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April 2010 (previous | next)
 

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media, Part 5: Media Bailouts & Welfare for Journalists

PFF today released the fifth installment in our ongoing series on "The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media." This series of papers explores various tax and regulatory proposals that would have government play an expanded role in supporting the press, journalism, or other media content. In the latest essay, Berin Szoka, Ken Ferree, and I discuss proposals for direct subsidies for failing media outlets and out-of-work journalists.

We argue taxpayer support for failing outlets and unemployed journalists implicates significant First Amendment concerns. On the whole, subsidies can make "journalists and media operators more dependent upon the State; compromise press independence and diminish public trust in the free press; and result in government discrimination in the politically inescapable dilemma of determining eligibility for subsidies." Such an agenda would also entail huge cost to taxpayers--initially about $35 billion per year according to advocates--and would represent "a massive wealth transfer from one class of speakers to another..."

We warn that calls for seemingly beneficent bailouts "to save" the media and journalism may actually be driven by those who have something more nefarious in mind: a "post-corporate" world shorn of media capitalists, and "such radicalism must be rejected if we hope to sustain a truly free press and uphold America's proud tradition of keeping a high and tight wall of separation between Press and State."

The ideas within these and other essays in the series will be worked into a major PFF filing in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proceeding on the "Future of Media" on May 7. The paper may be viewed online here and I've attached it down below in a Scribd reader.

Continue reading The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media, Part 5: Media Bailouts & Welfare for Journalists . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:29 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, The News Frontier

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

While We're Talking About Propping Up Failed Business Models...

I recently helped my colleagues Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka on a short essay rebutting the misguided notion that the government should grant postal subsidies to "old media" enterprises to help them survive. One of the arguments, of course, is that the state should perhaps not be propping up an old way of doing things (i.e., printing news on dead trees and spending physical and environmental resources shipping it around the country), when new and better ways are emerging. In the course of working on that paper, it occurred to me that maybe the time has come to scrap the entire U.S. Postal Service, but the thought was too far removed from the focus of the essay, and I let the idea go.

Recently, however, I've been forced to return to it. Although I am admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and D.C., I am not admitted in my new home state of California. As I have become more involved in my small mountain community, I have been approached on more than one occasion to help a friend or associate in some way that could conceivably be regarded as the "practice of law." My wife, who is a California lawyer, has also recently opened a solo practice in town, and it would be nice if I could assist her from time to time, as the need arises. The only thing to do, it seemed to me, was to take the California Bar exam and become a member here as well.

Continue reading While We're Talking About Propping Up Failed Business Models... . . .

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 10:18 PM | Generic Rant, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism

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PFF TechCast #4: Senate Testimony on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

I'm testifying this morning before the Senate Commerce Committee's Consumer Protection Subcommittee on Examining Children's Privacy: New Technologies and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act at 10 am in 253 Russell. I offered an overview of my testimony in a PFF TechCast interview yesterday.

MP3 file: PFF TechCast #4 - Senate COPPA testimony of Berin Szoka

My pre-scripted oral testimony (PDF) follows below, but you can download my somewhat longer written testimony here, which offers an overview of our past work on this subject at PFF, particularly the paper Adam Thierer and I published last summer COPPA 2.0: The New Battle over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech.

Continue reading PFF TechCast #4: Senate Testimony on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:18 AM | Advertising & Marketing, Free Speech, Online Safety & Parental Controls, PFF Podcasts, Privacy

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

event: May 7th - What Should the Next Communications Act Look Like?

On Friday, May 7th from 9:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. at the National Press Club, The Progress & Freedom Foundation will hold a panel discussion entitled, "What Should the Next Communications Act Look Like?" This event will consider the implications of the recent Comcast v. FCC court decision, the FCC's pending "Net Neutrality" Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, as well as other developments which have lead many experts, officials, policymakers and a diverse array of companies to call on Congress to update the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Leading industry veterans will make their case for change, and explain how their proposals can be implemented. Our expect panel will include:


  • Thomas J. Tauke, Executive Vice President - Public Affairs, Policy and Communications, Verizon Communications

  • Peter Pitsch, Associate General Counsel and Executive Director of Communications Policy, Intel

  • Walter McCormick, President & CEO, United States Telecom Association

  • Ray Gifford, Partner, Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, LLP

  • Michael Calabrese, Vice President, New America Foundation

  • Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow, The Progress & Freedom Foundation


Please RSVP here is you plan to join us on May 7th for this event. Again, it will take place from 9:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. at the National Press Club (Holeman Lounge, 13th Floor, 529 14th Street NW). Hope to see you there.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 8:00 PM | Communications, DACA, Events, The FCC

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PFF TechCast #3: Media Vouchers & Postal Subsidies as Media Reinvention Tools

In this latest PFF TechCast, Berin Szoka and I discuss the two latest installments in our ongoing "Wrong Way to Reinvent Media" series. These two recent installments dealt with "media vouchers" and expanded postal subsidies as methods of assisting struggling media enterprises or promoting more hard news. In this 7-minute podcast, PFF's press director Mike Wendy chats with us about these proposals and we argue that they both raise a variety of practical and principled concerns that weigh against their adoption by policymakers.

MP3 file: PFF TechCast #3 - Media Vouchers & Postal Subsidies (4/27/2010)

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:43 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, PFF Podcasts, The News Frontier

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Monday, April 26, 2010

comment on Supreme Court taking Calif video game case

The Supreme Court announced today that it will review a California law regulating the sale of violently-themed video games to minors. The case is Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants and I have written about it here before. This will be the first major First Amendment case regarding video game speech rights heard by our nation's highest court. This afternoon, I issued the following press statement about the case and its importance:

"I hope the Supreme Court is taking this case to affirm the free speech rights of game creators and users, and not to overturn ten years of solid, sensible lower court decisions granting video games the same First Amendment protections as books, film, music and other forms of entertainment. Government regulation of game content is unnecessary because parents have been empowered with sophisticated video game parental controls and a highly descriptive ratings system that is widely recognized and easy to use. Lawmakers should focus their efforts on making sure parents are better aware of existing tools and ratings instead of trying to censor game content in such a plainly unconstitutional fashion. Let's hope the Supreme Court affirms that educational approach and Ninth Circuit's decision at the same time."

Several reporters have already asked me if its a bad sign that the Court took the case at all and wondered if this meant that there are 5 votes for overturning the lower court decision. It's impossible to read the tea leaves on things like this, but I would generally agree that it's not a good sign. But I just don't understand how the Supreme Court could uphold a law like this in light of all their recent Internet jurisprudence (CDA, COPA, etc) which held against the government when various "harm to minors" statutes were tested and found to be unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court goes the opposite direction here, it will mean that our "First Amendment jurisprudential Twilight Zone" will become even more confusing and contorted. Let's hope that's not the case.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 7:56 PM | Video Games & Virtual Worlds

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PFF LTE in NY Times - Let's Not Regulate the Internet

PFF was fortunate enough to get a letter-to-the-editor published in the NY Times this weekend, responding to the paper's call for broad Net Neutrality rules which would regulate broadband services.

Regulate the Internet?

To the Editor:

In "The F.C.C. and the Internet" (editorial, April 19), you ignore two important facts to arrive at your sweeping conclusion that the Federal Communications Commission must regulate the Internet to ensure its health and growth.

Continue reading PFF LTE in NY Times - Let's Not Regulate the Internet . . .

posted by Mike Wendy @ 1:00 PM | Broadband, Cable, Capitol Hill, Communications, Internet, Net Neutrality, PFF, Regulation, The FCC, Wireless, Wireline

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

event reminder: "Cable, Broadcast & the First Amendment: Will the Supreme Court End Must-Carry?"

Just a reminder that PFF is hosting a panel discussion on "Cable, Broadcast & the First Amendment: Will the Supreme Court End Must-Carry?" this Tuesday (April 27th) from 10:00-11:45 a.m at Hogan & Hartson LLP (555 13th Street NW, Washington, DC). To hold a seat, please RSVP for the event here.

The event features an all-star cast representing all sides (cable, broadcast and programming) of the fight over the FCC's must-carry rules, which require cable television systems to dedicate some of their channels to local broadcast television stations. The Supreme Court narrowly upheld these "must-carry" rules in the mid-1990s. But last year's DC Circuit decision striking down the FCC's 30% cap on cable ownership lead Cablevision to challenge the must-carry rules. The Supreme Court will soon announce whether it will review the Second Circuit's decision last June upholding the rules. Speakers at our event include:


  • Dan Brenner, Partner, Hogan & Hartson LLP; former director of regulatory and legal affairs at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA)

  • Matt Brill, Partner, Latham & Watkins LLP; counsel for Discovery Communications, amicus in Cablevision case; former Senior Legal Advisor to FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy

  • Jack Goodman, Counsel, WilmerHale; former general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)

  • Howard Symons, Member, Mintz Levin; counsel for Cablevision; former Senior Counsel to House Subcommittee on Telecommunications


Berin Szoka and I will co-moderate the session. Hope to see you Tuesday. Register for the event here.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:42 PM | Cable, Events, Mass Media

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Friday, April 23, 2010

K Street Misinformation Pours into Gutter - FCC Must Know Limits of Its Magic

A lot of misinformation has recently emerged about the FCC's so-called ability to dodge the uncomfortable implications of Comcast v. FCC, and effortlessly reclassify information services into common carrier services. As if this can be done, willy-nilly, with some regulatory incantation that only the Chairman of the present Commission can whip up.

Not surprisingly, many media outlets - old and new - seem all too willing to support Internet policy changes without critical analysis other than: "Did Bush regulators 'screw up the Internet' by keeping it free of regulation? Then going in the opposite direction is alright" (check out this doozey by the NY Times to get an idea).

Continue reading K Street Misinformation Pours into Gutter - FCC Must Know Limits of Its Magic . . .

posted by Mike Wendy @ 2:28 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Broadband, Cable, Capitol Hill, Communications, Internet, Net Neutrality, Regulation, The FCC

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ACTA: USTR Was Right, and the Histrionics Were Wrong--Again.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) just released a draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). After spending several years at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, advising USTR on the copyright-related provisions of many proposed and enacted trade agreements, my review of the draft ACTA text confirms, (as well as any draft can), that ACTA is precisely what USTR has said consistently during both the Bush and Obama Administrations: ACTA is an efficiency-enhancing effort that can be executed as an Executive Agreement because it will require no change--repeat, no change--in existing U.S. law.

Indeed, this is why I rarely write about, blog about, or closely follow the ACTA negotiations. ACTA is an important efficiency-enhancing effort intended to facilitate international trade. But--by definition--it will not address any of the most important unresolved questions about how to reconcile the benefits of enforceable copyrights and the benefits of the Internet.

To the contrary, in the ACTA negotiations, developed nations that have already joined and implemented all of the major multilateral IPR-related international treaties--like the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS"), the Berne Convention, and the WIPO Copyright Treaty--are trying to see whether they can agree on what an good implementation of these already-ratified, already-implemented treaties should require.

While such an agreement could further trade among developed nations, it would be even more beneficial to developing and least-developed nations. Most developed nations, including the U.S., already require their preferred trading partners to fully implement the leading international IPR treaties, but each such developed nation now has differing ideas what an "good" implementation of these treaties requires. As a result, any country that wants to increase trade with developed nations in the Americas, Europe, and Asian must now separately negotiate with many nations about the efficacy of its implementation of existing IPR treaties, and it may have to revise its IPR laws repeatedly.

ACTA seeks to reduce or eliminate the resulting delay and duplication of effort. In effect, ACTA seeks to answer the following question: Given that many developed nations already require their preferred trading partners to complete a "good" implementation of the existing IPR treaties, shouldn't they try to reach as least broad agreement on what a "good" implementation of existing IPR treaties requires? If so, then any nation interested in updating its IPR laws in order to better protect its own creators and improve its trade relations could know what to do in order to facilitate trade with many of the world's most attractive trading partners. Consequently, developed nations that already incorporate support for IPR protections into their international-trade strategies could promote trade, reduce waste, avoid petty disputes, and better promote improved IPR protections if they could agree on what a really good implementation of the existing international IPR treaties should require. This is, perhaps, the critical benefit that ACTA seeks to achieve.

This is why the structure and the text of ACTA so closely resemble the structure and text of the IPR Chapter of many existing bilateral and multilateral U.S. Free Trade Agreements ("FTA")--none of which required the U.S. to amend its existing IPR laws. Those similarities are no coincidence. In effect, ACTA attempts to reach at least a general consensus on what the IPR chapters that many developed nations already incorporate into their trade agreements ought to contain.

Nevertheless, while developed-world IPR laws are so generally similar as to permit such consensus, they are not identical. Consequently, the ACTA negotiators must craft language specific enough to provide precise guidance, (as the IPR chapter of a developed-world trade agreement would today), while accommodating some of the differences in the national laws of developed, IPR-exporting nations--each of which is quite convinced that its laws already reflect a "really good" implementation of the existing multinational IPR treaties.

This is why the Internet teapot-tempest over ACTA merely confirms that USTR should be strongly commended for its longstanding decision to pursue ACTA as an Executive Agreement. For precisely the reasons just mentioned, the language of ACTA will almost certainly closely, but not precisely, track the language of the IPR Chapters in those many existing U.S. FTAs. This could have raised legitimate--as opposed to contrived--concerns that ACTA might change to U.S. law. But by negotiating ACTA as an Executive Agreement, USTR eliminated all such legitimate concerns. By definition, an Executive Agreement cannot require any change in existing U.S. law.

Moreover, by negotiating ACTA as an Executive Agreement, USTR not only eliminated any legitimate domestic concerns about ACTA changing U.S. law, it also put all other nations participating in the ACTA negotiations on notice: if the U.S. agrees to particular language, then that is because it has concluded that its existing domestic laws already implement that language. Therefore, should the ACTA negotiations conclude successfully, no co-party to ACTA can argue, credibly, that it could possibly have thought that existing U.S. law failed to implement the Agreement.

These observations are subject to a caveat: the released draft of ACTA is an early-stage draft consisting mostly of bracketed counter-proposals. Multiparty negotiations among many global leaders in international trade never proceed quickly. Nevertheless, the released draft suffices to confirm that ACTA is precisely what USTR has said it is throughout the past two Administrations, and that USTR should be commended for providing both domestic and international clarity by pursuing it as an Executive Agreement.

Finally, a word about ACTA and "secrecy." Negotiating drafts of ACTA have been no more and no less "secret" than negotiating drafts of any other proposed U.S. trade agreement negotiated in the last few decades. And such "secrecy" is perfectly sensible: negotiating nations do not published their negotiating drafts and strategies for the many of the same reasons that poker players do not "publish" the contents of their hands during a game--"transparency" is good; crippling your own negotiators is not. Nor is the resulting "secrecy" that secret: Any Internet reporter who wanted to review an earlier draft of ACTA would have had to do little more than sign a simpler version of the sort of nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that gadget reporters routinely sign in order to get an early look at the latest iWidget.

I may have more to say later about the shrill, dishonest, juvenile histrionics that have passed for most Internet "commentary" on ACTA. For now, I need only congratulate the shriekers for the success of their latest campaign to convince even more federal officials that most Internet commentary on almost matters relating to intellectual property rights, (other than those that protect technology companies or open-source software), will tend to consist of shrill, dishonest, juvenile histrionics.

Indeed, the histronics over ACTA recall the histrionic wailing that filled the Internet during the lead-up to the Supreme Court decision in Grokster. Back then, many of the same groups and individuals now shrieking about ACTA were shrieking that holding the most blatant commercial copyright pirates on the Internet liable for the intended consequences of their own actions would crush innovation and outlaw, (to cite but a few examples), iPods, transistors, Legos, broadcast radio, The New York Times, and--worsf of all--Silly Putty. Today's ACTA histrionics seem equally rational, balanced, informed, and thoughtful.

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 10:37 AM | Copyright, E-commerce, Global Innovation, IP, Internet, Trade, Trademark

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media, Part 4: Expanding Postal Subsidies

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:07 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, The News Frontier

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April 21: State of the Mobile Net & Growing Up Mobile Seminar in DC

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:10 AM | Events, Free Speech, Privacy

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Gizmodo Shows Online Competition is Thriving: Microsoft v. Google v. Apple (and Others!)

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:08 AM | Antitrust & Competition Policy

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Obama Champions Private Enterprise in Space over Bipartisan Support for Socialist NASA Program

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:06 AM | Space

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Terrific Study on Cost of Opt-In Privacy Regulatory Regime, but...

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:06 AM | Advertising & Marketing, Privacy

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Longing for Tax Day Simplicity

posted by Mike Wendy @ 4:51 PM | Capitol Hill, E-commerce, Generic Rant, Privacy, State Policy, Taxes

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Reminder: PFF Hill Briefing Today on Super-Sizing the FTC & What It Means for the Internet, Media & Advertising

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:22 AM | Advertising & Marketing, Events, The FTC

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media, Part 3: Media Vouchers

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:37 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, The News Frontier

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reclassification of Broadband Internet Access: No Slam Dunk

posted by Barbara Esbin @ 1:52 PM | Broadband, Cable, Communications, Net Neutrality, Neutrality, The FCC, Wireline

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Who Said Micropayments Can't Work?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:17 AM | Economics, Mass Media

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

PFF is Hiring (Again): VP of Development & Outreach

posted by Adam Thierer @ 7:45 PM |

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3 Upcoming Events: Super-Sizing the FTC (4/16), FTC v. Google on AdMob (4/15) & Must-Carry (4/27)

posted by Berin Szoka @ 1:35 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Antitrust & Competition Policy, Events, Media Regulation

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Healthy Skepticism among News Executives about Government Subsidies

posted by Adam Thierer @ 8:17 PM | Mass Media, The News Frontier

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Friday, April 9, 2010

What Accounts for Sudden Public Opposition to Internet Regulation?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:16 PM | Broadband, Communications, Net Neutrality, The FCC

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

2 Radio Shows about the Comcast v. FCC Decision

posted by Adam Thierer @ 7:19 PM | Broadband, Net Neutrality, The FCC

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Did You Say You Wanted Another Editorial on the Comcast Decision?!

posted by Adam Thierer @ 5:48 PM | Broadband, Communications, Net Neutrality

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

GetUnvarnished.com: Should We Allow User Feedback about Personal Reputation?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:24 PM | Free Speech, Privacy

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The Nobles Must Follow the Law

posted by Barbara Esbin @ 4:16 PM | Broadband, Cable, Communications, Net Neutrality, Neutrality, The FCC

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FCC Loses Comcast Case: End of Line for FCC's Creative Claims of Authority?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:26 AM | Communications, Net Neutrality

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event: "Digital Power and Its Discontents" (4/21 at Georgetown U.)

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:28 AM | Events

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Do You Know Anyone Who Would Like to be PFF President?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:03 AM |

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Monday, April 5, 2010

PFF TechCast #2: "Saving the Media" through Broadcast Spectrum Taxes

posted by Mike Wendy @ 2:44 PM | PFF Podcasts

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Recent Posts
  The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media, Part 5: Media Bailouts & Welfare for Journalists
While We're Talking About Propping Up Failed Business Models...
PFF TechCast #4: Senate Testimony on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
event: May 7th - What Should the Next Communications Act Look Like?
PFF TechCast #3: Media Vouchers & Postal Subsidies as Media Reinvention Tools
comment on Supreme Court taking Calif video game case
PFF LTE in NY Times - Let's Not Regulate the Internet
event reminder: "Cable, Broadcast & the First Amendment: Will the Supreme Court End Must-Carry?"
K Street Misinformation Pours into Gutter - FCC Must Know Limits of Its Magic
ACTA: USTR Was Right, and the Histrionics Were Wrong--Again.
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