Congress

Revised DOJ Regs Protect "Members of the News Media," But What Does That Mean?

On February 21, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice released its long-awaited revisions to 28 C.F.R. § 50.10, the DOJ's regulatory guidelines (the "Guidelines") regarding investigations and prosecutions of members of the news media.

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Justice Dept.'s Media Investigation Policy Falls Flat Compared to Other Protections Against Press Intrusion

As has been widely reported, the U.S. Department of Justice has disclosed that it has obtained two months' worth of telephone records from 20 separate phone lines assigned to the journalists and offices of the Associated Press.

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Why Are Bloggers Still Sitting at the Kids' Table? The Popularity of Online News and the Federal Shield Law

Well, it turns out this whole Internet thing is getting pretty popular. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more Americans now get their news from the Internet than from old-fashioned newspapers.

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Does This Look Infected to You? Government Virus as Counter-Proposal to FBI's URL Demands

So here is a nice and scary development. It appears that the FBI wants Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep a log of the url's visited by consumers. Wait it gets better.

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The Cartman Technique: How a Fraud Exception will Mine the ISP Safe Harbor

[A]ll it takes to kill a show forever, is to get one episode pulled. If we convince the network to pull this episode for the sake of Muslims, then the Catholics can demand a show they don't like get pulled . . . and so on and so on, until Family Guy is no more - it's exactly what happened to Laverne & Shirley.- Eric Cartman, South Park , Cartoon Wars I

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Congressman Wears Two Hats: Legislator and Citizen Journalist

Even elected officials can be citizen journalists.  The New York Times has an interesting report about Representative John Culberson (R) of Texas, who took on a role normally filled by CSPAN after the House had officially adjourned for its summer recess last Friday.

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Access to Congress

Congress is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Nevertheless, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have enacted their own rules and have allowed substantial public access to their proceedings and records. You can obtain access to congressional debates and other proceedings, but you need to obtain gallery passes from the office of your Senator or Representative. In addition, networks like C-Span televise and archive a large percentage of floor debates.

Bill Proposes to Criminalize Copyright Infringement

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that the U.S. House of Representatives is considering criminalizing copyright infringement, again:

Two months ago, the Justice Department floated draft legislation to expand the scope of, and stiffen the penalties for, criminal copyright infringement, and now a related bill has been introduced in the House. This isn't the first time that Congress has taken up the DoJ's copycrime wishlist, and, for all the reasons we listed in a blog post about a proposal offered up last year, H.R. 3155 is an awful idea.

This bill goes even further than the prior bill in that it would ratchet up statutory damages in certain instances. Under copyright law, copyright owners don't need to prove that they have been harmed in order to get damages and can instead elect to get statutory damages, which a court can set between $750 and $30,000 per work infringed. Such disproportionate penalties can be especially dangerous when it comes to lawsuits against mass-market products like the iPod or TiVo that enable the making of thousands of copies.

Among other things, the proposed legislation, entitled "Intellectual Property Enhanced Criminal Enforcement Act of 2007," would make it a crime to attempt to engage in copyright infringement, which would be punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years.

The bill was introduced on July 24, 2007 by Rep. Steven Chabot, and is currently sitting in the House Judiciary Committee. You can track its status at Govtrack.us and at OpenCongress.org.

To find out what you can do to derail this dangerous bill, visit the EFF's Fight The Justice Department's Copycrime Proposal!

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OpenCongress Launches New Tools Section

OpenCongress, a joint project of the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation, recently launched a new tools section that should be useful for anyone who follows Congress.  The site draws on a variety of sources -- from official government resources to blogs -- to provide an in-depth view of "the real story behind what's happening in Congress."

According to the site, OpenCongress brings together information from:

  • Official Congressional information from Thomas, made available by GovTrack.us: bills, votes, committee reports, and more.
  • News articles about bills and Members of Congress from Google News.
  • Blog posts about bills and Members of Congress from Google Blog Search and Technorati.
  • Campaign contribution information for every Member of Congress from the website of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org.
  • Congress Gossip Blog: a blog written by the site editors of OpenCongress that highlights useful news and blog reporting from around the web. The blog also solicits tips, either anonymous or attributed, from political insiders, citizen journalists, and the public in order to build public knowledge about Congress.

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