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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

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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 02:44 PM ET, 03/26/2013

The Circuit: T-Mobile drops traditional contracts

T-Mobile drops traditional contracts: T-Mobile proclaimed that it’s moving in a new direction Tuesday at a news event where the carrier announced it’s dropping traditional contracts. Instead, the company is moving to month-to-month billing and service plans that charge consumers for their devices separately from their text, data and voice charges.

At the event, T-Mobile chief executive John Legere said that wireless contracts have become unpopular and ridiculous, and said that T-Mobile’s approach is more forthright. And, he added, while T-Mobile is asking users to pay for their device either up front or in monthly installments, he said that the T-Mobile system is still cheaper than comparable plans from competitors.

Heritage for America joins ECPA reform group: Heritage for America, a sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, announced Tuesday that it will join Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union in efforts to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The coalition of groups, known collectively as Digital 4th, is advocating for changes to the privacy law that would grant electronic communications the same protections such as phone calls and e-mail the same constitutional protections as paper files.

FCC to hold bill shock, cramming workshops: The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that it will be holding workshops on bill shock and cramming, two names for practices that refer to third-party companies putting unexpected charges on users’ wireless and landline telephone bills.

The workshop will take place on April 17 at the agency’s Washington headquarters and will include commentary from industry groups, consumer organizations and state government officials. It also will be streamed live on the agency’s Web site.

ICANN launches clearinghouse: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced Tuesday that it has opened a trademark clearinghouse to give trademark owners an avenue to protect their intellectual property ahead of the ICANN’s sales of new top-level domains that move beyond “.com” and “.org” to more varied Web addresses such as “.love” or “.peace.”

The proposal has raised concerns among trademark holders, who say that the more open system could allow competitors or others to buy domain names using their trademarked brands — for example, if Brand Y bought the rights to “.brand-z” to prevent its competitor from doing so.

To address those concerns, brands will have the option of registering their trademarks with ICANN before the new Web addresses roll out. The new domains are expected to start going live later this year.

Sweden drops ‘ungoogleable’ from word list: The Language Council of Sweden has dropped “ogooglebar” — literally, “ungoogleable,” but meaning “unable to find in a search engine” — from a list of new Swedish words after receiving a letter from Google asking that the word’s meaning be limited to things that can’t be found on Google alone.

As the BBC reported, the language council publishes an annual list of 10 words that have become popular in Sweden, but has decided to drop the reference to Google to avoid a trademark fight. In a statement to the BBC, a Google spokesperson said that the company takes “routine steps to protect our trademark,” but was “pleased that users connect the Google name with great search results.”

By  |  02:44 PM ET, 03/26/2013

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