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Will Copyright Law Save New York Area Baseball Fans?

As the landmark dispute over retransmission consent fees between Fox and Cablevision threatens to drag on through Tuesday, New York area baseball fans who are also Cablevision subscribers are scrambling to make alternative plans to view or hear the game.

One ostensibly legal option they have is to view the Tuesday game between the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies on a new internet television service that retransmits broadcasters’ signals over the internet.

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SAN FRANCISCO, October 19th, 2010 — As the landmark dispute over retransmission consent fees between Fox and Cablevision threatens to  drag on through Tuesday, New York area baseball fans who are also Cablevision subscribers are scrambling to make alternative plans to view or hear the game.

One ostensibly legal option they have is to view the Tuesday game between the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies on a new internet television service that retransmits broadcasters’ signals over the internet.

The Seattle-based start-up ivi launched a new service mid-September that streams live television over the internet from ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, The CW, and PBS.

Users download a program onto their computers, provide their credit card information and are promised a one-month free trial before having to pay $4.99 a month.

It’s not clear yet whether the service falls under the parameters of current copyright law, although the founders of the web site contends that it does, and have filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal district court against the broadcasters to establish that contention.

In a suit filed in federal district court for the Western District of Washington late September, ivi says that the Copyright Act specifically allows others to retransmit broadcasters’ signals as long as they pay the fees to the broadcasters as spelled out under federal law.

“”The Copyright Act expressly approves of the secondary transmission of an original television broadcast where the secondary transmission is subject to a statutory license,” a team of ivi’s lawyers told the court in its filing.

“ivi is not another Pirate Bay or Napster trying to gain from others’ works,” said ivi’s Founder and CEO Todd Weaver in a statement accompanying its pre-emptive lawsuit. “We recognize that it is disruptive to existing cable offerings and remain confident that we have adopted a model that is allowed under all applicable laws.”

ivi filed suit against ABC, CBS, CW Broadcasting, Disney, Fisher Communications, Fox Television, Major League Baseball, NBC Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, WGBH Educational Foundation, and WNET.org.

A group of 24 broadcasters and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball for their parts filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against ivi in federal district court for Southern New York just over a week later.

The group’s lawyers argued in a court filing that ivi doesn’t qualify under copyright law as a “cable system” entitled to make use of the law’s compulsory licensing provisions.

“Defendants are nothing more than publicity-seeking pirates that use the pretext of a non-existent loophole to exploit the creative efforts of plaintiffs and other broadcast stations and copyright owners for unjust profit,” the group’s lawyers wrote.

Major League Baseball has its own web site and iPAD application that streams games online live, but some people who’ve used it claim that it’s “horrible.”

Other fans who are Cablevision subscribers in New York called in Monday to a New York City public radio station to discuss ways to access Tuesday’s game online. Among the suggestions were access via “Project Free TV” and tuning into retransmission via Justin.tv.

Social Media

Americans Should Look to Filtration Software to Block Harmful Content from View, Event Hears

One professor said it is the only way to solve the harmful content problem without encroaching on free speech rights.

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Photo of Adam Neufeld of Anti-Defamation League, Steve Delbianco of NetChoice, Barak Richman of Duke University, Shannon McGregor of University of North Carolina (left to right)

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2022 – Researchers at an Internet Governance Forum event Thursday recommended the use of third-party software that filters out harmful content on the internet, in an effort to combat what they say are social media algorithms that feed them content they don’t want to see.

Users of social media sites often don’t know what algorithms are filtering the information they consume, said Steve DelBianco, CEO of NetChoice, a trade association that represents the technology industry. Most algorithms function to maximize user engagement by manipulating their emotions, which is particularly worrisome, he said.

But third-party software, such as Sightengine and Amazon’s Rekognition – which moderate what users see by bypassing images and videos that the user selects as objectionable – could act in place of other solutions to tackle disinformation and hate speech, said Barak Richman, professor of law and business at Duke University.

Richman argued that this “middleware technology” is the only way to solve this universal problem without encroaching on free speech rights. He suggested Americans in these technologies – that would be supported by popular platforms including Facebook, Google, and TikTok – to create the buffer between harmful algorithms and the user.

Such technologies already exist in limited applications that offer less personalization and accuracy in filtering, said Richman. But the market demand needs to increase to support innovation and expansion in this area.

Americans across party lines believe that there is a problem with disinformation and hate speech, but disagree on the solution, added fellow panelist Shannon McGregor, senior researcher at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina.

The conversation comes as debate continues regarding Section 230, a provision in the Communications Decency Act that protects technology platforms from being liable for content their users post. Some say Section 230 only protects “neutral platforms,” while others claim it allows powerful companies to ignore user harm. Experts in the space disagree on the responsibility of tech companies to moderate content on their platforms.

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Big Tech

Surveillance Capitalism a Symptom of Web-Dependent Companies, Not Ownership

Former Google executive Richard Whitt critiqued Ben Tarnoff’s argument in ‘Internet for the People’ during Gigabit Libraries discussion.

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Photo of Ben Tarnoff, co-founder of magazine Logic and the author of “Internet for the People”

July 15, 2022 – A former Google executive  pushed back against a claim that the privatization of broadband infrastructure has created the world’s current data and privacy concerns, instead suggesting that it’s the companies that rely on the web that have helped fuel the problem.

Richard Whitt, president of technology non-profit GLIA Foundation and former employee of Google, argued that while the World Wide Web is rife with problems, the internet infrastructure underlying the web remains fundamentally sound.

Whitt was responding to claims made by Ben Tarnoff, a journalist and founder of Logic Magazine, at the Libraries in Response event on July 8. Tarnoff argued – as he does in his recent book, “Internet for the People” – that the privatization of broadband infrastructure in the 1990s has allowed the use and commodification of personal data for profit to flourish (known as surveillance capitalism).

The discussion took place during the Gigabit Libraries Network’s series “Libraries in Response.” The session was titled “If the Internet is Broken, How Can Libraries Help Fix it?”

Privatization, Tarnoff claims, has raised such issues as polarization of ideologies and the “annihilation of our privacy.” As a result, he said, the American people are losing trust in tech companies that “rule the internet.”

Whitt responded that the internet is working well based on the protocols, standardized rules for routing and addressing packets of data to travel across networks, derived at the onset of the internet.

The World Wide Web, a system built on the internet to allow communication using easy-to-understand graphical user interfaces, allowed for browsers and other applications to emerge, which have since perpetuated surveillance capitalism into the governing approach of the web that it is today, said Whitt, suggesting it’s not ownership of the hard infrastructure that’s the problem.

The advertising market that encourages surveillance extraction, analysis and manipulation is, and will continue to be, profitable, Whitt continued.

The discussion follows a Pew Research Center study that found that only half of Americans believe tech companies have a positive effect in 2019 compared to a seventy-one percent in 2015.

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Big Tech

American Innovation and Choice Online Act Has Panelists Divided on Small Business Impact

The bill is intended to prohibit product preferences on tech platforms, with some saying it could harm small companies dependent on those platforms.

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Panel at CSIS event on Thursday

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2022 – Observers are still divided about the effect on small business of legislation that is intended to keep large technology platforms from giving preference to their own products over others.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted experts last month to discuss the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which was introduced in January. The event heard both support for the bill, as well as concern that it could negatively impact smaller businesses that rely on the larger platforms.

“Existing antitrust law is not going to be enough to rein in the power of the largest tech platforms,” Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director at public interest group Public Knowledge, said, adding the AICOA is very important for small business competition “to get a fair shot.”

“Fundamentally this is a really important…for competition because this protects small companies that are potential competitors against one of these large platforms,” she added.

Krisztian Katona, vice president of global competition and regulatory policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, however, said that after performing a cost-benefit analysis of AICOA, he expects the legislation will hurt business competition.

He said that the legislation would increase operating costs for smaller companies and force these companies to reduce the cost of their services. He predicts that close to 100 companies by 2030 would be negatively impacted by the legislation if it becomes law.

Others agree with Katona. A report in March by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council said small business owners felt the AICOA could be detrimental to them, saying it could increase prices. Meanwhile Michael Petricone, senior vice president of the Consumer Technology Association, said in June that small businesses would be affected the most by big tech regulation because they depend on those platforms.

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