Proposed NSA Reforms: Salient or Superficial?
President Obama urged Congress for NSA reform this past Thursday. Under his proposal, phone companies would release their customers’ records to the NSA only after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approves requests for specific phone numbers. Queries would also be limited to “two hops” rather than “three hops” – meaning that the NSA would (still) receive “all the contacts of all the contacts of suspected persons.” President Obama believes these measures would “provide our intelligence and law enforcement professionals the information they need to keep us safe while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns that have been raised” and Edward Snowden has stated that such measures would mark “the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public’s seat at the table of government.”
However, some worry that the NSA could bypass FISC altogether during so-called “emergency situation[s]” and fear that FISC would, without further reforms, function as a rubber-stamp court. Others note that this proposal fails to address internet-generated data, and suspect that the NSA could “just [recruit] a corporate crony to store the data it collects” since the proposal apparently leaves the door open to voluntary private sector cooperation.
The Copyright Wars: Aereo & MP3tunes
This past Wednesday, Aereo filed a 100-page brief reiterating that TV broadcasters “have no right to royalties at all for retransmissions of their content within the original broadcast market” and Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia expressed confidence “that the [Supreme] Court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television using an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice.” Kanojia denied having a “plan B” in case Aereo loses, whereas CBS CEO Leslie Moonves posited that if Aereo wins, CBS might offer its content over the web rather than over the broadcast airwaves.
Meanwhile, a New York federal court jury issued a verdict of approximately $41 million – which includes $7.5 million in punitive damages – against MP3tunes CEO Michael Robertson. Both MP3tunes and Robertson himself were found liable for copyright violations involving 2,100 songs, so the verdict comes out to around $19,500 per infringed song.