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Media bits and bytes - Grab Bag Edition

Don't Unlock Your Cellphone; Cable Soon to be Obsolete; Time-Warner Divorces Time Magazine; Minority Media Ownership Way Down; Hewlett Improves Conditions for its Chinese Workers; Amazon Polices Immigrant Workers with Neo-Nazi Guards; FCC Building Free Universal WiFi - Not!; Still No TV Cameras for SCOTUS; Technology & Democracy; Clicktivism & Unions; Journalists Under Attack; Zombies Hack Emergency Alert System; More

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By Derek Khanna 
 
January 27, 2013
 
 
This is now the law of the land: BY DECREE OF THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS, IT SHALL HENCEFORCE BE ORDERED THAT AMERICANS SHALL NOT UNLOCK THEIR OWN SMARTPHONES. PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*
 
That's right, starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers. Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. The DMCA leaves it up to the Librarian of Congress (LOC) to issue exemptions from the law, and every three years groups like the American Foundation for the Blind have to lobby Congress to protect an exception for the blind allowing for books to be read aloud.  After Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, which  is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. It was not a mistake, but rather an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress, that this was no longer fair use and acceptable.
 
 
 
 
By Michael Wolff
 
February 18, 2013
 
The buoyant recent quarterly financial results at Time Warner and News Corp. and the decision last week at Comcast to buy up the rest of NBCUniversal are all based on the outsized profitability of cable networks. Time Warner is CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Adult Swim, truTV and Turner Sports and HBO. News Corp. is Fox News, Fox Business Network, FX, Star, Big Ten Network, Fox Sports, Nat Geo. And NBCUniversal is Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Oxygen, Weather Channel, Golf Channel.
 
The current deal is surely fabulous. Cable operators pay media companies more and more to carry their cable channels. (Actually, cable systems pay the media giants for their successful channels and, as part of that deal, pay for the less successful channels, too.) The cable operators then pass these costs on to customers in larger and larger bundled cable bills. And, then, cable channels get to sell advertising. But we all know that vast portions of television content, current and past, are available through other outlets that bypass cable. The cable industry regularly rushes to announce that "cord-cutting" is a limited issue, when virtually everybody has cut it or is flirting with the possibility of cutting it or being harangued by their children to do so. And cable technology stagnates, while digital technology ever improves.
 
 
 
 
By David Carr 
 
February 14, 2013
 
On Wednesday, Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the country, found itself at the wrong end of a 10-foot pole. Its corporate parent, Time Warner, which has a broad and lucrative array of entertainment assets, was making plans to spin off much of the tattered print unit in a shotgun marriage with Meredith, a Midwest-based company that was trying to do much the same thing.
 
Under the plan, which is far from final, the two companies would contribute magazines to create a new, publicly held company that would be left to make its own way. Print publishing may have lost significant currency with consumers and advertisers in a digital age, but investors have a far deeper animus. They see little possibility that the business as a whole will right itself, and they find its lack of growth wanting compared to the cable, television and film businesses that are now the epicenter of the media business.
 
 
 
 
By Ernest J. Wilson III 
 
February 17, 2013 
 
Today, in early 2013, American media and entertainment face a curious condition. On the one hand, African Americans and other people of color are flocking to movies, Twitter, television and blogs in ever-greater numbers and percentages. We are huge consumers of media. 
 
On the other hand, the Federal Communications Commission and the Hollywood trade and professional organizations report that the percentages of people of color (and in many categories, women) in senior positions are stagnant or actually declining. Minority ownership is also on the way down. With black ownership and executive ranks dropping, not surprisingly, black-themed shows are falling as well.
 
In other words: black consumption up, black control declining. And equally curious, just as we return a black man to the highest political office in the land, we get fewer black men and women in the "C" suites of American media conglomerates. Communication has become more central, people of color more peripheral. 
 
 
 
By Keith Bradsher and David Barboza
 
February 7, 2013 
 
The practice of employing students and temporary workers has been at the center of growing criticism of employment practices at Chinese suppliers used by big international electronics companies, and Hewlett-Packard, one of the world's largest makers of computers and other electronics, is imposing new limits on the employment of students and temporary agency workers at factories across China. The move, following recent efforts by Apple to increase scrutiny of student workers, reflects a significant shift in how electronics companies view problematic labor practices in China.
 
 
 
By Tony Paterson  
 
February 14, 2013
 
Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers. Germany's ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon's treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres.
 
The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. "Many of the workers are afraid," the programme-makers said. Several guards were shown wearing Thor Steinar clothing - a Berlin-based designer brand synonymous with the far-right in Germany. The Bundesliga football association and the federal parliament have both banned the label because of its neo-Nazi associations. Ironically, Amazon stopped selling the clothing for the same reasons in 2009.
 
 
 
By Jon Brodkin 
 
February 4, 2013
 
An amazing story circulated today through much of the mainstream media and tech press. The US government is going to build gigantic Wi-Fi networks across the country, giving free Internet access to everyone.
 
Or perhaps the US would somehow force wireless providers to build these networks - in which case, it's not clear why this amazing new Internet service would be free, unless the goal was to destroy the entire business model of both cellular carriers and Internet service providers in one fell swoop.
 
It all originated from one Washington Post report with the less-shouty headline "Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes large public Wi-Fi networks." The report had some bold, inaccurate claims, notably this one: "If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas."
 
It seemed no one was asking the most obvious question: who would build Wi-Fi everywhere and give it away for free?
 
 
 
By Sam Baker 
 
February 7, 2013
 
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she no longer supports bringing cameras into the courtroom, a reversal from comments she made during her confirmation hearings. Sotomayor told a crowd in New York that allowing television cameras to capture the court's oral arguments would do more harm than good, according to a report in New York magazine.
 
"I think the process could be more misleading than helpful," she said. "It's like reading tea leaves. I think if people analyzed it, it is true that in almost every argument you can find a hint of what every judge would rule. But most justices are actually probing all the arguments."
 
The idea has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill but has met resistance from the court itself, specifically its older members. They've said the presence of cameras could reduce oral arguments to showmanship, as it has with congressional hearings.
 
 
 
By Sascha Meinrath and Tim Maurer
 
February 2013
 
The global liberalization of traditionally state-owned telecommunication companies in the 1980s and 1990s helped pave the way for the Internet's rise a decade later.  To this day, resources like Wikipedia remain outstanding examples of how a relatively small community of volunteers can create remarkable treasures for humankind at large -- all thanks to the Internet. But it would be a mistake to equate the Internet today to what existed ten (or even five) years ago. Unlike other domains of human interaction, we are facing fundamental choices about what we want this new communications sphere to look like. And because computer-mediated communication is evolving so quickly, it is imperative that we focus on normative principles that will withstand the test of time and do not favor particular "solutions" or technologies. 
 
Digital Feudalism threatens open technologies and democratic principles -- without substantial and meaningful reforms, the accumulation of control will become ever harder to contest.   That is why a far more active, engaged public interest sector is needed -- a body politic that's activated and involved in fighting for its fundamental communications rights. 
 
 
 
By Eric Lee
 
February 12, 2013 
 
In the last half-decade a number of new online campaigning platforms have emerged, inspired in large part by MoveOn - the progressive American online campaigning group launched back in the Clinton era.
 
MoveOn, which now claims seven million supporters, has spun-off a number of similar platforms including Avaaz (a global version of MoveOn), SumOfUs (like Avaaz, but completely focussed on corporate misbehavior), 38 Degrees (a UK version of MoveOn), and GetUp (the Australian version).
 
These organizations have become the subject of a vigorous debate in campaigning circles around the notion of "clicktivism".  Some seasoned campaigners have argued that people taking a few seconds to click on a link in an email message hardly constitutes "activism" and is no substitute for more traditional forms of engagement.
 
 
 
By Rick Gladstone
 
February 14, 2013
 
In its annual "Attacks on the Press" survey, the group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said 70 journalists had been killed while doing their jobs in 2012, which is a 43 percent increase over the year earlier, and that more than 35 journalists had disappeared. The group said that in 2012 it had identified 232 journalists who had been imprisoned, 53 more than a year earlier and the highest number since the survey began in 1990.
 
This year for the first time, the group compiled what it called a Risk List of countries where it had documented worrisome trends. Besides Pakistan, Somalia and Brazil, the group included Ecuador, Turkey and Russia for the use of restrictive laws to quiet dissent. Turkey, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and Syria were cited for the imprisonment of journalists.
 
 
 
February 16, 2013
 
For their latest anti-piracy campaign a Finnish activist group has ripped off the design of the infamous The Pirate Bay website. The Pirate Bay has now threatened to sue the campaigners over copyright infringement.  The campaign, launched by the anti-piracy group CIAPC, copied TPB's website, including the CSS stylesheet, and replaced the logo with one of a sinking ship. The aim is to link the visitors with a message that informs them of legal alternatives to The Pirate Bay.
 
This Pirate Bay says the move violates the company's policy which does not permit theft of the site's design and has threatened legal action. CIAPC is a campaigner that works against copyright infringement on the Internet by preventing  the production, distribution of unauthorized copies on the web.
 
 
 
By Andrew Dodson
 
February 13, 2013 
 
Hackers broke into the Emergency Alert Systems of KRTV Great Falls, Mont.; WKBP and WNMU Marquette, Mich., airing a warning that dead bodies were "attacking the living" and warned people not to "approach or apprehend these bodies as they are extremely dangerous." Local and state authorities and the FCC are investigating to determine how the hackers got access. The hack likely happened because station operators didn't change the default password on their Common Alert Protocol Emergency Alert System, says Ed Czarnecki, senior director of strategy and regulatory affairs for Monroe Electronics, the main manufacturer of EAS systems across the country.
 
As for who did the hacking, that is still being investigated. Calls into the Michigan State Police and FCC weren't immediately returned, although the FCC Tuesday evening ordered stations across the country to take immediate action to secure their EAS systems.
 
[Note: The FCC had no comment about what to do in case the public needs a genuine warning of attacks by the living dead.]