Stopping Digital Parasites
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 10:04 am | By Kelsey Zahourek

This week Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.” I applaud Senator Leahy and the bills co-sponsors, Senators Evan Bayh, Richard Durbin, Orrin Hatch, Amy Klobuchar, Herb Kohl, Charles Schumer, Arlen Specter, George Voinovich, and Sheldon Whitehouse for taking a much needed step to ensure that websites and domain names which facilitate and profit from the illegal distribution of intellectual property are shut down before any further infringement can take place.

American industries that rely on intellectual property rights employ over 18 million people and account for over $5 trillion of U.S. gross domestic product. The entertainment industry is perhaps the most visible victim of online infringement through illegal music downloads and video streaming, but there are other industries, including pharmaceuticals, machinery, and clothing that rely on the protection of intellectual property rights in order to not only thrive, but survive.

In a statement, Senator Hatch elaborated on the need for such legislative action:

“In today’s global economy the internet has become the glue of international commerce –- connecting consumers with a wide array of products and services worldwide. But it’s also become a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.”

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Medical Community Today, You Tomorrow?
Monday, September 20, 2010 4:16 pm | By Katerina Bricker

The medical field in New Hampshire is facing a serious crisis; the state is trying to take away their private property. People who fund the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), such as medical doctors, nurses, hospitals, and nursing homes, are plaintiffs in lawsuits against the state of New Hampshire to prevent it from raiding more than $110 million in surplus revenue from the JUA.

The state government, who has not contributed any money to the JUA, is determined to raid the fund to fill its own budget shortfalls. In early September the state commissioner, aided by Gov. John Lynch, enacted new rules for operating the JUA that would take away 25 years of vested policy holders’ rights and appoint the commissioner to run the JUA.
Are you surprised? Of course not. This has happened time and time again. States refuse to get their own fiscal house in order so they decide to take money from any source they can possibly find. So here lies the issue; the state notices the JUA and sees that it has surplus money that is being given back to the policy holders and the state wants it.
Supporters of the new rules claim they are necessary because they address the issue of the JUA’s tax-exempt status. Lynch is trying to make it so the JUA has to pay taxes and which would then allow for the surplus money to go to the state. This puts policy holders’ future investments in serious jeopardy. Last time I checked this was their money and not the states’ property.
Republican candidate for Governor, John Stephen, has come out against this proposal stating that Gov. John Lynch disrespects property rights. He also said that 86% of New Hampshire voters are against this. Today the medical community is getting their property stolen from them, will you be next?

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Would You Like a Puppy With Your Phone?
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 4:07 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

Last month, the newest development in the debate about whether broadcast radio should be required to pay performance royalties on sound recordings was the news of a grand bargain struck by RIAA and NAB to require all mobile devices carry an FM receiver in exchange for the broadcasters’ support of performance rights legislation.

Yesterday, to build the case for this ridiculous idea, NAB released the results of a survey they commissioned asking consumers if they would be in favor of having a built in radio chip in their smartphones. Not surprisingly, the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 76 percent of respondents said they would consider paying a one-time fee of 30 cents to access local FM radio stations through a receiver chip built into their mobile phones. Of course, NAB saw these results and then quickly concluded, “Consumers demand AM/FM radio on their phones and government must be the one to do it!”

I can hardly believe that anyone over at NAB actually believes such nonsense or they may not have left out the obvious follow up question (as Ars Technica aptly points out):

"Do you think that Congress should force mobile device makers to include a radio chip in every smartphone?"

I’m guessing the broadcasters wouldn’t see the same positive results.

If, in fact, there truly is a high demand, the appropriate response comes from the market. Manufacturers will have an incentive to strike a deal with broadcasters and put the chip in. In fact, this has already happened since numerous models are already available that allow for FM capabilities.

I am actually beginning to wonder if the broadcasters are capable of doing business without having the hand of the government snatching some form of property from another industry on their behalf. Which leads us back to the original debate on performance rights.

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