Copyrights by Shutterstock

Piracy penalties: Why do “Internet activists” oppose proportional criminal punishment for willful copyright infringement?

Many Internet activists suffer from a problem: in order to be relevant, they must “activate the Internet.” As a result, too many activists resort to mere Gamergate-like demagoguery: they distort and exaggerate reality in order to concoct campfire-tale caricatures of real debates in which they, the activists, seem to be boldly fighting hook-handed Internet murderers – who do not actually exist. It is important to be conscious of this tendency to create – and then try to publicly throttle – mere straw men caricatures of proposed laws, especially when they relate to enforcing copyrights and deterring mass piracy. For example, last Thursday, the president, through the office of his newly appointed Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, politely rejected two online petitions opposing past and pending bills that would change existing US criminal penalties for willful, mass streaming piracy.
ICANNdomain by Shutterstock

ICANN and Iran’s top-level domain: Court decides case, but law remains muddled

A few months ago, I highlighted an ongoing lawsuit that addressed some of the foundations of Internet law. In the suit, Ben Haim vs Islamic Republic of Iran, American victims of terrorism had won a monetary judgment against Iran for its support of terrorism. In the current phase of the case, the plaintiffs are seeking to collect on that judgment wherever possible. In their attempts at collection, the plaintiffs tried to seize control of the .ir Internet domain name – Iran's national country-code top-level domain (ccTLD). The Internet governance aspects of the case are now resolved, and it is time to take stock of the results. As most observers (including me) expected, the trial judge sided with ICANN – Iran's Internet domain is apparently safe from American creditors. The decision by Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for DC was short, narrow, and not entirely persuasive.
ParisBroadband by Shutterstock

The broadband grass is not greener in France.

The belief that somewhere else people are better off is such a common condition that psychologists have coined the term “grass is greener syndrome.” Even though Internet speeds in the US are increasing, prices are falling, and American data consumption per capita is on track to surpass current world leader South Korea, some Americans believe that their broadband is slow, expensive, and subpar compared to that of Europe. A recent article in VentureBeat feeds the misconception that the “broadband grass” is greener in Europe, and particularly in France. The VentureBeat article deploys a typical device in expatriate American literature: the mythical reinvention of Europe as somehow better than the US. In this article the author, a newly arrived American expatriate in Toulouse, France, is bubbling from a Champagne toast with recent economics Nobel winner Tirole and bragging about the cheap price of broadband.
InternetTax by Shutterstock

Reclassifying broadband means higher prices

In an effort to impose net neutrality regulations, the FCC is considering the reclassification of broadband services from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” However, reclassifying broadband services as a regulated telecommunications service would come at a major cost to consumers. Today, public utility property is generally taxed at a higher rate or under a broader base than other commercial property. Since reclassification would put broadband access under Title II regulation, many states are likely to use this new regulatory designation to generate additional property taxes. Moreover, states can do so without ever having to pursue the more challenging course of legislative change. For example, if ISPs are regulated by the FCC as a telecommunications service, current North Carolina law allows these companies to be taxed as a public utility service.