10 Things You Need To Know About Regulation
Our lawmakers can barely keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of the Web. Here's what you need to know right now about regulation:
1. Efforts to legislate Net neutrality appeared all but dead this year. But the issue has gained new life from recent developments, including the revelation that Comcast has been actively filtering --and even blocking --its customers' Internet connections when they are found to be using file-sharing service BitTorrent.
2. The U.S. wireless industry has been able to grow largely unhindered by government regulation. But the pending Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act of 2007 could change that by requiring carriers to provide greater disclosure in cell phone contracts and bills and reducing early termination fees. Needless to say, the industry is fighting the legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Jay Rockefeller.
3. The explosion of digital media has triggered a flurry of legislation aimed at updating copyright law for the Internet age. Among pending bills, the Freedom And Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship Act of 2007 (H.R. 1201), introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher, aims to limit damages for infringement under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act when there's a good faith belief that copying falls under "fair use" protection.
4. With a renewed industry enthusiasm for behavioral targeting, the Federal Trade Commission is taking a closer look at how Internet companies collect data on consumers. Commissioner Jon Leibowitz said the agency plans to exercise more authority over online advertising in response to marketers' increased tracking of users' online activity.
5. Two separate measures are being considered in Congress to curb spyware: the I-SPY Act (H.R. 1525) and the SPY Act (H.R. 964), both of which passed in the House this spring. The Interactive Advertising Bureau supports I-SPY, which broadly bans companies from taking control of people's computers, but opposes the SPY Act on the grounds it potentially hinders Web advertisers and publishers.
6. In October, the Federal Communications Commission rebuffed a proposal by Verizon Wireless to modify open-access rules that will govern the January auction of key blocks of the wireless spectrum. The auction of airwaves in the 700 MHz band is viewed as a last chance for new players to enter the wireless market. Google, which supports the open-access rules, is a potential bidder in the auction expected to raise at least $10 billion and as much as $30 billion for the U.S. Treasury.
7. Connecticut lawmakers this year introduced legislation supported by state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that would require parental consent for teens using social networking sites. More recently, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo settled a probe of Facebook, with the company agreeing to adopt new safety measures on its site. Look for more regulatory pressure on social sites in 2008.
8. ValueClick came under investigation by the FTC in 2007 for questionable lead-generation practices, and the agency is believed to be looking at deceptive Internet advertising by other companies. Now lead-gen companies are seeking clearer guidelines from the FTC on what practices are permissible. An expected stipulation with ValueClick may contain new standards for the lead-generation industry.
9. Here's music to the recording industry's ears: a measure that targets college students as primary piracy offenders. The Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act of 2007 (H.R. 1689), introduced by Rep. Ric Keller, would fund pilot programs and initiatives on campuses to reduce illegal downloading of movies, music, software and games. What ever happened to the honor system?
10. As the term "Googlopoly" is bandied about in the media, the government will turn the heat up on the giant the same way that it did to Microsoft in its 2000 antitrust lawsuit, United States vs. Microsoft. But it won't matter. Shortly after the next GoogleElection, the company will rally the GoogleElectorate and unveil a wave of unprecendented GoogleLegislation, making it the GoogleLaw of the GoogleLand.