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Monday, January 31, 2011

The V-Chip and TV Ratings: Monitoring Children’s Access to TV Programming

Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy

To assist parents in supervising the television viewing habits of their children, the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996) requires that, as of January 1, 2000, new television sets with screens 13 inches or larger sold in the United States be equipped with a “V-chip” to control access to programming that parents find objectionable. Use of the V-chip is optional. In March 1998, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the industry-developed ratings system to be used in conjunction with the V-chip. Congress and the FCC have continued monitoring implementation of the V-chip. Some are concerned that it is not effective in curbing the amount of TV violence viewed by children and want further legislation.

On August 31, 2009, the FCC released a report implementing the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007. In the act, Congress had directed the FCC to examine “the existence and availability of advanced blocking technologies that are compatible with various communications devices or platforms.” Congress defined “advanced blocking technologies” as “technologies that can improve or enhance the ability of a parent to protect his or her child from any indecent or objectionable video or audio programming, as determined by such parent, that is transmitted through the use of wire, wireless, or radio communications.” Congress’s intent in adopting the act was to spur the development of the “next generation of parental control technology.” In a second inquiry issued in October 2009, the FCC is addressing additional issues it was unable to fully address based on its first inquiry.



Date of Report: January 12, 2011
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RL32729
Price: $29.95

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Remote Gaming and the Gambling Industry


Suzanne M. Kirchhoff
Analyst in Industrial Organization and Business

Gambling, once widely outlawed, is today a regulated, taxed activity that is legal in some form— bingo, card games, slot machines, state-run lotteries, casinos—in all but two states. State governments have the main responsibility for overseeing gambling, but Congress historically has played a significant role in shaping the industry, most recently by passing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA; P.L. 109-347) in 2006.

UIGEA, while preventing payments to illegal gambling-related businesses, does not outlaw any form of remote gaming. To the contrary, the law allows states and Indian tribes to offer remote gaming within their territory so long as certain conditions are met. Already a majority of states allow remote betting on horse racing, and a number use the web for lottery promotions. Several states are debating legislation that would legalize online poker or other games. Indian tribes are using cutting-edge computer gambling technology at tribal casinos. U.S. gaming companies have created subsidiaries to focus on remote gaming and seem likely to expand rapidly if the legal issues are clarified. However, UIGEA did not clarify the scope of long-standing laws that the Department of Justice has used to prosecute illegal Internet gambling, such as the Wire Act, 18 U.S.C. 1084.

During the 111
th Congress, lawmakers considered proposals to allow federally regulated interstate online gambling or, more narrowly, poker and other games of skill. Such bills may be reintroduced in the 112th Congress. Those in favor of such legislation cite the potential revenue gains from legalizing Internet poker and other gambling activities, as well as the need for more comprehensive federal regulation of online gaming. Opponents question whether it is possible to have stringent regulation of online gambling, which they say holds the potential for increased fraud and money laundering. Among other issues Congress will confront as it considers expanded remote gaming are the proper balance of federal and state regulation; potential federal revenues from taxing and registering online gambling operations; and the possible social costs of expanded gaming, including problem gambling.

Legalization of additional forms of remote gaming could pose a challenge to many existing forms of gambling, from lotteries to casinos to racetracks with slot machines. The industry has been going through a difficult stretch, with receipts falling in 2009 for the first time in more than three decades, and many brick-and-mortar casinos and racetracks have experienced revenue declines. Even if it leads to the growth of employment and gambling revenues at the national level, federal remote gaming legislation has the potential to affect particular locations, especially venues that cater to day trippers rather than vacationers. These effects are likely to depend upon the details of whatever legislation Congress passes and the specific actions taken by individual states in response.



Date of Report: January 26, 2011
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41614
Price: $29.95

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Statutory Damage Awards in Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Cases Involving Copyrighted Sound Recordings: Recent Legal Developments

Brian T. Yeh
Legislative Attorney

The Copyright Act allows statutory damages of between $750 and $30,000 for each act of infringement, and up to $150,000 in cases where the infringement is committed willfully. Congress granted the copyright owner the power to choose to recover either statutory damages or the owner’s actual damages plus additional profits of the infringer at any time before final judgment is rendered. Statutory damages serve both compensatory and deterrent purposes: they provide the copyright owner with restitution of profit and reparation for the harm suffered by the owner in situations where it may be difficult or impossible to submit evidence of actual damages (such as lost profits), and they also punish the infringer and discourage that individual, and others, from further infringement.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks permit computer users to “share” with others digital files that are stored on their computers’ hard drives. While P2P file sharing technology could be used for legitimate purposes, P2P users most often copy and distribute digital files that contain copyrighted sound recordings, television shows, and motion pictures, without the permission of (or payment to) the copyright holders; as such, it is a violation of the copyright holders’ exclusive rights to control the reproduction and distribution of their works. P2P networks such as Napster, Grokster, Morpheus, Kazaa, and LimeWire have all been sued for copyright infringement or for inducing their users to commit copyright infringement, and most have shut down or changed their business models as a consequence of their adjudged legal liability. In addition, many users of P2P networks have been subjected to copyright infringement lawsuits filed by the motion picture and music recording industry associations that represent movie and sound recording copyright holders, respectively. The vast majority of these lawsuits have settled, with the file sharer agreeing to pay compensation to the copyright holders. However, a few of these cases have gone to trial, and two cases in particular resulted in substantial statutory damage awards.

In 2009, in Capitol Records Inc. v. Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the jury found the defendant guilty of willful copyright infringement with respect to 24 sound recordings that she had downloaded and distributed using the P2P file sharing software Kazaa, and awarded $1.92 million in statutory damages to the plaintiff ($80,000 per infringed song). Also in 2009, the jury in Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum found the defendant guilty of willful infringement for downloading and distributing 30 sound recordings using Kazaa, and awarded to the plaintiff $675,000 in statutory damages ($22,500 per infringed song). The defendants in these cases asked their judges to alter or amend the jury award of statutory damages, arguing that the Copyright Act’s statutory damages provision, as applied to them, violates the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The judge in the Tenenbaum case ruled that the $675,000 award was “unconstitutionally excessive” and reduced the award to $67,500 ($2,250 per song). The plaintiffs in the Tenenbaum case have appealed the judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The judge in the Thomas-Rasset case reduced the original award of nearly $2 million to $54,000 ($2,250 per song) using his power under the common law doctrine of remittitur; the court did not reach the question of the constitutionality of the jury’s damages award. The judge opined that “statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages.” However, the plaintiffs refused to accept the remittitur. After a new trial on the issue of statutory damages was held, the jury on November 3, 2010, returned a verdict of $1.5 million ($62,500 per song). A month later, the defendant filed a motion with the court to reduce the statutory damages to zero because she argued the award of statutory damages was unconstitutional. The district court has not yet ruled on this motion.



Date of Report: January 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41415
Price: $29.95

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How the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) Updates Copyright and Carriage Rules for the Retransmission of Broadcast Television Signals

Charles B. Goldfarb
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA), P.L. 111-175, modifies the copyright and carriage rules for satellite and cable retransmission of broadcast television signals. The legislation was needed to reauthorize (through December 31, 2014) certain expiring provisions in the Copyright Act and the Communications Act and to update the language in those acts to reflect the transition from analog to digital transmission of broadcast signals, as well as to address certain public policy issues. Had the expiring provisions not been reauthorized, satellite operators would have lost access to a statutory compulsory copyright license and to statutory relief from retransmission consent requirements. This would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to retransmit certain distant broadcast signals to their subscribers, including signals providing otherwise unavailable broadcast network programming.

The Copyright Act and Communications Act distinguish between the retransmission of local signals—the broadcast signals of stations located in the same local market as the subscriber—and distant signals. Statutory provisions block or restrict the retransmission of many distant broadcast signals in order to foster local programming. These provisions typically take the form of defining which households are “served” or “unserved” by local broadcasters, with unserved households eligible to receive distant signals. But there are many grandfather clauses and other exceptions built into the rules that allow households to receive otherwise proscribed distant signals. STELA generally retains, and in some cases expands upon, these grandfathered and exceptional cases.

STELA provides broadcasters two new incentives to use their digital technology to broadcast multiple video streams (to “multicast”). It clarifies that royalty fees are payable to copyright owners of the materials on non-primary digital voice streams as well as primary streams, thus encouraging broadcasters (who often hold some of those copyrights) to expand their multicasting. STELA specifically gives broadcasters the incentive to undertake such multicasting to offer otherwise unprovided network programming in so-called “short markets”—markets that do not have network affiliates for all four major networks. It does this by defining households that can receive the programming of a particular network from the non-primary multicast video stream of a local broadcaster as being served, rather than unserved, with respect to that network, thus prohibiting satellite operators from retransmitting to those households distant signals that carry that network’s programming. The local broadcaster can then seek retransmission consent payments from satellite operators. Several other provisions in STELA also are intended to reduce the number of short markets or increase the flow of distant network signals into short markets.

Today, satellite operators are allowed, but not required, to offer subscribers the signals of the broadcast stations in their local market. Until enactment of STELA, the satellite operators chose not to offer this “local-into-local” service in many small markets, preferring to use their satellite capacity to provide additional high definition and other programming to larger, more lucrative markets. The costs associated with providing local-into-local service in small markets may exceed the revenues. STELA provided DISH Network, which had been subject to a permanent court injunction that in effect prohibited it from retransmitting to its subscribers the signals of distant broadcast stations, the opportunity to have that injunction waived if it provided local-intolocal service in all 210 local markets in the United States, which it began doing on June 3, 2010.

STELA does not address the issue of “orphan counties”—counties located in one state that are assigned to a local market, as defined by the Nielsen Media Research designated market areas, for which the principal city and most or all of the local broadcast stations are in another state.



Date of Report: January 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41274
Price: $29.95

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Angele A. Gilroy
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy


The “digital divide” is a term that has been used to characterize a gap between “information haves and have-nots,” or in other words, between those Americans who use or have access to telecommunications and information technologies and those who do not. One important subset of the digital divide debate concerns high-speed Internet access and advanced telecommunications services, also known as broadband. Broadband is provided by a series of technologies (e.g., cable, telephone wire, fiber, satellite, wireless) that give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes and speeds far greater than traditional “dial-up” Internet access over telephone lines.

Broadband technologies are currently being deployed primarily by the private sector throughout the United States. While the numbers of new broadband subscribers continue to grow, studies and data suggest that the rate of broadband deployment in urban/suburban and high income areas are outpacing deployment in rural and low-income areas. Some policymakers, believing that disparities in broadband access across American society could have adverse economic and social consequences on those left behind, assert that the federal government should play a more active role to avoid a “digital divide” in broadband access.

With the conclusion of the grant and loan awards announced by broadband programs temporarily established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5), the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program and the Community Connect Broadband Grants, both at the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are currently the only ongoing federal funding programs exclusively dedicated to deploying broadband infrastructure. However, there exist other federal programs that provide financial assistance for various aspects of telecommunications development. The major vehicle for funding telecommunications development, particularly in rural and low-income areas, is the Universal Service Fund (USF). While the USF’s High Cost Program does not explicitly fund broadband infrastructure, subsidies are used, in many cases, to upgrade existing telephone networks so that they are capable of delivering high-speed services. Additionally, subsidies provided by USF’s Schools and Libraries Program and Rural Health Care Program are used for a variety of telecommunications services, including broadband access.

To the extent that the 112
th Congress may consider various options for further encouraging broadband deployment and adoption, a key issue is how to strike a balance between providing federal assistance for unserved and underserved areas where the private sector may not be providing acceptable levels of broadband service, while at the same time minimizing any deleterious effects that government intervention in the marketplace may have on competition and private sector investment.


Date of Report: January 5, 2011
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL30719
Price: $29.95

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Critical Infrastructure Security: CRS Experts


John D. Moteff
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to critical infrastructure security. Policy areas identified include:
  • Mission; 
  • Security services; and 
  • Specific sectors: assessing vulnerabilities, planning and implementation.

Date of Report: January 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: R40868
Price: $19.95

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