Is net neutrality dying? Has the FCC killed it? What comes next? Here’s what you need to know

This is a good primer on Net Neutrality and why it maters. Give it a read!

Gigaom

The issue of net neutrality is back in the news again, thanks to some proposed rule changes by the Federal Communications Commission, changes that the regulator says are aimed at protecting a “free and open internet.” A chorus of critics, however, say the commission is trying to eat its cake and have it too — by pretending to create rules that will protect net-neutrality, while actually implementing what amounts to a pay-to-play version of the internet, one that favors large incumbents.

It’s a complicated topic, and one that is prone to a certain amount of hysteria and hyperbole. So what follows is a breakdown of what you need to know, and what some legal experts, technology insiders and advocacy groups are saying about it:

Why is the FCC changing its rules?

The regulator’s ability to monitor and punish breaches of net neutrality was thrown into limbo by a court ruling…

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The Business of Bitcoin: Taxable Property

Here is a somewhat more extensive discussion of the implications of the IRS’ recent guidance on the tax treatment of bitcoin, written by BCS associate attorney David Freda.

Briskin, Cross & Sanford - Business Law Blog

As you may have now heard, on March 25, 2014, the IRS declared that, at least for now, Bitcoin will be taxed as property, rather than as a currency.  For those who view bitcoin as an investment vehicle similar to stocks, this ruling sets a clearer path with well known “rules of the game” for dealing with the tax implications of bitcoin.

But for those who are interested in bitcoin as a new currency, the path is now cluttered with administrative, legal, and financial complexities.

In order to better understand the implications of the IRS’ new stance, let’s take a quick look at the taxation of property. Generally speaking, if you purchase property and it appreciates in value, you must pay tax on the gain you realize above the original purchase price when you sell the property. This rule has traditionally applied to stocks and bonds in the same…

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When is software patentable? The Supreme Court is about to weigh in

The Alice Corp. case definitely represents a potential pivot point for software patents. The determination of what what is and abstract idea and what is not in the context of computer software has long been a difficult and fuzzy process. It is hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court will use its decision in the Alice Corp. case to clarify that analysis, thus providing clearer direction to software authors who are considering whether to seek patent protection for their creations.

Gigaom

Software patents have always been controversial, in large part because the dividing line between a patentable software-based invention and one that is not has never been clearly defined. But the often hazy body of law that determines software patentability could be about to change.

On March 31, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l., No. 13-298, a case that could have wide consequences in the tech community and beyond.  At stake is when and how a particular software-based invention—that is, an invention that incorporates the performance of a computer and software—is entitled to a patent.

At the heart of the matter is the “abstract idea.” An abstract idea on its own is not patentable, but what exactly counts as an abstract idea? The Supreme Court has never set out a specific test for what is and is not…

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The Lavabit Shutdown and IT Security

How Lavabit Melted Down : The New Yorker.

The New Yorker has an excellent piece online which discusses in detail the events leading up to the shutdown of Lavabit, a secure e-mail provider which was used by Edward Snowden.

 

The article details the pressure placed upon Lavabit and its owner not just to turn over information that would shed light on Edward Snowden’s activities, but rather, information which would give the government wholesale access to all email passing through the services.

 

This article raises serious issues for IT companies who have committed to safeguard the privacy and/or security of its customers. It also raises serious concerns regarding the extent to which the U.S. Government is willing to (and in fact does) compromise the privacy of innocent U.S. citizens as a routine matter.

 

The dark side of Apple’s iBeacons

Interesting. I can see the interesting things that can be accomplished with this technology, but the specter of getting barraged with adds on my phone when I walk into a mall is not attractive. I, for one, can say: if a place starts spaming based on proximity, that is one of the fastest ways to keep me from going to that location. Ever.

BGR

Alongside the introduction of Apple’s latest mobile operating system iOS 7, the company also rolled out its answer to the NFC technology it has gone out of its way to avoid in iPhones, iPads and iPod touch handhelds. The solution is called “iBeacon,” and it allows for the creation of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons that emit signals iOS 7-powered devices will automatically react to when they come within range of the beacon. These beacons can be apps installed on Apple’s iOS devices or they can be dedicated hardware that use BLE to interact with Apple handsets and tablets. There are some great use cases out there that really could make fantastic use of Apple’s new iBeacon feature, but there is also a darker side of iBeacons that could become a huge annoyance for iPhone owners and other iOS device users.

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