings (here and here) to the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure the tribes and other rural Californians are represented in the California Broadband buildout process.

Our friends at Free Press, Media Literacy Project and the Center for Media Justice, along with the FCC, organized a very successful FCC Future of Internet Hearing in New Mexico in November 2010. More than 400 citizens were present to comment to FCC Commissioners in hopes there wishes would be taken seriously by the FCC and Washington representatives. Citizens came out to emphasize the need for net neutrality and quality broadband access for education, health, creativity and equal opportunity.

New Media Rights encourages more public hearings as one viable avenue for the FCC to hear from individuals and group who are dealing with the lack of access to quality broadband.

Crisis Communications

Putting aside the debate as to whether it is appropriate for government to force device manufacturers to include FM chips as opposed to the parties working out commercial deals, we recognize that FM chips in mobile devices can provide a number of benefits to consumers. For example, they could enhance the value of the Public Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) during disasters; after getting a short text about the emergency, they could tune into radio news broadcast for more information (particularly if congestion on mobile networks or power outages make it hard to get on the Internet). source pg. 309

The FCC should be encouraging enhancement of crisis communications. Locally, Xavier Leonard has presented his Batphone, a phone that can communicate with other phones and create a mesh network if a crisis were to happen. Encouraging such innovation will be critical to helping communities respond to future crises.

Encouraging Digital Rights Advocacy

The future of media is the decentralization of media, billions of citizens finding an outlet for their ideas and creativity.

Knowledge of recording, publishing, intellectual property, privacy, and other laws, is critical to individuals' ability to interact with and create the media around them.  We must find ways to fund one-to-one advocacy, educational materials, and innovative services that provide advocacy for the digital rights of individual internet users and creators.  Empowering creators and internet users with regards to their rights will give us a richer media landscape in the future.

Other public interest organizations' analysis of the Future of Media Report:

Future of Music Coalition

Media Access Project

Free Press

Image sources:

"Children using computers at library" by Flickr user San Jose Library shared under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License

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Supreme Court violent video games ruling causes mixed reactions

On Monday, June 27th the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against California’s 2005 ban on distributing violent video games to minors in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. The majority, led by Justice Scalia, invalidated the law on First Amendment grounds, referencing the lack of evidence proving causation between violent behavior in children and exposure to violent video games, along with the gory and violent themes in what we traditionally consider to be children’s stories, such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales (think Hansel and Gretel baking their captor in an oven).

Justice Scalia reinforced that but for a few excepted categories such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words, the first amendment ensures that “government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

The decision is being hailed as a victory for the Free Speech and the First Amendment by groups such as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who take the position that the restriction is an outgrowth of the same panic over the effect of comic books on children, and that both attempts to regulate the media that minors are able to consume are based in pseudoscience and fears over child welfare.

The Entertainment Merchants Association was even supported by Amicus Briefs by the MPAA and RIAA, as the relationship of the first amendment to children affects all types of content children can consume, including movies, music and books..

Others see it as an opening to eventually declaring net neutrality rules unconstitutional. Justice Scalia writes that, “Whether government regulation applies to creating, distributing, or consuming speech makes no difference.” Blogger Susan Crawford predicts that this statement will likely come up in future communications litigation, with telecom carriers using this idea to argue that any government-placed restriction on the use of their communications channels, including nondiscrimination regulations, is a violation of the First Amendment.

Game developers say that this ruling will most likely not change their development process, because "extreme violence is not a recipe for creative or commercial success,” and that the industry is shaped by direct feedback from gamers (and parents of gamers), rather than by government regulation.

The case is an important in reinforcing the broad reach of our first amendment, which the Supreme Court finds to apply even to some government restrictions on distributing video game content to children.

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Microsoft v Datel and the DMCA

Software giant Microsoft is testing to see whether US Copyright law can be used to quell hardware competition on th eir popular Xb ox 360 console.  The company claims Xbox 360 console users are violating federal law – the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) – if they use 3rd party hardware.  Microsoft alleges that it has recently discovered “striking similarities between Datel’s source code used in its Xbox 360 authentication chip and Microsoft’s source code.”

The case will help to further define the scope of the DMCA.

U.K. based Datel Holdings sells memory cards that are functional on Microsoft’s Xbox console.  In 2009, the Redmond, WA-based company remotely disabled Datel memory cards because the memory cards were supposedly circumventing an Xbox memory card authentication sequence—a sequence that allows limited access to copyright game data.  Microsoft claimed that Datel made the memory cards work by taking the sequence in violation of the DMCA. Datel believes that the case is anticompetitive and it will help to perpetuate Microsoft’s market power.  

The 1998 DMCA makes it a crime or civil violation to offer a product or service that circumvents a technological measure designed to protect copyrighted material.   

However, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains in its brief supporting Datel in this recent litigation, the DMCA was aimed at preventing access to copyrighted material by non-paying customers, not at blocking competitors or policing users' behavior in regards to their own property.  Earler this year, Sony used the law to stop Playstation hacker, George Hotz, from ‘jailbreaking’ the console to play pirated and homemade game. Microsoft is trying to create an environment where only Microsoft products will be offered.  The court must decide on whether the DMCA extends to all facets of copyrighted material including peripherals.

Stay tuned. 

 

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New Media Rights calls on California Broadband Council to set higher goals: inclusiveness, openness, and expanded definitions of digital literacy

June 24th, 2011

For Immediate Release

Contact: Art Neill 619-591-8870

On June 23, 2011, New Media Rights' Director Art Neill offered the following comments to the California Broadband Council. The comments suggested additional workgroups, an expanded definition of digital literacy, making all data and materials produced by the Council public domain or openly licensed, as well as observations on challenges with the Comcast's FCC mandated reduced price low-speed internet service. Also speaking were allies including Richard Chabran of California Broadband Policy Network (CBPN), Tracy Rosenberg of the Media Alliance and CBPN, and Shaun Mclaughlin of Access Humboldt and CBPN.

The following is rough transcript of Art's verbal comments to the Council:

"New Media Rights provides one-to-one assistance to individuals with their rights when creating and sharing information online. We also offer a free public studio and equipment to the community in San Diego. We also support the Council’s efforts to improve coordination of state agencies to compete for federal funds available through the National Broadband Plan.

The Council has an opportunity to play a productive role in making sure Digital Inclusion becomes a reality for many more Californians. As New Media Rights has stated before, the effectiveness of the Council will depend on its ability to truly reach out to those community based organizations that are helping to advance digital inclusion at the local level. We support the comments of CBPN and Access Humboldt.

Specifically, we do support the work of the 3 workgroups on today’s agenda, and appreciate the inclusion of a CBPN representative on 2 of the workgroups. We also encourage the CBC to include a CBPN representative on the third committee. We also would encourage the CBC to consider and explore other relevant committees, including CBPN’s proposed workgroups on Digital Literacy and Non-profit groups.

It’s important to note that today Digital Literacy is much broader than turning on a computer and accessing Internet, and it is a patchwork of our non-profit Media Arts Centers other such centers that bring true digital literacy to new individuals.

Digital Literacy also means:

- Being able to effectively participate in government proceedings

- Being able to find employment and navigate online application systems

- Being able to be an active participant in cultural, social, and political exchange online by using social media and web services

Today true digital literacy, and inclusion must mean also being able to communicate with the world by creating and edit video, audio, designing and running a blog or website, as well as other multimedia, all while understanding your digital rights and responsibilities and your privacy rights.

Digital rights education is critical, you have 175,000 people being sued right now for filesharing around the country, so copyright and other forms of digital rights education are also basic pieces to this puzzle Openness / Transparency. To the extent possible, all data produced by the Council and its workgroups, particularly items like map data and digital literacy materials, should be made available to the public and clearly marked as either Public Domain materials or openly licensed under open content licenses like Creative Commons. This will allow others in our state to build upon our work here.

Comcast Challenges with CBOP program

The holes left by FCC include not providing the program to those individuals who have purchased service within 90 days as well as to those who are in collections. These conditions will actually significantly limit availability, as many customers who would otherwise qualify but have service already will not see the benefit. We must ensure that customers are not being pressured into upgrading to higher plans, charged for installation or modem fees when the FCC forbade it, or duped into purchasing inferior computer equipment.

We look forward to finding ways to help the Council make meaningful strides towards digital inclusion."

See our previous comments at the First Broadband Council meeting here

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Youtube offers of one out of six Creative Commons licenses, sends mixed messages

Last week, Youtube outlined the way they have chosen to incorporate this progressive licensing structure into their video licensing options and introduced the Youtube Video Editor. New Media Rights offers free legal assistance to creators on the use of Creative Commons Licenses. We often work with creators who want to learn more about Creative Commons licensing and are interested in exploring the art of remix. We believe that Youtube is making the right choice by recognizing the growing interest of creators to engage in remix and creative repurposing of content, and to allow their works to be remixed by others under licenses such as Creative Commons.

Although we believe this is an important step for Youtube to take, the way in which Youtube has rolled out it's Creative Commons licensing options will have a significant impact on the online video ecosystem, as well as perceptions of what it means to choose a Creative Commons license. 

Youtube has made only the CC-BY license available. 

That means that the only license Youtube has made available allows your work to be remixed, shared, and used for any purpose, commercial and non-commercial, so long as you are attributed. This is the most nonrestrictive license available, but is it the most "open"?  While some are quick to point out this will decrease the use of more restrictive license conditions such as requiring works be used only noncommercially, and not allowing derivatives, a condition like share-alike actually increases the eco-system of open works.  There is a significant difference, then, between having only CC-BY as the only license option, such as Youtube, and having a CC-BY-SA license as the only licensing option, such as Wikipedia places on all of its content. Wikipedia's Share-Alike term means that while content can be reused commercially or noncommercially, all downstream content that is created from the CC-BY-SA will have to be available for others to use as long as they attribute the creators.

Future of openness in online video

By not offering licenses such as CC-BY-SA on Youtube, an important opportunity to allow experimentation in a culture of openness in the online video world is being missed.

Indeed, while individuals will be allowed to remix, so will Youtube advertisers and partners, without compensation to video creators.

There is also a concern that Youtube's implementation will encourage individuals to think that Creative Commons simply means giving your work away for attribution, when it is actually a spectrum of licenses that allow individuals to more accurately express their willingness to have their works reused downstream.

CC-BY is great for those who wish to use that license, but offering a more complete set of Creative Commons licenses would have better served creators who wish to have some choice in how they license their works.  This essentially offers the traditional choice of either a) full copyright, or b) offering it into the public domain ( so long as their is attribution).

NMR Guides available to you

There are six Creative Commons Licenses, and in our Citizen's Guide for Major Creative Commons Licenses we explain the functions of all six licenses that offer you choice and varying levels of control over how your work can be shared, remixed, and reused for commercial/non-commercial purposes. While this is a welcome step by Youtube after years of neglect of the Creative Commons licenses, by only allowing the attribution, CC-BY license, this offers significantly less choice and less control than the innovative people over at Creative Commons have designed.

Here are the directions written by Youtube on how to CC-BY license your works:

These are the ways you can adjust your license settings on Youtube:

  1. Click the radio button next to "Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)" while uploading, or
  2. Go to My Videos, select edit next to the video you wish to include in Creative Commons. Scroll down until you reach License under Broadcasting and Sharing Options. Click the radio button next to "Creative Commons Attribution License (reuse allowed)".

 

The other kinds of attributions available:

Attribution-NoDerivs (You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.)  

Attribution-ShareAlike (If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.)

Attribution-NonCommercial (You may not use this work for commercial purposes.)  

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (You may not use this work for commercial purposes; You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.)  

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (You may not use this work for commercial purposes; If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.)

 

Here are the directions written by Youtube on how to CC-BY license your works:

These are the ways you can adjust your license settings on Youtube:

  1. Click the radio button next to "Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)" while uploading, or
  2. Go to My Videos, select edit next to the video you wish to include in Creative Commons. Scroll down until you reach License under Broadcasting and Sharing Options. Click the radio button next to "Creative Commons Attribution License (reuse allowed)".

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New Media Rights files Petition to Deny the AT&T - T-mobile Merger at the FCC

June 3, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Art Neill, Executive Director, New Media Rights, (619) 591-8870

New Media Rights writes petition to deny the AT&T T-mobile merger to protect consumers' rights

New Media Rights, its parent organization Utility Consumers' Action Network, and our sister organization Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, have filed a petition to deny with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). We oppose the AT&T T-mobile merger on the grounds that the merger will most likely have a negative effect on innovation, access to the internet, customer service quality, prices, service availability, and consumer privacy.

Our petition makes clear the FCC must investigate AT&T's assumptions and claims carefully, and that on balance, the merger is not in the public interest of America's wireless consumers. We discuss the impact on consumers, which would most likely be reduced service offerings, price competition, and customer service quality.

In the petition we assert that: 

  • AT&T uses its gatekeeping role to stifle innovations in voice telephony and control the way consumers access the internet
  • AT&T enables its partners to control the way consumers access the internet
  • AT&T‘s broader history of censoring speech and use of its network
  • AT&T’s past spectrum bids illustrate an unwillingness to embrace innovation and openness
  • The effects of increasing AT&T’s power as a gatekeeper by granting this merger would negatively effect consumers
  • T-mobile has had a postive role in encouraging competition by openness to innovation, while AT&T has not
  • The merger would negatively effect on consumers who rely solely on wireless broadband, by limiting the amount of carriers they can choose from.

Read the full filing by clicking here.

You can also read other public interest filings by our friends at Free Press and Public Knowledge.

New Media Rights is a non-profit project of the Utilities Consumer Action Network. We offer free legal assistance to creators and consumers on copyright and online publishing. We also offer a free public media studio, educational resources on technology and the law regarding people's digital rights.

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