Tag Archives | Government

Gamer Group Sounds Alarm on “Anti-Streaming” Bill

A bill that targets unauthorized streaming of movies and TV shows could have a detrimental effect on a vibrant part of video game culture.

Under U.S. Senate Bill S.978, streaming copyrighted material before audiences of 10 or more would become a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The Entertainment Consumers Association warns that the bill inadvertently targets people who stream playthroughs or walkthroughs of video games.

To get a sense of gaming’s video playthough culture, run a search for “Let’s Play” on YouTube. At present, there are more than 500,000 results. A search for “video game walkthrough” returns more than 600,000 results. A search for “speed run” returns more than 250,000 results. The Senate bill would leave all the users who posted those videos open to prosecution. The ECA calls the measure “draconian” and is helping gamers write letters of opposition to their senators.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Violent Game Law, Hopefully Stops the Madness

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed last year to rule on a California law that would restrict the sale of violent video games to minors, I was relieved. Finally, I assumed, the nation’s highest court would rule that violent video games should get the same First Amendment protections as movies and books, instead of being regulated like pornography.

Turns out, my assumption was correct. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s violent video game law for good, with seven of nine justices in agreement. If you love video games and despise the way they’ve been demonized by politicians, read the first couple pages of the decision. It’s quite cathartic.

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TV Ads May Get Quieter; Thank You, Government!

Glad to see lawmakers putting partisan politics aside for the issues that really matter: A bill that forces television broadcasters and cable companies to ratchet down the volume on commercials passed in the U.S. Senate, and will be taken up by Congress after the November 2 elections. The House of Representatives has already signed similar bills, leaving only minor details to iron out. Once approved, it’ll require FCC regulations within a year, and enforcement a year after that. Nonpartisan, sure, but still slow as ever.


Beat Madden 11, Meet a Virtual President Obama

In one of the most blatant uses I’ve seen of the U.S. President’s likeness in a video game, Barack Obama joins the festivities when you win the Super Bowl in Madden 11.

ESPN reports that as part of the victory celebration, players convene in front of the White House, where a virtual Obama gives a speech and unveils a team jersey with his name on it.

This isn’t the first time a likeness of the president has appeared in video games — notable examples include Bill Clinton in NBA Jam and “President Ronnie” in Bad Dudes — and Obama even advertised in some games when he was running for president. But the use of Obama’s name, while standing in front of the White House, takes the presidential imagery further than I’ve seen before.

Actually, I’m kind of surprised that EA Sports pulled it off. I don’t think using Obama’s image is illegal, but in January 2009 Bloomberg ran a story about how White House lawyers were trying to limit how the president’s image is used. The administration has cracked down on advertisements that look like a presidential endorsement, such as a Weatherproof jacket ad that appeared in Times Square. And the Bush administration tried to stop The Onion from using an image of the presidential seal.

But I guess if U.S. presidents can invite real athletes to the White House when they win the Super Bowl, the same courtesy ought to apply to virtual ones. My prediction: Obama throws out the first pitch on opening day in MLB 2K11.

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Google Introduces Google Apps for Government

At a press event at its headquarters this morning, Google announced Google Apps for Government–a new version of its Google Apps productivity suite that’s been certified by the US government as meeting its security requirements.

The new version is a variant of Google Apps Premier edition, and includes the same core apps: Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sites, Groups, Video, and Postini. Pricing is the same as for Google Apps Premier: $50 per user per year.

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California Considers Platevertising

The scariest California disaster at the moment has nothing to do with earthquakes, mudslides, or brushfires–it’s the state’s financial crisis. I spend my share of time stressing out over it, and appreciate the need for extraordinary responses. But I still have my doubts about a bill which would roll out electronic license plates to Californian motorists–ones which could display ads when cars were stopped at red lights or otherwise temporarily out of motion.

This article on the proposed technoplates doesn’t provide much detail, other than that the ads would kick in only when a car was stopped for at least four seconds, and that a company called Smart Plate might be involved. But even if you aren’t worried about the potential for the plates being dangerously distracting, the government mandating that we put ads on our cars doesn’t sound wildly different from insisting that we install neong signs in our living-room windows. (No, Governor Schwarzenegger, that wasn’t a suggestion.)

Howsabout this: What if the plates were strictly optional–but driver who elected to use them got a cut of the ad revenue? Each citizen could choose whether to go commercial or keep his or her car a commercial-free zone. Or raise auto-related fees but offer the plate ads as a way of avoiding the hikes. Or something. Your ideas welcome…


Running a Country…on Your iPad

What happens when you’re head of state and you’re stranded in a foreign land, and there’s pressing national business to attend to? Simple, pull out your iPad. That’s exactly what Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg did in New York, CNN reports. With ash from and erupting Icelandic volcano grounding flights to Europe, the Prime Minister was able to stay on top of business back home.

Government officials posted a picture of Stoltenberg hovering over his iPad on the government website, saying “the prime minister is working at the airport.” Along with the iPad, Stoltenberg is using a mobile phone and the Internet to stay abreast of the situation back home. Apple couldn’t get any better PR for its highly popular device than this…


Obama Set to Fund Broadband Expansion Initiative

The US government will be awarding $2 billion of federal stimulus money over the next 75 days to begin work to expand broadband to rural areas. The first $182 million is being distributed beginning today for 18 projects in 17 states, the Obama Administration said. Some $7.2 billion overall has been marked in the stimulus for work on broadband.

Government officials supporting the plan argue that the investment will stimulate the economy and create “tens of thousands of jobs.” The issue of unemployment has begun to nag the Adminstration, which for much of 2009 has been bogged down in the morass that has become health care reform.

Monies received through the broadband stimulus program may not be exactly for Internet access, however. Improvements to the electrical grid, work in electronic medical records, and high-speed rail projects are also set to receive some funds as a result of the move, officials say.

While I know some of Obama’s opponents will see this as a foolhardy way to spend money, I think it is a good idea to start investing in our broadband infrastructure. Lets put it this way: in the modern economy, broadband Internet access has become ever more vital to success. With the US falling behind globally, you could argue that our businesses are also suffering as well. Add to this the patchwork nature of our broadband footprint, and well, you get the point.

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Will the CIA Snoop on Social Networks?

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has bought a stake in a company that monitors social media as part of an ongoing clandestine effort by the agency to aggregate content from public sources, Wired is reporting.

The CIA has invested in Visible Technologies, a company that produces technology for search engine marketing for social media. The CIA’s interest in its technology is obvious–the agency needs to keep pace with the latest communications technology.

Over 70 percent of Facebook’s users are located outside of the United States, in over 180 countries. “There are more than 200 non-U.S., non-English-language microblogging Twitter-clone sites today. If the intelligence community ignored that tsunami of real-time information, we’d call them incompetent,” Lewis Shepherd, the former senior technology officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Wired.

The advent of cloud computing raises more concern, because services store data among data centers all around the world. I recently wrote a detailed report about how laws that safeguard your privacy are not the same in every country. If messages pass through a server overseas, does that give the CIA the right to browse the content even if a user is a U.S. citizen?

The CIA is barred by law from domestic spying in the United States, but in the past, the agency has employed creative ways to bypass the law, to hide documents from Congressional review, and to set up an illegal dragnet of domestic communications services. In the last case, Congress gave telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution after it allegedly learned about the spying.

Of course, most folks’ Tweets are public, and even if you don’t share everything with the entire world on Facebook, it’s less private than a phone conversation. Does the notion of the government monitoring social network activity make you nervous?