Posts by Bryan Suchenski
The FCC has a positive role to play in the world of
media, but not through antiquated indecency regulations for broadcast.
As Congress considers Obama's nomination for FCC chairman,
it is a natural time to also consider the ongoing role of the FCC. Many
laypeople think of the FCC as the language police, or the nudity czar, but
regulating content is only a small part of its job. The FCC was created to
regulate communications in the public interest – does that mean it should
control the content of broadcast programming? Even if content restricting rules
were once appropriate, has their relevance gone away given the new realities of
the communications marketplace?
These questions were raised before the
Supreme Court last year when Fox challenged the FCC's latest
indecency regulations, which were being used to fine Fox for “fleeting
expletives.” Public Knowledge, together with other organizations, submitted a
brief asking the Court to limit the FCC's authority to regulate indecent
content in broadcasts, which is out of step with modern technological realities
and inconsistent with the First Amendment.
At a hearing on unlocking phones, some suggest that
Congress added laws against circumventing access controls not just to fight
piracy, but in order to protect particular business models. Businesses use this
argument to justify using copyright law to criminalize activities that don't
actually infringe copyright.
Up until last year, unlocking a cell phone so that it could
be used with a different carrier was perfectly legal. That changed when the
Librarian of Congress decided no longer to include it in a list of exceptions
to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbids the circumvention
of technology that controls access to copyrighted works. The Librarian's
decision has sparked a great deal of controversy, and lead to several proposed
bills that would once again make it legal to unlock cell phones. In a hearing
before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and
the Internet last Thursday, Congress heard testimony about one of these bills,
and about the practice of unlocking phones.
Subcommittee Vice Chairman Tom Marino began the hearing by
framing the considerations on each side in terms of their effect on the market
and existing business models, pitting the promise of a more competitive
marketplace that phone unlocking allows against the ability of carriers to
recover the cost of subsidizing phones.