Yes, But …

We need language to decide what we mean by “privacy” first: Google sees urgent need for global privacy rules

National regulators need to agree on a basic set of global privacy protections for the Internet within the next five years, a senior executive with Google said Monday.

Peter Fleischer, the companys global privacy counsel, said three quarters of countries had no Internet privacy standards at a time when the amount of sensitive personal and financial data on the Web was soaring.

Google–itself criticized for the threat it poses to personal privacy–says the companys business agenda, the world economy and the Internet could suffer unless more is done to ensure basic privacy on the Web.

Bradley Whitford On YouTube; Playing The Digital Advocacy Game

Bradley Whitford states his case on YouTubepdf (note that he says some are some surprisingly harsh things – “You can’t out-hypocrit a Republican.”)

Whitford, a Democrat best known for his role as the president’s deputy chief of staff on “The West Wing,” decided to put together a short video for the Courage Campaign opposing a California proposition that would alter the state’s electoral map and would likely benefit Republicans.

There was no set designer, no fancy music, no high production values, no crew. Courage Campaign Chairman Rick Jacobs arrived with a camera at Whitford’s house last week. By Monday, their video, which calls on voters to fight the Republican-backed initiative, was up on YouTube, collecting a steady stream of hits.

“I think there was one cut in it,” said Whitford, who called it one of the easiest productions he’s ever done. He joked, “During the entire video I was wearing neither socks nor shoes.”

Consider the possibilities for actors with a message:

[…] In many respects, YouTube has become the Wild West of digital communication. Anybody can post, but being discovered is usually a matter of luck. Politically active stars have a clear advantage: They’re bound to get noticed simply on name recognition alone. More interesting, they can do so almost totally beyond the reach of campaign finance and contribution laws, as well as candidates and parties themselves.

“It’s a full-service way of expressing yourself on camera politically,” said Whitford, one of the first stars to capitalize on the new medium.

Note: the campaign to change how California allocates electoral votes is having its own problems — GOP electoral initiative dealt major blowspdf

Related: Law Firms Go a Bit Hollywood to Recruit the YouTube Generation

Net Neutrality and the Verizon Texting Fight

Corporate propriety yields to free speechpdf

The company’s treatment of Naral sparked renewed discussion Thursday about the limits of free speech when large corporations control communications networks.

It also reignited debate over what’s known in policymaking circles as net neutrality: the question of whether telecom providers have a right to treat various forms of content differently or whether they must adopt a neutral stance toward everything in cyberspace.

The telecom industry has lobbied aggressively in recent years to be given the right to have the last word on anything crossing its networks. Bills addressing the matter were introduced in Congress last year but didn’t get anywhere.

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, a leading advocacy group for net neutrality, said Verizon’s temporary blocking of Naral’s messages highlighted the need for legislation that prohibited telecom companies from asserting control over online or wireless content.

“The fundamental democratic principles of free speech, privacy and open communication are too important to be entrusted to these corporate gatekeepers,” he said in a statement.

Related: A look at the expanding role of texting — The Day After, Warning System Draws Wide Praise at St. John’s

MPAA Testing The Law

Hollywood studios go after two piracy sitespdf

The Motion Picture Assn. of America has filed suit against two Web sites that it claims are allowing Internet users to view pirated films, many of which are still in theaters.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of the major studios, seeks to shutter cinematube.net (http://cinematube.net) and ssupload.com (http://ssupload.com) from further infringing on the copyrights of the MPAA members.

The sites feature links to hundreds of titles, including such recent releases as “Resident Evil: Extinction,” “The Brave One” and “Good Luck Chuck.”

Seems to me that a “taste” test would give prosecutors other grounds for prosecution — “Good luck Chuck?!?!”

Doubleclick Hearing Today

An Examination of the Google-DoubleClick Merger and the Online Advertising Industry: What Are the Risks for Competition and Privacy?; CNet reports Microsoft, Google square off in Washington

Senior executives from both companies are scheduled to show up before a U.S. Senate panel on Thursday afternoon to argue their respective cases for why Google should–or should not–be allowed to purchase DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. The acquisition was announced in April but is still undergoing a review by the Federal Trade Commission and regulators in Europe and Australia.

The hearing could mark a turning point in Google’s relationship with Washington. It is the first time that Congress has seriously scrutinized the fast-growing company’s business strategies, and the first time that a proposed acquisition by the company has encountered such concerted political opposition.

It also represents the result of months of private lobbying and public agitation against the merger by Google’s most dangerous business rivals. No stranger to antitrust issues, Microsoft has ordered its legendary army of lobbyists to torpedo the deal, and AT&T, Yahoo and Time Warner have also expressed concerns.

Later: NYTimes coverage — Senators Scrutinize Google’s Bid for Ad Firm

Whistling Past the Graveyard (updated, again)

“Markets, the solution to all problems!” Nice to see that Tim hasn’t lost his fire: Verizon Rejects Messages of Abortion Rights Group

Timothy Wu, a law professor at Columbia, said it was possible to find analogies to Verizon’s decision abroad. “Another entity that controls mass text messages is the Chinese government,” Professor Wu said.

Jed Alpert, the chief executive officer of Mobile Commons, which says it is the largest provider of mobile services to political and advocacy groups, including Naral, said he had never seen a decision like Verizon’s.

“This is something we haven’t encountered before, that is very surprising and that we’re concerned about,” Mr. Alpert said.

Professor Wu pointed to a historical analogy. In the 19th century, he said, Western Union, the telegraph company, engaged in discrimination, based on the political views of people who sought to send telegrams. “One of the eventual reactions was the common carrier rule,” Professor Wu said, which required telegraph and then phone companies to accept communications from all speakers on all topics.

Some scholars said such a rule was not needed for text messages because market competition was sufficient to ensure robust political debate.

“Instead of having the government get in the game of regulating who can carry what, I would get in the game of promoting as many options as possible,” said Christopher S. Yoo, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “You might find text-messaging companies competing on their openness policies.”

Riiiiiight

Update: Verizon Reverses Itself on Abortion Messages
(later version)

The LATimes also looks a little deeper into the issues: Corporate propriety yields to free speechpdf; also NARAL’s case for net neutralitypdf

After NARAL’s complaint reached the national media, Verizon Wireless did a quick about-face, reversing itself on Thursday. The company blamed “an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy” and asserted that it has “great respect for this free flow of ideas.” Nevertheless, by demonstrating how much power network operators wield over speech, Verizon Wireless and AT&T have strengthened the case for rules that keep the Internet free from their control or anyone else’s.

Data Services Or Communication Services?

Will this fight over taxes begin to resolve this piece of regulatory doublethink? Clash over Internet access tax heats uppdf

A monthly phone bill of $50 now includes as much as $10 in taxes. And some in Congress warn that consumers soon could be hit with similar assessments for high-speed Internet access.

For nearly a decade, the lines carrying the Internet into homes and businesses have been a virtual tax-free zone. But that could change Nov. 1 when a federal ban on Internet access taxes expires.

Almost everybody agrees that the politically popular moratorium should be extended to encourage continued investment in the high-speed lines crucial to making new online activities possible, particularly video. But changing Internet usage has complicated the issue, threatening to derail an extension and raising the specter of local officials engaging in a land-rush-like race to enact new taxes for surfing the Web.

[…] [As] phone and TV services increasingly are delivered over the Internet, state and local governments worry that more of their tax revenue will disappear because of the federal moratorium. They oppose the permanent extension championed by McCain and a slew of lawmakers, along with Don’t Tax Our Web, a coalition of major telecommunications, computer and Internet companies, including AT&T Inc., Google Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

Instead, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Governors Assn. and other local government groups want to narrow the definition of Internet access put in place in 1998, which could be interpreted to cover anything delivered online, and to make the extension temporary in case technology again overtakes the law.

Wonder What The License Will Look Like

Because you know that putting appliances out there that have the DVDCCA algorithms will tempt a lot of reverse engineering: Coming soon — a DVD burner for movie downloadspdf

The technology opens the door for download services from the likes of Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Inc. to let customers burn movies they buy to DVD, then watch them on television or portable DVD players. Those services still represent only a fraction of the revenue generated by movie rentals and sales.

“It removes the last real obstacle toward on-demand movie purchase,” said Van Baker of Gartner Inc. “You dont have to go to a store anymore. You can just log on, say “I want this for my library, and away you go.”

[…] Jim Taylor, a Sonic Solutions senior vice president, said consumers would need special DVD burners and recordable discs that use its technology, although the discs would play on standard DVD players. Those products probably won’t appear in stores until early next year, he said.

Electronics manufacturers such as Pioneer Corp. and PC maker Dell Inc. have announced support for the technology.

The major Hollywood studios have insisted on anti-piracy protection identical to that offered on DVDs before they would permit online movie services to let consumers make copies of mainstream movies.

The Strike Looms

Online work emerges as big issue in Hollywoodpdf

The Web series reflect the networks’ headlong drive to harness the Internet and lure a young, and increasingly elusive, audience. Yet the online rush has heightened tensions between the major studios and networks and the unionized actors and writers who fear being shortchanged by this new digital frontier.

To handle much of the Web work, networks are relying heavily on nonunion scribes and guild writers who are quietly working outside of union contracts. In some cases, networks and television studios have created separate nonunion companies to create original online entertainment on shoestring budgets.

They also have launched digital studios that serve as “farm teams” for new concepts on the Web that might one day get drafted for the major leagues of prime time.

The issue of how to compensate talent for work distributed online is central to contentious contract talks with writers — and could trigger the first major strike in Hollywood in nearly two decades.