(by Stephanie Vu, Colorado Law 3L, and Stefan Tschimben, Interdiscliplinary Telecom Program student)
On October 20th, the TLPC and the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado held a screening and panel discussion of the documentary The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. The documentary follows the life and death of Internet activist and programing prodigy Aaron Swartz. Aaron played a part in the creation of web feed format RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and was a co-founder of Reddit. Aaron was best known to some for his political activism against the Stop Online Piracy Act and his crusade for the open access to information. This crusade led to a two-year legal battle and ultimately his death at age 26. The documentary explores the relationship between civil liberties and technology and gives a heartfelt account of a young man whose life work has benefited almost everyone who has ever used the internet.
According to Professor Blake Reid, “Aaron’s life and death have left an indelible mark on public policy surrounding technology, digital civil liberties, and access to knowledge. The Internet’s Own Boy is a window into Aaron’s legacy through which anyone interested in the future of our democracy in an information age should take a careful and thoughtful look.”
Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 CU Fall Technology Policy Challenge! The winning team consisted of four TLPC members. From left to right: Molly McClurg (Colorado Law 2L), Amber Williams (Colorado Law 3L), Stefan Tschimben (CU Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program student), and Vickie Stubbs (ATLAS Institute student).
The TLPC continued its efforts in the Copyright Office’s triennial review last week by filing a petition for exemption from the anti-circumvention measures in Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs) to perform good faith security research. The TLPC filed the petition, drafted by student attorneys Chris Meier, Amber Williams, and Bridgett Murphy on behalf of Dr. Matthew Green, Assistant Research Professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute.
Today, the TLPC’s Spencer Rubin, Trip Nistico, and Vickie Stubbs submitted reply comments in the FCC’s Text-to-911 and Next Generation 911 dockets. The comments propose a framework for balancing public safety with privacy and cybersecurity concerns.
Last week, TLPC student attorneys Mel Jensen and Alex Koral filed an initial petition with the Copyright Office seeking to renew an exemption for people who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled to read ebooks on equal terms by circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs) on ebooks that interfere with adaptive technologies, such as text-to-speech functions and refreshable Braille displays. The TLPC filed the petition in partnership with the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind as part of the U.S. Copyright Office’s triennial review of exemptions from the anti-circumvention measures in section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
This comment explains why user-testing requirements for accessibility are necessary for usable advanced communications services or products. Written in conjunction with Professor Clayton Lewis of CU-Boulder’s Coleman Institute, the TLPC’s comment explains why user-testing best serves the purposes of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The comment additionally explains how the Act applies to people with cognitive disabilities and, moreover, analyzes how the Act may be defined to the full extent that Congress intended. This interpretation ensures that people with disabilities have full access to advanced communications technologies. The comment proposes a complaint-based enforcement process that will help implement reasonable user-testing requirements for accessibility.
This comment raises concerns about an individual’s digital fingerprint as revealed by browser add-ons. Add-ons are pieces of software that enhance the capabilities of a larger software application, such as a web browser. When an individual visits a website, most websites ask the computer for the browser’s installed add-ons, and other information about a user’s computer (such as screen size), to ensure that the content and information it sends to a computer is properly formatted. This information may be thought of as an individual’s “digital fingerprint.”
Add-ons have many useful benefits. However, a digital fingerprint also creates the potential for employers, insurance companies, and others to discriminate based on add-on information. The TLPC’s comment to the FTC highlights concerns that a party (for example, an employer) could see that a user (for example, a job applicant) has an add-on installed that is specific to his disability. This information could be potentially misused. Consider a person with a vision impairment, who uses a screen reader add-on, in applying for a job on the potential employer’s website. The potential employer sees the installed add-on and decides not to hire the applicant because the employer does not want to pay for accessibility programs for the applicant. The TLPC argues that regulatory agencies should be sensitive to such abuse and consider whether additional safeguards are warranted.
The FCC’s leadership in spectrum management has led to increased spectrum accessibility, more flexibility in how licensees and unlicensed users utilize the spectrum, and a greater reliance on market-type mechanisms. These developments each reflect a welcome migration away from a command and control-type approach to managing the spectral resource. In this Comment, the TLPC encourages the FCC to take the next step in spectrum management by reexamining existing spectrum enforcement mechanisms. Speedy and predictable ways to enforce rights are an important dimension of a well-functioning market. There is reason to question whether existing enforcement mechanisms are sufficient given wireless regulatory and market trends. In Spring 2011, Colorado Law’s TLPC filed a Reply Comment under the FCC’s Dynamic Spectrum Notice of Inquiry (NOI). The TLPC’s filing explains why the FCC should reexamine its existing enforcement and dispute resolution mechanisms in order to adapt to an environment where more intensive and dynamic spectrum activity is likely to increase the frequency of spectrum rights disputes.
This comment, submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), analyzes how consumers have used social media during an emergency, how consumers will expect to use social media for emergency purposes in the future, and to what extent public safety jurisdictions might employ social media tools as a way to interact with the public. This filing requests that the FCC encourage social media use as part of emergency response and provide guidance to jurisdictions that wish to employ social media tools during a crisis.
Learning the craft of regulatory advocacy remains largely an apprenticeship experience. Few resources or formal courses focus on navigating the regulatory process as it relates to technology policy. The existing compilation document is a small contribution toward creation of a helpful “how to” resource concerning technology advocacy.
In January 2010, members of the Cybertelecom list were asked if they knew of “an excellent text or starter set of materials concerning the ‘how to’ advocacy aspects of technology law policy?” It took the group just a week and fifty two responses to collectively say, “no.” Happily, the collective answer went further. Members of the list set about helping fill what appears to be at least a partial literature gap. This resulted a set of ideas which makes progress toward creation of a document which provides guidance to newcomers concerning technology policy advocacy.
This document is an open source creature. Input and additions are welcome. As is, the document is a helpful checklist of considerations within a useful conceptual framework. It remains, however, two dimensional for those who have not done it before. Concrete stories and illustrations from technology policy would be particularly helpful and welcome. This document will be updated on a monthly basis through Colorado Law’s Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic.