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Delaware Political Rumblings
8/29/2007 9:48:00 PM

The Wilmington city council has recently approved a "redevelopment plan" that seeks to unlawfully seize private properties under the guise of Eminent Domain.  The "South Walnut Street Urban Renewal Plan" seeks to force the sale of 61 individual parcels (primarily businesses) to make way for new residential development.

This is another recent abuse of Eminent Domain, which have become so popular since the Supreme Court ruled on the Kelo vs. New London case.

I contacted my local representative, but sadly, I do not live in the formal city limits of Wilmington, and had no representation in the city council hearing.  However, I would like to take a moment to comment my representative for his well-reasoned and well-meaning stance on the issue.

My state representative is Robert Gilligan (Bob).  He's an honest man, which is rare amongst politicians.  Although I've only lived in the area three years, Bob has always been accessible.  I met him at a neighborhood meeting.  He routinely visits neighborhood gatherings, to meet his base.  He returns phone calls personally.  I like that.

I feel that he does an excellent job representing my concerns.  He has been proactive in the past about such issues, and he has made it clear to me where he stands on the issue of Eminent Domain.  He offers direct answers, which is a rare commodity. 

Here are a few key points that he mentioned to me:

  • When Kelo vs. New London was first decided, the state responded with an amendment to the Delaware Code that clarified the protections for Delaware residents.  Based on this, he questions the legality of the actions taken by the Wilmington City Council.
  • The state legislature is currently adjourned until the winter.  I cannot help but think that the Wilmington City Council waited until the adjournment to pull this stunt.
  • If a loophole has been discovered in the 2005 amendment to the Delaware Code, I've been assured that it will be closed during the next session.

Thanks Bob, for representing the interests of your constituents.

Here are a few articles dealing with the current Eminent Domain mess:

 

WMPH Boycotts MusicFirst Coalition
6/21/2007 8:17:00 AM

Super 91.7 WMPH has become the first radio station in the country to take a stand against the Music First Coalition.  Hopefully, this is the start of something much larger.

From the WMPH website:

The National Association of Broadcasters is fighting efforts by musicFirst, a new coalition of recording artists, including Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and Natasha Bedingfield, demanding performance royalties from radio stations. "Congress has long recognized that radio airplay of music generates millions of dollars in revenue for record labels and artists," said Dennis Wharton, NAB spokesman. "Were it not for radio's free promotional airplay of music on stations all over America, most successful recording artists would still be playing in a garage."

WMPH and many other stations across the country are saying NO to this insatiable greed. The musicFirst coalition of artists is attempting to hurt the radio stations, disc jockeys, and fans that have always been their greatest ally. Radio has done so much to promote their careers by playing their music frequently, interviewing them, and mentioning their concerts and events on the air. Artists make their money by record sales and performing at concerts. Without radio's free publicity for over 60 years, most artists would likely be neither rich nor famous.

Hopefully this will open up airplay for smaller artists who appreciate what radio gives them.  Most people aren't aware of this, but musicians do not pay to get their music on the air.  It's all done for free.  The radio station doesn't receive any payment for promoting the artists.  These lobbying groups need to be stopped.  These are the same people who sponsored the Feinstein-Graham PERFORM act (to gouge satellite providers) and the recent changed by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) that will put an end legal internet radio though massive royalty rate increases (see www.SaveNetRadio.org).

Here's the good news:  WMPH may be a small station, but their big action is getting some big attention.  I'm keeping a list of sites that pick up the story.

06/20/2007

06/21/2007

Internet Radio Equality Act: Letter to Mike Castle
6/13/2007 6:13:00 PM

Here's a letter that I've just sent to Mike Castle (Delaware's Representative) in the hopes of securing his support for the Internet Radio Equality Act.

Dear Congressman Castle,

I am writing you today in the hope that you will support the "Internet Radio Equality Act" that has recently been introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee and Don Manzullo.

The royalty rates that the Copyright Royalty Board has recently approved will have far-reaching ramifications if they are permitted to stand.  The rate schedule that has been approved is so unreasonable that it makes continued operation of legal internet radio impossible. The schedule unfairly targets internet radio, and the rates are several times higher than those for similar markets (such as satellite radio or terrestrial FM).

As background, I am a volunteer with Super 91.7 WMPH.  WMPH is owned and operated by the Brandywine school district, and is operated as an educational station.  I am responsible for all our streaming infrastructure.  Since we are a very low power station (100W), our internet presence is our primary way of reaching our audience.  The same is true of both FM and pure internet stations all over the country.  I do not wish to lose internet radio.

At this point, legal internet radio will become untenable unless action if taken to reverse the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board in the very near future.  The rates are scheduled to take effect on 07/15/07 (with huge retroactive clauses).

I hope that you can support the "Internet Radio Equality Act".

I appreciate your time.  Thank you very much.

-Ben Yanis

Please contact me if I can be of any assistance or offer any clarifications.

Followup (06/19/2007):

Mike Castle has sent me a reply.  He (very diplomatically) declined to answer my concerns.  See below for the full text.

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the Internet Radio Equality Act, H.R. 2060. I appreciate learning your views on this issue.

As you know, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) recently announced new statutory royalty rates for certain digital transmissions of sound recordings for the period of January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2010. The implementation of these new rates marks the
expiration of a previous royalty rate agreement specifically designed to benefit webcasters. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act permits the Board to reconsider its decision, and parties affected by it may appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

H.R. 2060 would overturn the CRB's decision and create a new system of royalty rates for webcasters that would take into account the impact of rates on the diversity of internet radio programming, localism, and competition. This legislation was last referred to the House
Committee on Energy and Commerce on April 26, 2007. Like you, I believe it is important that internet radio users have access to fair and equitable services. Please be assured that I will keep your view in mind and closely follow this legislation to ensure that it strikes the
right balance between allowances for webcasters and intellectual property rights.

Again, thank you for sharing your views with me and feel free to do so in the future on this or any other important issue. For more information on current issues and my efforts on your behalf in Washington, D.C. and Delaware, please visit my website and sign up to
receive my e-newsletter at, www.castle.house.gov.

Sincerely,


Michael N. Castle
Member of Congress
MNC:jc
Red Clay Referendum Defeated, and Soundly Spanked
5/21/2007 6:30:00 PM

It seems that running referrenda is all the rage in Delaware this year.  It seems all the school districts are getting in on the game.  Recently, the referendum wagon came to down in my area.  The Red Clay school district decided it wanted more money, so it called for a referendum.  For reference, it's only been about three years since the last one.

The voters trashed it pretty soundly.  The final score was 6620 (against) vs. 4822 (for).  That's a pretty wide defeat.  Especially because the district has been hard selling it to the residents.  The official results are on the Delaware Elections Page.

It makes sense that it was defeated though; Red Clay is a lousy school district.  We'll need some results before we open our collective wallet.

They love to talk about property value when they're pushing for a 'yes' vote.  I've got new for them... If the success of the school district actually affected my property value; it would already be in the crapper.

Sorry guys.  Nice try.  No dice.

However, like all school districts that don't get their way, they will undoubtedly run another one.  Delaware permits two attempts per year.  I'm sure the second round is already being planned.  Brandywine already has a date for their second round.  They failed on the first try also, but theirs was a much closer race.  They didn't get the profound thumping that Red Clay received.

Don't worry; we'll be there for round two...  And we'll still be voting 'No'. 

Followup: Daylight Saving Time (DST)
4/3/2007 7:12:00 PM

It's nice to know that people agree with you once in a while...

ArsTechnica and Reuters are reporting that the Daylight Saving Time (DST) legislation that I discussed previously has had no measurable effect...

A brief quotation:

Reuters spoke with Jason Cuevas, spokesman for Southern Co. power, who said it plainly: "We haven't seen any measurable impact." New Jersey's Public Service Enterprise Group said the same thing: "no impact" on their business.

So while the US government pats itself on the back for at least looking busy, know that the main goal—energy conservation—has not been met. We can still argue over other supposed benefits, like the supposed reduction in crime (which returns in November?) and the fact that many people seem to simply like the change. As far as the purpose of the move is concerned, that appears to be a total flop.

It's nice to know that all the work was worth it.  Personally, I put about 20 hours into the conversion.  Remember, Microsoft didn't offer a patch for Windows 2000 (and earlier).

Millions of computer systems and electronic devices needed to be patched or upgraded.  That created lots of work.  In many cases, devices were left unpatched; which broke their original functions.  For example, many devices intended to automatically switch for old DST now switch at the "wrong" date, and are inaccurate.

What a waste.  It's a shame nobody told Congress that the DST switch would be a bad idea. In fairness to the reasonable legislators whom were present, I'm going to list those who objected, spoke, or voted against it.

Ron Wyden (D-Oregon):
  • "Our dependence on foreign oil will not be reduced as a result of this legislation. As a result, we have not reduced the prospect of going to war once again in the Persian Gulf in the next decade."
  • "This legislation does virtually nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Hillary Clinton (D-New York)

  • "I oppose the bill for two reasons. First, it contains a number of highly objectionable provisions. Second, it simply ignores several of our most pressing energy challenges, such as our dependence on foreign oil."

Senator Voting Against (the good guys).  Sadly, it's a short list.  Notice how it's the northeast corner of the country (mostly)?

Thankfully, both Senators from Delaware voted against.  Good job guys.

  • Biden (D-DE)
  • Boxer (D-CA)
  • Carper (D-DE)
  • Chafee (R-RI)
  • Clinton (D-NY)
  • Corzine (D-NJ)
  • Dodd (D-CT)
  • Feingold (D-WI)
  • Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Gregg (R-NH)
  • Jeffords (I-VT)
  • Kennedy (D-MA)
  • Kerry (D-MA)
  • Kyl (R-AZ)
  • Lautenberg (D-NJ)
  • Leahy (D-VT)
  • Martinez (R-FL)
  • McCain (R-AZ)
  • Murray (D-WA)
  • Nelson (D-FL)
  • Reed (D-RI)
  • Reid (D-NV)
  • Sarbanes (D-MD)
  • Schumer (D-NY)
  • Sununu (R-NH)
  • Wyden (D-OR)

The Representatives list is far too long to include, but Delaware's Mike Castle voted against.  Good job, Mike.

Daylight Saving Time (DST)
3/11/2007 11:46:00 AM

As most of you already know, Daylight Saving Time (DST) switches today.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated a change to our existing DST system.  Although we still move the clocks forward and backward; the date of the move has changed.  This is somewhat problematic.

Our world continually becomes more automated.  With great technology comes great efficiency.  However, with great technology also comes great dependence. Most computers and electronic devices automatically adjust for DST these days.  The change in the DST schedule has "broken" lots of devices and computers that are unaware of the shift.  This is a problem.

One cannot have expected the Congress to have thought through the consequences of their "feel good" legislation, when they don't even read it.  Don't forget, the act also includes the right to roll back these revisions; should their poorly-reasoned whims change in the future.

Microsoft has been kind enough to offer patches for all of their newer operating systems.  They offer new DST support for Windows XP, Server 2003, and Vista (Longhorn).  Notably missing from this list are Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, and Windows 2000.  I can understand not offering support for very old operating systems; but excluding Windows 2000 is unacceptable.  It's only running millions of business computers throughout the world.  Despite what Microsoft PR would like you to believe, Windows 2000 isn't gone just yet.  Generally, business PC's aren't upgraded.  They usually run their original operating system until they are retired.

I still have Windows 2000 boxes running; and they will remain 2000 until they fail or are retired.

Here's the good news... The timezone definitions are in the registry.  Careful registry revisions will allow you to update an older computer to the new DST schedule.

Reply from Senator Carper
2/2/2007 7:25:00 PM

Just received this reply from Senator Carper.  Although it was kind of him to write such a detailed reply, I thought he hedged on both sides...

Dear Mr. Yanis:

Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 256, the PERFORM.  I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue.
 
As you probably know, the fair use doctrine in copyright law allows, under certain circumstances, the unauthorized use of copyrighted material.  The Copyright Act of 1976 establishes four criteria for determining whether or not an unauthorized use of a work violates the rights of the copyright owner.  These criteria are:  1) the amount and character of the use; 2) the nature of the copyrighted work; 3) the amount copied in relation to the whole copyrighted work; and 4) the effect of the copying on the potential market for the copyrighted work.
 
Courts have historically applied the fair use doctrine on a case-by-case basis in establishing an equitable balance between the rights of the copyright owner and the rights of those who use the copyrighted work without authorization.  However, court decisions have made it clear that it is the responsibility of Congress, and not of the courts, to strike an optimal balance between both sets of rights. 
 
Recent and rapid advancements in technology have renewed the debate in Congress over the appropriate balance between these sets of rights.  Through the Internet, consumers can attain virtually perfect reproductions of copyrighted works with a click of a mouse, and distribute works just as easily.  In response, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998, to provide copyright owners protection from the rapidly growing communities of Internet users who participate in this unauthorized attainment and distribution of copyrighted works.  Critics of the DMCA believe that the Act went too far to protect the rights of the copyright owner.
 
Although I was not a member of Congress when it passed the DMCA, I agree that providing copyright owners protection from illegal use of technology should not come at the total expense of fair use rights.  Having said that, I believe that Congress needs to consider practical solutions that include preventing content piracy, keeping up with the exponential progress of technology, and upholding the fair use rights of content users.  
 
Last year, the U.S. government launched an education campaign to curb illegal copying of movies, music, and computer software.  According to recent reports, the Recording Industry Association of America lost an estimated $4.6 billion, and the Motion Picture Association of America lost $30 billion due to piracy last year.  As you know, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recently introduced the PERFORM Act (S. 256), a bill to help combat copyright infringement.  It would expand the Justice Department's authority by allowing it to file civil copyright infringement cases against violators who intend to induce others to infringe copyrights. 
 
That being said, I would not support legislation that would prevent the advancement of technology, or that would prevent Americans from using every day technology, such as VCR's, file sharing networks, and Apple iPods.  At this time, S. 256 is currently pending in Senate Judiciary Committee.   If I have an opportunity to vote on S. 256 or similar legislation, please be assured that I will keep your views in mind.  Thank you again for expressing your thoughts regarding copyright law legislation in the age of the Internet.  Please feel free to contact me in the future regarding this, or another issue of importance to you.
 
With best personal regards, I am

Sincerely,

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Please do not respond to this email. To send another message please visit my website at http://carper.senate.gov/aemail.cfm and fill out the webform for a prompt response. Thank you.

Reply from Senator Biden
2/12/2006 6:52:00 PM

I've just received a reply from Senator Biden as well.  See below for my summary and comments.

Full Text: 

Dear Mr. Yanis:

Thank you for letting me know your thoughts on S. 256, the PERFORM Act. I appreciate our taking the time to share your views on this issue with me.

The PERFORM Act arises out of the development of new music-recording devices by the satellite radio companies. Satellite radio companies pay the recording industry a fee to broadcast songs, but they do not pay a fee to distribute those songs. However, these new devices permit satellite radio subscribers to record and aggregate songs heard over the satellite signals, with digital quality. The development of these devices means satellite radio is becoming more like lnternet download sites and less like conventional radio.

Senator Feinstein's bill, which l have co-sponsored, states that satellite companies offering devices that enable such a distribution of music must purchase licenses both to broadcast and to distribute from the content providers. This is to ensure that artists are compensated for displaced sales. Satellite radio is an exciting new service and a rapidly growing industry. Please know that I recognize how important it is that we take into account the impact on its development as we consider any new legislation. The PERFORM Act is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and you can be sure I will keep your views in mind as the Senate considers this bill.

Again, thank you for letting me know your thoughts on this matter. I hope you will always feel free to contact me about issues that are important to you. Best wishes.

Sincerely,

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senator

Translation and Summary:

Dear Mr. Yanis,

I am an obvious tool of the RIAA.  They have decided that they no longer like the contract that they fairly and legally negotiated with the satellite distributors.  Since they are unhappy, I plan on legislating them a situation more to their liking.  In addition, I plan on making this legislation intentionally overreaching, in order to ensure that their state-supported business model remains viable long into the future.

In closing: Suck it. Vote for me.

Reactions:

I'm surprised that he would be so blatant in his blind support of special interests.  Although Senator Carper didn't reassure me, he had the decency to mention Fair Use concerns.   Senator Biden has made it clear that he has no intention curtailing runaway copyright law.

I am disappointed by his choices and actions.  I encourage all Delawareans to remember this on election day.