Communications Rights

Data retention bills would benefit copyright holders

Declan McCullagh, CNet

If a new federal proposal announced this week requiring Internet providers and Wi-Fi access points to keep records on users for two years becomes law, police would not be the only ones to benefit.

So would individuals and companies bringing civil lawsuits, including the Recording Industry Association of America and other large copyright holders, many of which have lobbied for similar data retention laws in other countries.

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Facebook users ask who owns information

Brian Stelter, New York Times

Reacting to an online swell of suspicion about changes to Facebook’s terms of service, the company’s chief executive moved to reassure users on Monday that the users, not the Web site, “own and control their information.”

The online exchanges reflected the uneasy and evolving balance between sharing information and retaining control over that information on the Internet. The subject arose when a consumer advocate’s blog shined an unflattering light onto the pages of legal language that many users accept without reading when they use a Web site.

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An Indigenous perspective on the Fairness Doctrine

Tim Giago, Huffington Post

How many of you remember a policy of the Federal Communications Commission known as the "Fairness Doctrine?"

The doctrine was an attempt by the FCC to "ensure that all coverage of controversial issues be balanced and fair. The FCC took the view in 1949 that radio station licensees were "public trustees," and thus had an obligation to give reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance.

With the introduction of television, the FCC stood behind the Fairness Doctrine by setting down rules regulating personal attacks and editorializing by the stations. And in 1971 the FCC set requirements for the stations to report, along with their license renewal applications, the efforts they had made to seek out and address issues of concern to the community. This process became known as the "Ascertainment of Community Needs" and the job of carrying out this mandate was left in the hands of the station managers.

The "Fairness Doctrine" is in the air once again following the political campaigns of both parties. Questions of whether there was indeed a "balanced and fair" coverage of the candidates has sent waves of anger and perhaps fear, through the ranks of the more conservative talk show hosts on radio and television. Perhaps that apprehension should also be felt by those radio personalities on the more liberal and so-called progressive talk shows. Both sides were fairly liberal in their bashing of political candidates whose views they did not share.

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Seattle ethnic media say confusion persists about digital TV

Kenneth Kim, New America Media

Editor's Note: Briefings for ethnic media on the transition to digital television and its impact on their communities were organized by New America Media as part of a campaign funded by the Leadership Council for Civil Rights. The following is a report by NAM writer Kenneth Kim on a briefing held in Seattle, Wash.

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Many rural areas making digital TV switch early

Jonathan Lawson, Daily Yonder

Last week Congress voted to delay the upcoming digital TV transition date until June 12. The decision was provoked by the fact that an estimated 20 million Americans remain unprepared to lose access to over-the-air TV broadcasts. Over three million are currently on a waiting list to receive $40 coupons intended to defray the cost of buying DTV converter boxes for old TVs. Funds for the government coupon program effectively ran out in January, and have not yet been replenished.

Delaying the switch until June 12 should mean a sigh of relief for these unprepared viewers. Turns out, not so much, at least for those living in rural areas and small cities.

Congress left a loophole in the date change, allowing local stations the option to turn off their analog signals as early as Feb. 17 if they chose. And across the country, many stations serving rural areas are deciding to do just that.

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Obama could impact Canadian net neutrality laws

Rafael Ruffolo, Computerworld Canada

U.S. President Barack Obama could be the most influential player in Canada's net neutrality debate, according to anti-censorship supporters.

The Obama administration has only begun the difficult task of turning around the global economy and improving America's international reputation, but the new president might also be laying the ground work on another campaign promise -- the introduction of net neutrality legislation.

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When will Seattle-area TV stations go digital? June 12

Seattle DTV Assistance Centers

[Updated 2/10] While Congress has set June 12 as the date for the national switch to digital TV, local stations across the country were given the option of shutting off their analog broadcasts sooner.

Nearly all Seattle-area stations have confirmed that they are delaying their DTV switch until June 12: KCTS (PBS), KING and KONG (NBC), KIRO (CBS), KOMO (ABC), KCPQ and KMYQ (Fox), KSTW (CW), and KUNS (Univision).

Only KWPX (ion) will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

Here's what's happening in other areas of Washington State:

In Bellingham, KVOS and KBCB (ShopNBC) will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

In Spokane/Pullman, KWSU (PBS), KAYU (Fox), KHQ (NBC), KXLY (ABC) and KWDK will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

In Yakima/Tri-Cities, KVEW (ABC), KAPP (ABC), KNDO/KNDU (NBC), and KTNW (PBS) will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

In Seattle, Reclaim the Media and other local organizations are providing DTV Assistance Centers (see for details) and a DTV Assistance hotline at 206.508.1277. (We're still looking for volunteers - call if you'd like to help!)

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AT&T's "U-verse" goves short shrift to community access TV.

DavidGreising, Chicago Tribune

AT&T has cutting-edge technology and a beefy balance sheet, but the company's handling of community programming channels in Illinois and other states is putting a big black blot on its sky-blue logo.

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Obama administration shares ACTA copyright treaty info with select insiders

Jamie Love, Knowlege Ecology International

On November 4-6, 2009, the next round of negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Negotiations (ACTA) will take place in Seoul, Korea. The following is another strange chapter in the secrecy surrounding this negotiation.


Since ACTA was first announced, KEI has pressed the negotiating governments to provide more transparency, including recently, for example

(For more examples, search the the kei web page for acta and secret).

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Power of the press can spark war - and peace

Nastassja Hoffet, IPS

In 2003, two journalists from Radio-Télévision Libre des Milles Collines were convicted of war crimes in the Rwanda genocide -- illustrating the dangerous role media can play by relaying hate speech or rumours during times of violent conflict.

RTLM, which broadcast from July 1993 to July 1994, was found to have "fanned the flames of hate and genocide in Rwanda". It was the first such conviction since that of Julius Streicher at Nuremberg for his anti-Semitic publication Der Stürmer.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey