Tag Archives: Obama administration

Obama’s FCC pick

Obama has appointed Julius Genachowski to head the FCC, which I think is pretty good. Genachowski is on the record as supporting network neutrality. Also, there’s a fair amount of eco-friendliness and tech-savviness in his background — he headed up the Obama team’s internet campaigning, and also worked on Obama’s tech plan.

And, to boost his media credentials, he has worked with “Common Sense Media”, a media group that “believe[s] in media sanity, not censorship. … [S]ince we can’t always cover our kids’ eyes, we have to teach them how to see.” That last bit’s a little airy-fairy, but I like the strong first sentence. When investigated a little further, it still mostly looks pretty good:

Five Internet Challenges for Parents:

1. Keeping up is hard to do.

The Internet gets more portable every day, which makes it easier for our kids to be online more of the time. Today your kid may go online from a computer or even a mobile phone. But tomorrow? Who knows! It could be via something not yet invented. New sites appear and become “hot” overnight, replacing old ones. Parents need to help their kids learn about safe and appropriate behavior, not just safe and appropriate sites. Because teaching them about the dangers of one site or form of access today will be outdated information tomorrow.

….

4. … We need to help our kids think critically about what they post, read, and see online. ….

And then there’s also a lot of “Hey parents! Those crazy kids nowadays, huh? We may not always understand ’em, but they sure do need us!” I find this sort of thing patronizing, personally, which is a little ironic for a site targeting parents about parenting. But, anyway, I love the media literacy bits, which, when all is said and done, is what this whole 5-point “Internet challenges” boils down to: “Teach them media literacy because it’s more effective.” Which I can totally get behind.

The Obama tech plan that Genachowski worked on includes a significant broadband access component, which the FCC will play a significant role in.

Some trivia: Interestingly, I note that he was on the board of TicketMaster, which I mostly think of in context of their various attempts to stifle database harvesting (e.g., Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com (C.D. Cal. 2003). Of course, it seems unlikely that he would have had any input or interaction with that particular business decision. I can’t help that my first association with TicketMaster is this sort of thing. My second association — annoying ticket fees and the memory of feeling ripped off by their high-priced stadium rock concert tickets back in the day — isn’t much better.

Some other trivia: His wife is a documentary filmmaker. Score one for content re-users! Take that, cell phone ring tone incidental capture cease-and-desist senders!

And — I love this — “He worked on the select committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair”.WP Ah the glory days when Congress investigated executive wrongdoing — even before they felt safe in the knowledge that the wrong-doing president & his party had been ousted in ignominy from governance. Seriously, this is probably my favorite part of his resume. I love a good Iran-Contra investigator.

h/t: bradfox.com

see also: Washington Post 3/3

The DOJ and current copyright conflicts of interest

The Dept. of Justice is threatening to weigh in on one of the numerous cases relating to the Constitutionality of statutory damages in copyright law. In case anyone hasn’t heard this, the Obama Administration has larded the DOJ with numerous copyright litigators and lobbyists.

I just sent the following letter to whitehouse.gov:

I’m writing in regard to the Department of Justice’s stated intent to intervene in the case, Sony BMG Entertainment Media v. Cloud. This case is one of several seeking Constitutional review of the egregious statutory damages available to copyright plaintiffs, which can be up to $150,000 for a single instance of copyright infringement, regardless of any actual damages.

I strongly urge the Department of Justice NOT to intervene in this and similar matters, based on clear conflicts of interest of top decision-makers at the Department of Justice.

The Administration has appointed numerous officials at the DOJ who have been formerly active in the issue precisely at stake — copyright enforcement and damages. Unfortunately, however, the appointments have not been representative of all sides of this issue, and have resulted in an imbalance in the nominees for decision-making positions at the DOJ. Neil MacBride, Thomas Perrelli, and Donald Verrilli, in particular, have all represented the trade associations for the copyright industry.

Thomas Perrelli, Managing Partner at Jenner & Block, has been nominated for Associate Attorney General of the United States. At Jenner & Block, he has represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Sony BMG — the very client at issue in this litigation.

Donald Verrilli, another partner at Jenner and Block, is President Obama’s nominee for Associate Deputy Attorney General, and has stated that he is likely to have a civil portfolio. Mr. Verrilli directly represented the recording industry in the “Jammie Thomas” case, the infamous case that resulted in an almost quarter-million dollar judgment against a single mother for making 24 songs available on a P2P network. Moreover, he was the lead attorney for the RIAA, personally delivering oral argument at the hearing in which the Court threw out the verdict.

Clearly, all former Jenner & Block attorneys now at the Department should recuse themselves from the decision-making process, as should any other attorneys who directly represented clients on matters adverse to either of the parties in this important Constitutional case.

Unfortunately, however, because the Department of Justice has so many appointments representing one side of copyright-related matters, any intervention by the Department on behalf of Sony BMG in this case carries not just the appearance, but the actual risk, of violation of President Obama’s conflicts of interest policy. An ethical firewall will not suffice to remedy the conflict of interest when multiple top decision-makers are similarly conflicted.

Therefore, I strongly discourage intervention by the Dept. of Justice in this case and urge President Obama to consider balance in copyright and information policy in his future nominations. I also inquire specifically as to whether Mr. Perrelli and Mr. Verrilli have committed to recusing themselves in this and related matters, and what steps they plan to take to create an ethical firewall between themselves and the relevant decision-making processes.

Best regards,

etc.

Thanks to Jonathan Band for flagging the issue on a list, Mike Masnick at techdirt for the brief summary & relevant links, and Kevin Donovan at freeculture for his submission (which I took as my starting point).

sweet (day 1: stop the bush regulations)

sweet:

Obama halts all regulations pending review

17 hours ago AP 2009/01/20

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Barack Obama’s first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama’s White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The waning days of former President Bush’s administration featured much debate over what rules and regulations he would seek to enact before he left office.

(also? i loved that whitehouse.gov flipped over right about noon. badgerbag tells me that the old robots.txt was like 2500 lines long, but the one is only a couple of lines long. heh.)

new US Trade Rep; same bad Hollywood favoritism

see below for update 12/19

Obama has appointed the next US Trade Representative, current U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31); see also Becerra’s House site. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s going to be in the pocket of tank for Hollywood, just as prior USTR’s have been.

A few notes from some fast research (“googling”):

* He’s a Dem from LA. That’s almost saying enough right there.
* The Washington Times (crazy! but it’s what news.google.com pointed me to) reports:

With strong ties to Hollywood, Becerra fought to have the film industry included in the $137 billion tax bill. He wanted to stem the exodus of film production overseas and to Canada with tax-code changes.

* Google shows him on many, many events with, for, or about Hollywood, P2P, etc.
* He’s taken money from copyright maximalist PACs, e.g., $3000, Jan-June 1995, which went waaay up over the next decade: $38,750, 2005-06 (plus $3000 printing, for a total of $41,750 from copyright industries, against $12,000 from telcos & Internet companies). In ’07-’08, he took $47,500 from Hollywood, plus $5,000 from printing & publishing. Cost-of-lobbying increases, I guess. open secrets

But, while it may be bad on the copyright-front (did we expect anything good?), it’s not necessarily all bad. Like I’ve noticed before, Hollywood copyrightists who can’t see the public interest in copyright can definitely see it in patent law. Becerra cosponsored the “Genomic Research & Accessibility Act” to ban gene patents. Michael Crichton, Patenting Life, NYT, 2/13/2007

Last Friday, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat of California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican of Florida, sponsored the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act, to ban the practice of patenting genes found in nature. Mr. Becerra has been careful to say the bill does not hamper invention, but rather promotes it. He’s right. This bill will fuel innovation, and return our common genetic heritage to us.

He’s also done some pro-librarian work, for example, seeking to add librarians to loan forgiveness plans, e.g., by introducing the Librarian Education & Development Act of 2003 (HR 2674).LIS News 2004/6/9

And of course in other areas — human rights not dealing with access to knowledge — he’s pretty good. So, the task is to get the access to knowledge message to him …

update 12/19 So Becerra turned down the job on Monday (12/15), and instead Obama has appointed Ron Kirk, former Mayor of Dallas, and supported by tech. tech daily dose, from private list