Month: April 2024

FCC’s plan to make your Internet a ‘public utility’ will only make it worse

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the Federal Communications Commission revived its proposal to reclassify Internet providers as public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, commonly known as “net neutrality.” The FCC vote will take place on April 25.

This marks a step back for all American Internet users, who have thus far profited from a more innovative Internet marketplace since the repeal of these rules in 2017 by former chair Ajit Pai.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, reacts:

“Resurrecting the idea of Title-II regulation of Internet Service Providers, after its successful repeal in 2017, is the idea that nobody needs, certaintly not in 2024. Since then, we’ve seen incredible innovation and investment, as more Internet customers begin using mobile hotspots and satellite Internet, getting more Americans online than ever before. No one is asking for this proposal and no one needs it.

“Regulating ISPs like water utilities or electricity providers is a path toward more government control and oversight of the Internet, plain and simple, and will only make things worse,” said Ossowski.

“As we’ve seen with the recent court cases before the Supreme Court, today’s major Internet problem isn’t broadband providers blocking certain access or services, but government agencies attempting to strong-arm and jawbone Internet providers and platforms into censoring or removing content they don’t agree with. This is more concerning than any worst-case scenario dreamed up by FCC commissioners.

“Bringing these dead regulations back to life to enforce Depression-era rules on the web will be a losing issue for millions of Americans who enjoy greater Internet access and services than ever before.

“Rather than support Americans’ access to the Internet, it stands to threaten the vast entrepreneurial and tech spaces across our country and will push companies to set up in jurisdictions that promise true Internet freedom rather than state-imposed regulation of content and delivery of Internet services.

“We implore the FCC to whole an open and honest public engagement process on these proposed net neutrality regulations, and we are certain consumers will have their say against this proposal,” added Ossowski.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva, Lima, Brasilia, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

The DOJ’s Antitrust Case Against Apple is an Attack on Consumer Preference

The war between the US federal government and Big Tech continues. The next chapter pits the Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) under Merrick Garland against Apple, wherein the DOJ has accusedAmerica’s most innovative consumer brand of sweeping antitrust violations. This allegation of anticompetitive conduct deserves intense scrutiny. Apple is a wildly successful consumer tech brand that inspires consumer loyalty like no other tech. So what’s the problem?

At the heart of the DOJ’s lawsuit is the claim that Apple has stifled competition by building barriers that prevent competitors from both entering the smartphone market and functioning on Apple’s platform. 

The Apple Watch is part of the DOJ’s case. They’ve argued that Apple doesn’t accommodate smartwatches from other providers to sync to iPhones and Macbooks. This is a strange line of attack. 

As I wrote in The Hill weeks before the case was unveiled:

“Imagine the classroom slacker making the case to the teacher that the straight-A student in the front of the class is being anti-competitive by not sharing their lecture notes with them. It’s one thing to maliciously penalize or seek to inconvenience consumers for having a mixed assortment of technology from Apple, LG, Samsung, Nokia and Google. It’s another thing entirely for the government to say that Apple has to design its products for Samsung to piggyback on and then offer to their loyal customers as a perk of not doing business with Apple. Investigators are spending taxpayer dollars to find out why the Apple Watch works more smoothly with the iPhone than with rival brands.”

It it not anticompetitive to not build products with your competitors in mind. It may limit the appeal of your product, your walled garden where each Apple device syncs nicely with another. That’s why I’ve said “Apple is a lifestyle brand.” This approach has made Apple very popular with consumers. 

One of the other key grievances outlined in the lawsuit is Apple’s control over its App Store, which critics argue gives the company an unfair advantage over rivals. However, what these critics fail to acknowledge is that Apple’s stringent App Store guidelines are designed to uphold the highest standards of quality and security for users.

An Apple user can feel comfortable and confident knowing that there is not malware and illicit apps on the App Store. It is more tightly controlled. That is to consumers benefits, though it may frustrate app developers, game makers and tech competitors. 

Apple’s ecosystem is not a nefarious scheme to lock users into its products but rather a testament to the company’s unwavering commitment to user privacy and data security. And make no mistake, the data security and privacy component of Apple’s brand has put them in an adversarial position with the Department of Justice and Homeland Security before. Are we supposed to believe this factor is not part of the DOJ’s motivation? 

Unlike other tech giants that have come under fire for their lax approach to privacy, Apple has consistently prioritized the protection of user data, even if it means sacrificing some degree of interoperability with third-party devices and services. This principled stance should be commended, not condemned, particularly in an era marked by rampant data breaches and privacy violations. Apple does good by consumers. 

In responding to the lawsuit, Apple pointed out that the DOJ’s actions threaten to undermine the company principles that have made its products synonymous with quality and innovation. At the Consumer Choice Center, we are inclined to agree. Consumers have ample market power to use other devices and mix and match as they please. There is more to this DOJ attack on Apple than meets the eye, and you can bet it has little to do with consumer welfare.

Originally published here

Pentingnya Hak Kekayaan Intelektual bagi Pelaku Riset

Hak kekayaan intelektual mungkin merupakan istilah yang sangat akrab di telinga bagi sebagian masyarakat. Umumnya, hak kekayaan intelektual, atau yang sering juga disingkat sebagai HAKI, dipahami sebagai hak yang dimiliki oleh seseorang atau lembaga atas karya dan inovasi yang mereka buat.

HAKI sendiri juga umumnya dipahami dalam ranah bisnis dan dunia usaha. Di dalam dunia usaha, HAKI memang merupakan hal yang sangat penting dan esensial, dan tidak bisa dipisahkan dari kegiatan ekonomi.

Melalui HAKI , perusahaan dan pelaku usaha bisa mendapatkan perlindungan atas karya, inovasi, dan produk yang mereka buat. Perusahaan pesaing misalnya, tidak bisa dengan mudah mencuri hal-hal seperti slogan, logo, dan desain produk dari perusahaan lain secara tidak bertanggung jawab dan mendapatkan keuntungan dari hal tersebut.

HAKI memang sesuatu yang harus dilindungi dengan kuat. Negara-negara berpenghasilan tinggi misalnya, umumnya merupakan negara-negara yang memiliki perlindungan HAKI yang sangat kuat. Melalui perlindungan HAKI, para pelaku usaha memiliki insentif yang besar untuk terus berkarya dan berinovasi demi memberikan dan menyediakan produk yang terbaik bagi para konsumen.

Bisa dibayangkan apa yang akan terjadi bila HAKI tidak ada. Tentunya, pihak-pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab dapat dengan sangat mudah mencuri ide yang telah dibuat oleh pihak lain, dan hal ini tentu bukan hanya akan merugikan pelaku usaha tetapi juga para konsumen. Kalau ada pihak tertentu yang mencuri brand sebuah perusahaan misalnya, maka tentu para konsumen dapat terkecoh mana brand yang memang original dan asli.

Namun ternyata, HAKI juga tidak hanya penting dan esensial di dunia usaha, tetapi juga dalam dunia akademis dan penelitian. Sangat penting bagi para peneliti untuk bisa mendapatkan perlindungan atas karya dan juga publikasi yang ia buat, salah satunya agar tidak bisa diklaim dan dimanfaatkan oleh pihak-pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab untuk keuntungan mereka semata.

Kepala Organisasi Riset Tenaga Nuklir (ORTN) misalnya, menyampaikan bahwa setidaknya ada 3 hal yang sangat penting untuk diperhatikan oleh para peneliti terkait dengan perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual. Pertama misalnya, sangat penting bagi para peneliti untuk mengetahui bagaimana prosedur untuk pengajuan dan juga pencatatan hak kekayaan intelektual.

Kedua, para peneliti juga harus memiliki kemauan dan juga motivasi untuk dapat mengemas capaian dan juga prestasi yang dimilikinya. Sementara itu, yang terakhir adalah para peneliti juga harus mampu untuk bekerja sama dengan berbagai pihak yang memiliki wewenang dan tugas terkait dengan pengajuan HAKI tersebut, agar dapat tercapai dengan baik (brin.go.id, 15/9/2023).

Hal yang serupa juga disampaikan oleh dosen Fakultas Hukum Universitas Padjajaran (UNPAD), Novianty Muchar, S.H., M.H., di mana Beliau menyampaikan bahwa melalui perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual, nilai tambah dari riset yang dilakukan oleh perguruan tinggi dapat meningkat. Selain itu, adanya perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual juga merupakan bentuk penghargaan atas hasil harya intelektual orang lain, yang tentunya tidak dicapai dengan proses yang mudah (unpad.ac.id, 03/08/2022).

Untuk itu, adanya dorongan dan pendampingan kepada para pelaku riset dan peneliti untuk mereka secara aktif dapat mendaftarkan hak kekayaan intelektual melalui inovasi yang dibuatnya adalah hal yang sangat penting. Melalui adanya dorongan dan pendampingan yang tepat, tentunya proses untuk melindungi hak kekayaan intelektual dari para peneliti dan pelaku riset di lembaga akademis di Indonesia dapat dilakukan secara lebih cepat dan komprehensif.

Lembaga pemerintah Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional (BRIN) misalnya, yang memiliki tugas untuk menyelengarakan tugas pemerintahan di bidang penelitian, pengembangan, pengkajian, dan inovasi yang terintegrasi, berkomitmen untuk mendorong para pelaku riset agar dapat meraih hak atas kekayaan intelektual atas temuan ilmiajh mereka. Adanya dukungan kuat dari lembaga pemerintah yang memiliki tugas & fungsi yang luas seperti BRIN tentu merupakan hal yang sangat penting agar HAKI para pelaku riset di Indonesia bisa semakin ditingkatkan (antaranews.com, 7/5/2023).

Tidak hanya melalui BRIN, Direktorat Jenderal Kekayaan Intelektual Kementerian Hukum dan HAM (Dirjen KI Kemenkumham) juga menyatakan bahwa pendaftaran HAKI bagi pelaku riset dan peneliti adalah sesuatu yang sangat penting. Terlebih lagi, jika hasil dari penelitian tersebut masuk ke dunia industri dan belum memiliki HAKI, maka hasil peenlitian tersebut bisa ditiru dimanfaatkan oleh pihak-pihak lain secara tidak bertanggung jawab tanpa adanya konsekuensi hukum yang jelas (dgip.go.id, 8/10/2023).

Untuk itu, demi mendorong hal tersebut, Dirjen KI Kemenkumham juga menggelar berbagai pendampingan pendaftaran HAKI di berbagai universitas di Indonesia, diantaranya Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Universitas Diponegoro, Univesitas Hasanuddin, dan Univesitas Brawijaya (dgip.go.id, 8/10/2023). Diharapkan, melalui adanya pendampingan tersebut, akan semakin banyak HAKI yang didaftarkan oleh para pelaku riset dan peneliti di Indonesia.

Sebagai penutup, hak kekayaan intelektual adalah hal yang sangat penting, tidak hanya di dunia industri dan usaha, tetapi juga bagi para pelaku riset di dunia akademis. Diharapkan, melalui peningkatan HAKI di dunia akademis, riset dan penelitian di Indonesia dapat semakin berkembang dengan pesat, dan dapat membawa banyak manfaat bagi masyarakat Indonesia.

Originally published here

Ranked and rated: Europe’s best and worst countries for train travel

All travellers like trains. European travellers love them. An InterRail trip is a rite of passage that stays in the memory. The Eurostar is to millennials what boat trains were for Gen X: a portal to an entire continent. European railway stations – usually prominent, often palatial – suggest history and romance. They feature in classic films, novels and music. In a climate-conscious world, railways remain the greenest alternative. They are safer and cause less stress than driving. For anyone keen to see the world, is there any better place than beside a train window?

So, with this in mind, we’ve taken the rail networks of Europe’s 15 largest (open) countries to task, rating each one on the factors that matter most. Read on to find out which ailing national networks are best avoided (and those with a highlight that’s nevertheless worth the hassle), and which are the finest options for a successful rail-based escape – whether it be your next spring city break, or a glorious weeks-long odyssey that snakes from coast to countryside. 

15. Greece

Bringing up the rear in our ranking is this snaking country of jagged coasts, islands, mountains and peninsulas, which has never quite made the railways work for its people. There are trains every few hours linking Athens and Thessaloniki (under five hours), but much of the timetable is spattered with dreaded rail replacement buses. Floods in 2023 have led to a near collapse of the network. Toy trains operate in some touristy areas, such as the Odontotos rack railway – though that was recently stopped by landslides. Athens used to luxuriate in services to Berlin and was once a branch of the Orient Express. There were trains to Turkey via Pythio and North Macedonia via Idomeni. The pandemic shut down what was already a dwindling service and international lines to Sofia, Skopje and Bucharest remain closed. Athens has the most underwhelming main station of any country in Europe – which sort of sums things up.

Read the full text here

How Neo-Prohibitionists Came to Shape Alcohol Policy

IN JANUARY 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) dropped a bombshell-they announced there was “no safe level”of alcohol consumption.

For the past five years, the WHO has been treating light alcohol consumption as a grave public health emergency. It seems a surprising priority for the world’s premier health organization-until a closer read of their policy documents reveals who they are working with: Temperance groups, which have now found a way to introduce abstinence policies into the global health arena.

How an EU Conflict Opened the Abstinence Door 

In 2015, more than 20 public health organizations resignedfrom the EU’s Alcohol and Health Forum.

This committee was the place where legislators, alcohol representatives, and public health experts thrashed out how to reduce alcohol-related harms in the EU, which were significant:more than 120,000 premature deaths, and more than €125 billion ($135.4 billion) in crime, health, and social costs.

But the health organizations grew disgustedat the EU’s failure to develop an alcohol policy, seeing the Forum as fatally compromised by the alcohol industry.

“The forum has proved worse than useless, a free PR front for the industry,” Nina Renshaw, then secretary general of the European Public Health Alliance said at the time.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Forum’s science group, was equally scathing, saying that the Commission had prioritized “alcohol industry interests over public health.”

The collapse of the Forum left a gaping hole in European alcohol policy. According to Ignacio Sanchez Recarte, that was when the WHO arrived, “with what I call that Trojan horse-they said alcohol is dangerous because it causes cancer.”

Sanchez Recarte is the director general of the Comite Europeen des Entreprises Vins(CEEV), the voice of Europe’s wine producers. Based in Brussels, “we try to defend the interests of European wine companies and wine traders on all the topics that may affect them,” he explained. “One of the working groups that is getting more and more important in the last year is the one trying to follow all the attacks.”

Those attacks are becoming relentless.

Read the full text here

Litigation Finance Exposes Our Judicial System to Foreign Exploitation

Now that Congress has come to its senses about a forced divestiture plan to uncouple TikTok from the Chinese Communist Party, we’d be remiss not to explore other examples of how powers such as China influence American institutions. Let’s look at our justice system.

In a handful of local court cases around the country, a Shenzhen-based firm has been clandestinely funding intellectual property lawsuits to help upend a major consumer brand.

That company, Purplevine IP, is a Chinese patency consulting firm that provided the money for the Florida tech company Staton Techiya in its lawsuits against Samsung. The company claims the South Korean electronics firm used its intellectual property in its popular audio products.

How do we know this? Because the Delaware judge in this case demanded information on third-party financial arrangements affecting the litigants. In November 2022, Chief Judge Connelly issued a standing order requiring that cases brought to him would need all outside funding disclosed in full before he heard a claim.

This arrangement, known as third-party litigation finance, is a booming trend in U.S. civil courts and is estimated to be a $13.5 billion industry.

Litigation funders are hedge funds, credit lenders, and venture capitalists who front legal costs in exchange for a percentage of any monetary reward. They offer financing to legal firms and plaintiffs fighting major class action lawsuits and tort cases they normally couldn’t afford.

Proponents and industry leaders claim these funding arrangements help empower smaller litigants against massive corporations that wronged them and that may have some merit. But it is also pushing the tools of justice into unknown territory that could be vulnerable to exploitation.

In popular culture, an infamous example of third-party litigation financing is the case of Terry Bodea, the wrestler known as Hulk Hogan, against the embattled online tabloid Gawker. 

After a sex tape of Hogan leaked to the media outlet, a lawsuit was filed by Hogan against Gawker, claiming invasion of privacy. The moneyman backing this lawsuit, we later learned, was billionaire financier Peter Thiel, who had an axe to grind with the gossip site. 

The $115 million judgment against Gawker has proven to be a major cultural turning point on free speech, media malice, and how far public interest can peek into private celebrities’ lives.

Yet, it also revealed how quickly the fast-growing third-party litigation finance industry shifts the balance of justice in civil cases, whether good or bad. Even more so once foreign companies begin using these same tactics to file suits against U.S. firms.

That worries at least a few on Capitol Hill, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA), who last year filed a bill to force disclosure of any and all foreign third-party litigation funders in court. The bill would also outlaw litigation finance—direct or indirect—by any foreign government or sovereign wealth fund.

A Senate bill introduced by Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) turned an eye to foreign-funded lawsuits “undermining our economic and national security.”

Beyond national security implications, litigation finance is a creative and unique way to gamify legal proceedings, transforming justice into a game of chance mirroring prop bets and sports wagers.

But more than betting on stocks based on company earnings or games according to player stats, litigation funders have the sway to advise lawyers on witnesses, frame arguments, or even advertise cases to draw more participants in large class actions. Unless judges and courts make direct demands for transparency, there is a chance that much of this could be happening unabated. Is this what we want for the future of civil justice?

Lawsuits are not Monday Night Football or Wall Street. They are tools available to citizens and aggrieved parties in a liberal democracy to deliver justice.

As Business Insider writes, litigation finance has gone from a humble part of the economy to now a top-tier “asset class,” overshadowing the principal aim of our civil courts.

The United States offers a free market and the rule of law for global innovators. This is a great advantage for consumers who benefit from a more bountiful supply of goods and services.

However, as we have seen recently with TikTok’s abuses of privacy and security and the growing intellectual property cases from well-financed firms in China, openness can also be abused to consumers’ detriment.

Disclosure of third-party litigation funding is both necessary and achievable. Many states have already passed laws around this issue, while many judges require it in their courts. The bills introduced in the House and Senate would be reasonable and adequate calls for transparency that would help safeguard our judicial system.

If we want to uphold true justice in America and keep our system fair and accessible, we must turn a spotlight on third-party litigation funding. We all have a stake in it. 

Originally published here

US sues Apple, alleging iPhone monopoly

The Department of Justice and 16 state and district attorneys general on Thursday sued Apple, accusing the tech giant of breaking federal antitrust law by creating an ecosystem that doesn’t allow other companies to compete with the iPhone, smothering innovation in the smartphone market. 

“Apple has consolidated its monopoly power not by making its own products better, but by making other products worse,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference Thursday. “Consumers should not have to pay higher prices because companies break the law.”

The complaint alleged the company maintains a smartphone monopoly by preventing others from building applications that compete with Apple’s staples, like the digital wallet. The tech giant also makes other companies’ technology more difficult to pair with Apple products, as exemplified by the green bubbles that the iPhone shows when texting an Android user.

Garland said Apple was willing to “make the iPhone less secure and less private in order to maintain its monopoly power.”

Responding to the lawsuit, Apple said it threatens “the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets” and it would “set a dangerous precedent, empowering government to take a heavy hand in designing people’s technology.”

Read the full text here

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