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The Fifth IP Subcommittee Hearing–next week

July 25, 2013

While MTP readers will likely be watching today’s hearing before the “IP Subcommittee” in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is well to keep in mind that the Committee announced two hearings, presumably before the August recess that is scheduled to start August 3 and continue until September 9.  That means that there is to be a second hearing next week, or more likely in one week from today.

While we commend the witnesses at today’s hearing and greatly appreciate the Chairman’s willingness to engage on these hearings, it is important to note that it is entirely possible that the good we expect will be done today will be blunted by the next hearing–and that will be the hearing that Members hear last before they go back to work in their districts.

Who will be the likely witnesses at next week’s hearing?  There could be a surprise visit from a Google employee, but it is more likely that there will be a visit from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Berkman Center, the Computer & Communications Industry Association or their consultants, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Public Knowledge, the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University, Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, any of the various Samuelson clinics around the world or any one of a host of other “public interest” or “academic” folks.

If you want a list of potential witnesses, you could look at various court orders to determine who gets money from whom.  For example, Google provided such a  list of outlets in its paid service to Judge Alsup under court order in the Oracle v. Google case (see the famous “Google Shill List“).  The Facebook Beacon class action settlement is a prime example of press-release-as-settlement that purported to establish an organization to study privacy with Chris Jay Hoofnagle (who heads Professor Samuelson’s Berkeley Center for Law & Technology), Tim Sparapani (Facebook’s public policy director) and writer Larry Magid.  As far as we can tell, that organization was never created.  We wrote to Mr. Magid for comment on whatever happened to the “Digital Trust Fund” over a year ago and have yet to receive a reply.  Notwithstanding his responsibility for the money, it’s not mentioned on his personal website.

Roger Parloff at Fortune Magazine has a handy summary of how Google and Facebook siphon money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Santa Clara law school among others in his excellent article on the subject (“Google and Facebook’s New Tactic In the Tech Wars“).   And of course, there’s another handy guide to the supposedly tax exempt organizations (who seem to have no problem getting and keeping their 501(c)(3) status) who just this very week got millions more from Google (along with AARP who allied with Google on SOPA).

And of course Chris Ruen’s excellent book Freeloading.

So keep this in mind when the witnesses are announced–and I think it’s safe to say that the later they are announced, the more they would like to stay hidden.

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