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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Brian Fung

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on electronic privacy, national security, digital politics and the Internet that binds it all together. He was previously the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect and Nonprofit Quarterly. Follow Brian on Google+ .

Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 01:18 PM ET, 04/10/2012

The Circuit: Cellphone theft, Rosetta Stone and Instagram

Cellphone theft: The nation’s largest wireless carriers agreed to help federal regulators and local law enforcement crack down on cellphone theft by creating a centralized database to identify stolen phones and render them useless, The Washington Post reported.

Within six months, consumers will be able to call Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile if their devices are stolen and the carriers will block the phones from being used.

In the District, 34 percent of all robberies are of cellphones, and cellphone theft increased 54 percent between 2007 and 2011.

Google, Rosetta Stone: Rosetta Stone’s trademark infringement lawsuit against Google got the green light to move forward Monday from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, The Washington Post reported. The Arlington-based software company has accused Google of selling trademarked Rosetta Stone phrases as keywords to companies that make competing products.

“We’re deeply concerned about trademark infringement including the rampant problem of online counterfeiting confusing consumers regarding our products,” said Rosetta Stone general counsel Michael Wu.

A Google spokesperson on Monday said Google users benefit from being able to choose from a variety of competing advertisers. “We think that the legitimate use of trademarks as keyword triggers helps consumers to make more informed choices," the company said. "For what remains of the case, we're confident we will prevail on both the merits and the law.”

Cyberweapons: The Pentagon is planning to dramatically speed up the development of new cyberweapons, The Washington Post reported, giving it the ability in some cases to field weapons against specific targets in a matter of days, according to a new Pentagon report to Congress.

The report describes a new level of department-wide oversight with the establishment of a Cyber Investment Management Board, chaired by senior Pentagon officials, The Post reported, and sets up two systems for cyberweapons development: rapid and deliberate.

Netflix denies PAC set up to support SOPA: In a message on its official Twitter account, Netflix fought off reports that its new political action committee was set up to support two controversial piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act.

The new PAC, called FLIXPAC is meant to help Netflix reach out to politicians directly on the issues that matter to it most, according to a statement from Netflix as reported in Forbes. The company has declared a “neutral” stance on the piracy laws, but has been lobbying heavily for a change to the Video Privacy Protection Act, which stands in the way of Netflix integration with Facebook in the United States.

Facebook buys Instagram: Facebook announced Monday it will acquire the popular mobile photo-sharing firm Instagram, a push by the social networking giant to draw more consumers who rely on smartphones and tablets for their digital needs.

The deal, Facebook’s largest to date, is worth around $1 billion in cash and shares, Facebook said.

What about Instagram makes it worth that $1 billion price tag? According to Michael Scissons, president and chief executive of the social marketing firm Syncapse, Facebook is smart to look to Instagram and attempt to capture the creativity of its users in the same way.

“This is part of Facebook's. . . strategy toward making Web their own,” he said. “And it is based on users building their own content.”

He believes Instagram will become a core part of Facebook, which has said in the past that photos are a vital part of its social network.

AOL, Microsoft patents: AOL announced Monday that it is selling more than 800 patents to Microsoft for $1 billion, marking the latest salvo in the tech industry’s all-out war over who controls the most lucrative ideas powering the Internet and smartphones, The Washington Post reported.

The fixation on acquiring intellectual property is troubling to many observers, who see a broken system, spawned by Washington regulators who have for decades rubber-stamped too many patents that are vague or have questionable value.

By  |  01:18 PM ET, 04/10/2012

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