The Washington Post

The Circuit: Web firms fight Commerce on SOPA, Pentagon talks cyber offense, Apple appoints new chairman

LEADING THE DAY: The House Judiciary Committee will take up Wednesday the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that has set off a rare public tiff between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several high-profile Web firms, The Washington Post reported.

The act, which the Chamber supports, is aimed at cracking down on fraudulent Web sites. But high-tech firms say the legislation goes too far and could possibly allow the government to shut down Web site operations if copyrighted material appears there without permission.

Witnesses include representatives from both sides of the debate, including Michael O’ Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America, Linda Kirkpatrick of MasterCard, Katherine Oyama of Google and Paul Almeida of the AFL-CIO. John Clark of Pfizer will also speak, as counterfeiters often try to sell fake or questionable drugs. Maria Pallante, register of copyrights for the U.S. Library of Congress, will also testify.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the committee and the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement, “Claims that the Stop Online Piracy Act would limit lawful free speech on the Internet are false and misleading.  This bill specifically targets Web sites that are dedicated to the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit material and products.  It does not target the lawful activity of legitimate Web sites.  Because this bill focuses on illegal activity, legitimate and lawful American businesses should have nothing to worry about.”

Pentagon highlights cybersecurity: The Pentagon said Tuesday that it is prepared to launch cyberattacks in response to hostile actions that threaten the government, military or U.S. economy, The Washington Post reported. The report warns that those attempting cyberattacks against the U.S. are “taking a grave risk.”

Left out of the report, however, are the rules of engagement off the battlefield and whether neutral countries would be asked before their systems were used in these counterattacks. The report also indicated that stand-alone cyber operations would not require congressional notification under the War Powers Act.

Apple appoints chairman: Following the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in October, Apple has appointed a new chairman of its board: Arthur Levinson, chairman of Genentech Inc. Levinson has served as a co-lead director of the company’s board since 2005.

Apple has also appointed Robert Iger, the chief executive of Walt Disney Co., to be a director. Apple and Disney have had a very close relationship — Jobs was on Disney’s board before his death.

Facebook explains graphic images: Facebook users were shocked to find graphic pornographic and violent images on their profiles over the past few days, and on Tuesday Facebook said that a browser bug had allowed malicious code to post the images on users’ accounts, The Washington Post reported.

The disturbing pictures surfaced as the company tries to quell concerns about user safety and privacy. Facebook is reportedly near a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over complaints about the way it stores and shares user data. Experts said that while this latest attack didn’t appear to compromise users’ data, it was a serious security breach.

Google Music: Google is expected to launch a revamped version of its Music service today, Bloomberg reported, but it may be too late for the company to catch up with Apple’s iTunes service. The report said the new Google Music, which has been in beta testing for several months, will let users store songs in an online locker and listen to their music on multiple devices, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

The online music space has become increasingly crowded with Amazon, Facebook and Apple all taking a firm foothold in the area of cloud-based music lockers. Google has reached agreements with Sony Music, Universal Music Group and EMI, the report said.

FCC bills: The House subcommittee on telecommunications will markup two bills today from its chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), that would require the Federal Communications Commission to modify its reporting requirements and provide more justification for its actions. It would also codify the agency’s informal shot clock for mergers.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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