Last Week in Tech Policy: #45 Inspection of Electronic Devices and Passwords

(By Gabrielle Daley, Colorado Law 2L)

NASA scientist and U.S citizen Sidd Bikkannavar flew back into the United States on January 30th, 2017 and was detained by U.S customs and border patrol agents.  Mr. Bikkannavar was detained upon his arrival at the Houston airport by agents who stated the reason for the detention was to ensure that he was not bringing anything dangerous into the country. However the agents never searched Mr. Bikkannavar’s luggage. Instead he was handed a document entitled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and asked for his cell phone and cell phone password.

Mr. Bikkannavar was reluctant to hand over the phone because as it belonged to his employer, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories. However, agents insisted on access to the phone and password, and eventually Mr. Bikkannavar gave an agent both. The agent then left the room with the device. Mr. Bikkannavar has no idea what the agent did with the phone outside of his presence, but in a Tweet last week confirmed that JPL is running digital forensics on the phone to try and determine what may have been taken—or left—on the phone.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #44: Streaming Killed the Video Star

(by Andrew Manley, Colorado Law 2L)

Recently, more and more Americans are intent on “cutting the cord”—dropping traditional cable and satellite TV services for internet-based streaming services. The growing availability of internet streaming services that provide linear streams of content is making cutting the cord more accessible and more affordable. Services like Sony’s Playstation Vue and Dish Network’s Sling TV offer subscribers streaming video service over the internet that resembles cable service in many ways, and even provide local content streams in certain markets. AT&T and DirecTV have a similar service in the works. However, these services do not fit neatly into the FCC’s regulatory regime for Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs). Three specific cases have exposed the gaps in regulatory coverage for internet protocol based linear video services: Sky Angel, ivi, and Aereo.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #43: The Educational Materials Copyright Debate

(By Lindsay Bombalski, PhD, Colorado Law 2L)

For those not involved in the publication of scientific papers, it may come as a surprise that once a new scientific finding is published in a scientific journal it often becomes the intellectual property of that journal. Access to the article describing the finding is usually available in three ways:

  1. By purchasing an individual or institutional license through the journal;
  2. Purchasing individual articles after reading the abstract through various search engines; or
  3. Finding the article in a version of the publication that is open-access.

Individual licenses often run around $500/annually for access to up to 250 articles in up to 25 journals with the purchase of a scientific membership—for example, though the American Chemical Society. Institutional agreements can run as high as $25,000 per journal. Alternatively, individual articles can be purchased for $32-$60.

For a student researcher at a university that does not receive funding for journal subscriptions, this means a paper with a reference list of 30 citations from the same journal could require on the order of $600 in subscriptions or $960 in individual payments in order to pass a peer-reviewer in the examination prior to publication. For real articles, the cost can be even higher because many more articles need to be accessed to develop the science in a new article. These figures make clear that the cost of scientific literature research—on top of the cost of materials, chemicals, equipment, and measurements devices makes scientific research—can be out of reach.

A new web site called Sci-Hub was created to lower the cost of educational scientific materials. Sci-Hub, in turn, has raised significant debate about open access to scientific materials and related intellectual property issues.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #42: @realDonaldTrump: How Twitter is Changing Communications from the White House

(By Connor Boe, Colorado Law 2L)

After it was first announced that President Trump would continue to use his personal Twitter account after taking office, it has become clear that social media is going to become a dominant source of information from the White House. How might social media impact the consistency and clarity of messaging that the American public has come to expect from the executive branch?

Trump first created the @realDonaldTrump account in 2009 and has tweeted roughly 34,000 tweets and accrued over 22 million followers since. Since the election Trump has used Twitter along with other social media platforms to release policy statements, personal opinions, and a surprising number of politically polarizing statements.  This new form of communication from the President creates some interesting dynamics, some possible opportunities, and a multitude of challenges that need to be considered as we enter a new era of American politics.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #41: FMExit—Norway’s Transition from FM Radio to Digital Audio Broadcasting

(by Zach Goldberg, Colorado Law 2L)

Norway has begun phasing out analog FM radio by shutting down broadcasts in certain parts of the country. The switch began at 11:11 am on January 11 Nordland, a county in northern Norway, and within a year, the Norwegian government plans to transition the entire country to Digital Audio Broadcasting (“DAB”). Under this new regulatory scheme, only 200 or so small local stations will be permitted to broadcast on FM frequencies.

This post explores the past, present, and future of the transition.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #40: Copyright Reform and the Copyright Office

(by Lindsey Knapton, Colorado Law 2L)

Copyright Week Logo[Editor’s note: This post is our contribution to Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake.]

In the weeks leading up to President-elect Trump’s inauguration, little has been said about where he stands on copyright reform. For clues on copyright reform that may materialize in the coming months, some observers have turned to the House Judiciary Committee’s Reform of the U.S. Copyright Office Report, released on December 8, 2016, which outlines potential copyright policy priorities for the 115th Congress:

  1. Restructuring the Copyright Office as an administrative agency;
  2. Creating Copyright Office advisory committees;
  3. Upgrading information technology within the Copyright Office; and
  4. Creating a copyright small claims system.

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TLPC Releases White Paper on Intellectual Property Issues at the FCC

In this white paper, TLPC student attorneys Colter Donahue and J. Parker Ragland outline steps that the FCC can take to avoid having rulemakings and other policymaking initiatives delayed or negatively affected by intellectual property issues. In recent years, the Commission has faced several situations, including in the context of 9-1-1 services, telecommunications relay services, and set-top boxes, where intellectual property issues have arisen and affected proceedings. The white paper urges the Commission to develop adequate expertise in intellectual property law and to proactively anticipate and address IP issues to avoid these situations in the future.

Piloting Risk-Informed Assessments in the FCC Waiver Applications

Working with Silicon Flatirons Senior Fellow Pierre de Vries, TLPC student attorneys Andrew Manley and Jonathan Bair endorse prior recommendations that the Federal Communications Commission improve its waiver application process for radio operations through the adoption of Risk-Informed Interference Assessment (RIA). The TLPC and de Vries submitted a filing to the Commission suggesting how RIA might be adopted as a tool to assist the Commission in its decision making process. The filing elaborates on the RIA method, offers a checklist by which the Commission can request RIA from parties, and explores three test waivers for the application of RIA.

TLPC and Boulder Valley School District File Comments and Replies in E-Rate Waiver Proceeding

After releasing a public notice seeking comment on the Boulder Valley School District’s (BVSD) petition to waive certain provisions of the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate rules, the Commission has now received two rounds of comments. TLPC student attorneys Max Brennan and Caroline Jones filed comments and reply comments on behalf of BVSD requesting that the Commission grant the waiver, which seeks to bridge the homework gap for students living in Boulder’s low-income housing community.

Over 50 parties filed initial comments, including industry and trade groups, public interest organizations, and school districts.

Understanding and Solving the Problems that Non-Service-Initialized Devices and Non-Emergency 911 Calls Cause for PSAPs, First Responders, and the Public

(by Zach Goldberg and Eilif Vanderkolk, TLPC Student Attorneys)

Over the past several months, the TLPC, in collaboration with the National 911 Program, has researched problems burdening 911 call centers, with the aim of discovering solutions to improve the efficiency of emergency response throughout the country. Specifically, we have examined the negative impact of calls made from non-service-initialized devices (“NSIDs”) and high non-emergency 911 call volume upon the efficacy of public safety answering points (PSAPs). We aimed to gain deeper understanding of how 911 systems work, the difficulties they face, and how changes in law and policy, technology, and consumer awareness and behaviors might help. However, crafting effective solutions to these problems is difficult because the factors contributing to high non-emergency 911 call volume figures are complex, and reliable, precise studies and data is scarce. We explore these problems in the attached white paper.