“Net neutrality” sounds nice, fair, workable, and so forth, and has been eloquently backed by Google. Reason enough, then, to break with the “Hands Off the Net” policy under which the internet has flourished? Lest we forget: lines of business reduced to public utility status tend to stagnate [David Boaz, Cato]
Sen. Harry Reid seems to have been central:
“We felt really good the last couple of days,” said the tech lobbyist. “It was a good deal—one we could live with. Then the trial lawyers and pharma went to Senator Reid late this morning and said that’s it. Enough with the children playing in the playground—go kill it.”…
Trial lawyers are heavy donors to Democratic politicians, including Reid. … The long history of the divide over other kinds of legal tort reform loomed over the bill, which was dubbed the Innovation Act in the House. The fact that it was the trial lawyers’ lobby that reportedly delivered the death blow suggests that the rift only got wider as debate dragged on.
Key Litigation Lobby allies like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spoke out against the legislation on the Senate floor. [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
Incumbent firms “have an army of lawyers” and aren’t afraid to use them [Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica]
“California regulator seeks to shut down ‘learn to code’ bootcamps” [Venture Beat]
More clarity, or even deeper confusion? The Supreme Court has agreed to revisit software patents in the case of Alice Corp. v. CLS International. “A system of property rights is flawed if no one can know what’s protected. That’s what happens when the government grants 20-year patents for vague software ideas in exchange for making the innovation public.” [Gordon Crovitz, WSJ, quoted at Marginal Revolution; Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
“1) Something bad could happen. 2) I can see it; others can’t. 3) Something must be done! 4) Ignore costs.” [@AdamThierer]
“California’s Department of Financial Institutions [has] decided to issue a cease and desist warning to … Bitcoin Foundation for allegedly engaging in the business of money transmission without a license or proper authorization…. As a nonprofit, [the Foundation's] mission is to standardize and promote the open source Bitcoin protocol … One activity that the foundation does not engage in is the owning, controlling, or conducting of money transmission business.” [Jon Matonis, Forbes]
Randal O’Toole doesn’t share the concerns of Greg Beato and others.
The remarkable recent advances in make-it-yourself technology are opening up all sorts of new possibilities for users, but also have the potential to freak out the CPSC, FDA, trade agencies and intellectual property lawyers, as well as gun-control advocates. When products extruded from local printers are inevitably involved in injuries, which distant parties can be sued? [Bloomberg]
As Kenneth Anderson relates, scholars have begun putting quite a bit of thought is going into the question, and many realize that assigning strict liability for accidents to the deep pockets on the scene — manufacturers, designers, programmers and promoters — might not be an optimal safety strategy.
A two-part post, with part 1 on the law as applied to the facts, and part II on sentencing, prosecutorial discretion, and the appropriate targets for reformist energy. Earlier here (& Greenfield; Timothy Lee and Mike Masnick on plea bargaining).
Rob Beschizza: “While it looks like clueless corporate spite, I bet it’s really about lawyers wanting to lower CBS’s exposure to uncertainty in its boring lawsuit over contracts and copyright. … For some, it seems inconceivable not to accept legal advice after it’s been sought — even when the negative consequences of taking it are profoundly obvious.” [BoingBoing]
Programmer Aaron Swartz, a founder of RSS syndication and Reddit, committed a series of trespasses and hacks at MIT so as to download millions of papers from the JSTOR academic database, possibly with the plan of making them freely available through file sharing. When caught he returned the files and JSTOR did not recommend prosecution. In September Timothy Lee wrote in Ars Technica that while there was no excuse for Swartz’s actions, it was also mystifying that federal prosecutors were going to such lengths to stack up felony counts and legal theories under the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) that could send the popular techie to prison for life. Now Swartz, who is known to have been afflicted by depression, is dead, a suicide at age 26. [Jonathan Blanks, Lawrence Lessig, Glenn Greenwald, Patterico interview with Swartz lawyer Elliot Peters, Scott Greenfield, Orin Kerr (disputing premise that prosecutors overcharged), Timothy Lee/WaPo]
Though the Ninth Circuit has differed, four federal circuit courts of appeal have read the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to criminalize unauthorized access to computers even when the breach in question was to overstep contractual terms of service or the access a computer provider intended to furnish. As reported earlier, that leaves open possibilities of private liability or even felony conviction for behavior that in no way resembles hacking. [Mashable]
The NYT’s Room for Debate airs pros and cons of what could be a significant new area of federal regulation.