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US election could mean movement on high-skill immigration, copyright

Grant Gross | Nov. 8, 2012
Tuesday's election in the U.S. leaves President Barack Obama in the White House and maintains the balance of power in Congress. In many longstanding technology debates, policy experts see little movement forward, although lawmakers may look for compromises on a handful of issues.

Those groups will likely advocate for lite versions of SOPA or PIPA in an effort to paint opponents of the bills as out of the mainstream, predicted Gigi Sohn, president of digital rights group Public Knowledge and a vocal opponent of SOPA and PIPA. But after millions of Internet users spoke out against SOPA and PIPA, there will also be a "push on the other side" to roll back some past copyright protections that critics see as excessive, she said.

The U.S. could also see a "huge consumer outcry" if a U.S. Copyright ruling against ripping one's own DVD stands and if the Supreme Court rules that consumers cannot resell copyright-protected products produced overseas, Sohn said.

"We now are going to have a national conversation about what's the right level of [intellectual property] enforcement, regardless of who proposes what," Sohn said. "I think there's actually going to be a serious conversation."

Look for the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Obama to continue to shut down websites accused of trafficking in counterfeit or pirated products. The two agencies have seized more than 1,500 websites for alleged copyright infringement and counterfeiting during the past two years.

Cybersecurity: Congress debated several cybersecurity bills in its 2011-12 session, but failed to pass legislation. Many of the bills focused on allowing U.S. agencies and private companies to share cyberthreat information with each other, although digital rights and civil liberties groups raised privacy concerns. Several observers, including TechAmerica's Richards and the Center for Democracy and Technology senior counsel Greg Nojeim, expect Obama to issue an executive order on cybersecurity early next year, if Congress does not act in an upcoming lame-duck session.

Even if Obama issues an executive order, there will be a push in Congress to pass legislation to deal with issues such as cybersecurity research and development funding and cybersecurity regulations for federal agencies, Richards said.

But with little change in the makeup of Congress, "it's tough to see the path forward" on a comprehensive cybersecurity bill, Nojeim said.

Net neutrality: With control of Congress split between the Democrats in the Senate and the Republicans in the House, it will be difficult for Republicans to overturn the net neutrality rules the U.S. Federal Communications Commission passed in late 2010. Verizon Communications has filed a lawsuit challenging the rules, and a decision is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

So the split Congress cuts both ways. If the D.C. Circuit overturns the net neutrality rules, as many observers predict, it will be difficult for Congress to reinstate them. With Obama's re-election, the Democratic majority at the FCC will remain, but Sohn questioned whether the FCC has the courage to stand up to large carriers, congressional Republicans and the court.


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