Top Stories of 2011

TOP STORIES OF 2011

#1  AMAZON WARS

2010 ended with the Amazon Tax in effect in three states totally approximately ten percent of the population and GDP.  With the addition of Arkansas, Calfornia, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Vermont the tax has some applicability in states which comprise about 1/3 of the population and GDP the country.  The focus of the Amazon Wars in 2012 may be in Congress where there is a push for the “Mainstreet Fairness Act” which would clarify states authority to collect taxes for online sales.

#2  THE RISE AND FALL OF RIGHTHAVEN

The numbers speak for themselves, 276 copyright infringement lawsuits, settlements collected totalling $352,500 and sanctions and legal fees paid out $225,172.  As 2011 comes to a close, the righthaven domain is up for auction (minimum bid $1,950).  Righthaven slayer Mark Rendazzi was on Cyber Law and Business Report last week and talked about putting the nail in the Righthaven coffin.

#3 NET NEUTRALITY IS ALIVE AND

WELL . . . FOR NOW

The year’s biggest political battle involving the Internet occured in November when Congress voted on overturning the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet (aka Net Neutrality) Rules.  After passing the House 234-177, the measure was five votes short in the Senate.  In 2012 the focus will move to the courts where seven challenges have been filed with industry petitioners contending that the Rules exceed the FCC’s authority or while public interest groups contend that the rules do not go far enough.  Last month’s E-Commerce Law & Policy featured an overview of the issue written by Bennet Kelley.  

#4 CYBER ATTACKS

2011 was an epic year for Cyber Attacks with victims ranging from prominent businesses such as Citibank and Lockheed Martin, to government sites such as the IMF, CIA and the G20.  The year ended on an ominous note with a false report that a Illinois utility station malfunction was caused by a hack.   As detailed on our blog, McAfee and Cisco have issued predictions for 2012 that include increased industrial attacks and “hacktivism” along with steps businesses can take now to minimize the risk of such an attack. 

#5 SOPA BACKLASH

For content providers such as the Motion Picture Association and Recording Industry Association, 2011 ended much like 2010 with their prized anti-piracy legislation getting derailed just as it seemed unstopable.  Last year’s “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) was blocked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) after it had become dubbed the “Internet Censorship Bill”.  With Republicans taking over the House of Representatives, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) appeared to have a better chance of passage, but a huge backlash from the tech community stopped SOPA’s momentum’s in its tracks (see infographic – the effect of SOPA).  The fight has extended beyond Congress, where GoDaddy’s support for SOPA led to over 70,000 domain transfers from the registrar and its withdrawing its support for the bill.  This may be the biggest battle over internet issues in 2012, but it appears that a scaled back version of the bill drafted by Senator Wyden is gaining support.

#6  THE FALL AND RISE OF ONLINE GAMBLING

While the online gambling industry reached a low point this spring when the Justice Department shut down several of the leading poker sites, the Justice Department has now opened the door to its revival.  A Justice Department opinion letter has opened the door to online gambling in the United States for the first time since Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).   The opinion abandons prior expansive interpretation of the Wire Act and limits its application to only sports wagering, thereby giving the green light for New York and Illinois (and other states) to engage in the intra-state sale of lottery tickets online (and possibly other online gambling offerings).   

#7 PRIVACY/DATA SECURITY CONSENT DECREES

While privacy legislation multiplied on Capitol Hill, the Federal Trade Commission entered consent decrees on privacy and data security consent decrees with the biggest names in the industry in 2011 – Google, Facebook and Twitter.