Out of the Storm News
In 1990, Pierre N. Leval, then serving as a federal judge, ran across an unexpected stumbling block while crafting a Harvard Law Review article about the “fair use” doctrine of American copyright law. To wit, he was worried that quoting his own cases, exactly as they had been published in law volumes, might itself run afoul of then-narrowing fair use guidelines, which govern how much of someone else’s copyrighted work you can lawfully quote without asking permission.
Last week, Leval—now serving as a senior judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—finally got his best shot yet at restoring balance to “fair use” law, in an expansive Court of Appeals decision that reaffirmed the lawfulness of Google Books, a project that involves the unlicensed scanning and online search of whole libraries. A similar decision against the plaintiffs in another case, this one involving a non-for-profit research database, had come down last year. But last week’s 3–0 Google Books decision broke ground by straightforwardly favoring the book-scanning project’s wholly commercial parent company (still known as “Google,” but now a division of Alphabet Inc.).
In draft form, Leval’s 1990 article explored appellate court opinions focused on two of his own earlier opinions as a federal judge; one case centered on a biography of J.D. Salinger while the other concerned an exposé of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Leval’s earlier district court opinions had quoted heavily from unpublished copyrighted materials from both Salinger and Hubbard. But given developments in copyright law, Leval mused in a footnote, he couldn’t be sure that quoting those earlier opinions (and their appendices) again would be protected by fair use. “I have accordingly deleted the illustrative quotations. Interested readers are referred to the district court opinion, which sets forth numerous examples,” he wrote.
Leval thus kept himself and the law review on the right side of the then-understood line of fair use. But even in its modified form, his article has helped shift the course of American fair use law over the past 25 years. The fact that he authored the Google Books decision last week is a rare convergence of legal and poetic justice.
Friday’s ruling is a big deal not just for search engine giants, copyright lawyers, authors, and publishers, but also for ordinary people. Only a generation ago, doing scholarly research in the way that Google Books now makes possible was a game only academics could play. At the time Leval was first tackling fair use doctrine in his district-court cases, university professors, graduate students, and even muckraking biographers had to master arcane skills (managing card catalogs, for example) in addition to their subject-matter expertise. Plus, they had to live near, or arrange access to, the holdings of research libraries, just to make sure they didn’t miss any relevant materials. (The most entertaining, contemporaneous depiction of this hermetic, pre-Internet world is A.S. Byatt’s 1990 Booker Prize–winning Possession, set in the late 1980s. The book’s fictional depiction of literary detective work and the hunt for rare, unpublished manuscripts is only slightly satirical.) Even scholars with full access to troves of material in university libraries or museum collections couldn’t do the kind of digital analysis (even if sometimes flawed) that Google’s full-text searches now extend potentially to everyone.
So it was unsurprising when Google Books prevailed in 2013 in U.S. District Court—almost exactly two years before Friday’s appellate decision. “Google Books has become an essential research tool,” the district court found that year, “as it helps librarians identify and find research sources, it makes the process of interlibrary lending more efficient, and it facilitates finding and checking citations.”
Furthermore, the district court had added, “Google Books has become such an important tool for researchers and librarians that it has been integrated into the educational system—it is taught as part of the information literacy curriculum to students at all levels.” The New York Times led its report by noting that “today, when people expect to find almost anything they want online,” Google Books already “seems like an unsurprising and unavoidable part of today’s Internet.”
Yet avoiding this seemingly “unavoidable” aspect of today’s Internet has been precisely why the plaintiffs (some of them authors and publishers, though not all of their peers agree) have spent more than a decade, and millions of dollars, pressing litigation in this case and similar cases. In fairness to the Authors Guild and the co-plaintiffs, their arguments—based largely on the fact that Google is scanning the full texts of copyrighted books and making those texts searchable, but also on the fact that Google is indisputably a commercial enterprise—would certainly have had more traction in the pre-digital era. Historically, fair use defenses in copyright cases have required courts to apply, on a case-by-case basis, the so-called four-factors test, which considers:
1) the purpose and character of the use
2) the nature of the copyrighted work
3) the amount and substantiality of the portion copied, and
4) the effect of unlicensed copying upon the potential market.
This framework was formally added to the U.S. Copyright Act in 1976, but its roots go back much deeper into American copyright law.
In a 1994 case, the high court (relying on Leval’s law review article, among other sources) concluded 2 Live Crew’s parody version of the Roy Orbison hit “Oh Pretty Woman” might well be a protected fair use under copyright law. A key question to be asked regarding whether a copyright of protected source material is justified is whether the use of the material is “transformative.” As Justice David Souter wrote for the court:
Although such transformative use is not absolutely necessary for a finding of fair use … the goal of copyright, to promote science and the arts, is generally furthered by the creation of transformative works. Such works thus lie at the heart of the fair use doctrine’s guarantee of breathing space within the confines of copyright … and the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use.
As a result, he concluded, “It was error for the Court of Appeals to conclude that the commercial nature of 2 Live Crew’s parody of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ rendered it presumptively unfair.” Souter carefully appended the lyrics of both songs to the Supreme Court opinion; presumably, he didn’t think he was infringing in doing so. Of course, 2 Live Crew’s “Pretty Woman” parody did not sound exactly like Roy Orbison’s original song, so it’s perhaps easier, now, after a couple of decades, to see how the rap parody version was “transformative.”
But what about Google Books’ scanned text from university libraries and other repositories? The whole value of Google Books as a research tool depends on the extent that the texts made searchable are as accurate as possible (ideally, identical down to the letter). Can that be transformative?
Affirming the district court’s 2013 findings, Leval explained at length in Friday’s decision what precisely is transformative about Google Books—primarily, the search service has taken pains to uncouple searching book texts from the actual reproduction and distribution of those books, so that the market for sale of the copyrighted works is (in the absence of solid evidence to the contrary) undiminished.
“Google’s making of a digital copy to provide a search function is a transformative use, which augments public knowledge by making available information aboutPlaintiffs’ books without providing the public with a substantial substitute for matter protected by the Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works or derivatives of them,” Leval concluded. The “snippet function,” which provides very small excerpts of the contextual text in search results, doesn’t pose a risk to the market for copyrighted works, Leval found in the course of a thorough review of the district court decision.
The Authors Guild, unsurprisingly, has said it will appeal this latest 2nd Circuit decision to the Supreme Court. But it will be quite surprising indeed if the Supreme Court gives these plaintiffs what they’re asking for, given how the high court has interpreted fair use ever since Judge Leval, in a cautiously noninfringing law review article, seeded the modern transformative evolution of fair use.
It appears the National Football League is cracking down on the unauthorized proliferation of GIFs and Vines of league-owned content.
Sometimes these snippets are of funny incidents or for serious study of various facets of the game. Two of the biggest violators, Deadspin and SBNation, recently were suspended by Twitter for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act after receiving takedown notices from the NFL. Twitter has since reinstated Deadspin’s Twitter handle, but the whole episode has restarted a debate about copyright and fair use.
As an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan I am frustrated that this episode could foreshadow a disruption in my regular sports consumption. My fandom isn’t confined to game days but continues throughout the week, as Philly native Bradley Cooper explains:
This is more than a season, this is a marathon of Sundays, Mondays and holidays of overly aggressive couch high fives, of weekday water cooler therapy sessions and nights spent tossing, turning and toiling over the perfect fantasy team name because ‘Ertz So Good’ was taken.
Between games, I spend many hours (too many, in fact) reading the latest from blogs like igglesblitz.com or tweets from BleedingGreen for updates about my team’s depth chart, info on draft prospects and analysis on Sam Bradford’s throwing motion. These are all things I would never pick up during the TV broadcast. Through these snippets, I gain a new appreciation for subtleties of the game.
I also like these blogs and media outlets because they are NOT the official stances from the team or league. While NFL.com and the official Philadelphia Eagles Twitter account regularly post “authorized” highlights, their perspective always seems too shallow. I prefer reading independent observers who are more critical and honest and who don’t gloss over inconvenient truths ignored by the organization.
The daily dose of sports reading isn’t limited to football. My hometown baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, are notorious for being the last organization in Major League Baseball to embrace enhanced analytics. No one at Phillies.com or on the Phillies Twitter handle is giving in-depth perspective from a sabermetrics point of view. So for a Billy Beane-style take, I turn to sites like crashburnalley.com, which takes a more complex and holistic perspective on all things Phillies.
These unofficial Phillies blogs, like the Eagles fan sites, frequently use GIFs and Vines to enhance their posts. The new uses of multimedia draw me to the sport and athletes in a way that the official sites never will. Being a casual fan is one thing, but I want to take my fanaticism to the next level.
From my vantage point, these GIFs and Vines constitute fair use, and would pass the famous four-factors test. But I am fully aware that big special interests like the NFL, NCAA and MLB see things differently and will use every legal means at their disposal to take them down. This inevitable legal battle is truly ridiculous, because these unofficial clips draw more fans attention to their team, inspiring them to buy merchandise, attend games or pass their fandom to the next generation. Any efforts to undermine this interest in the game really hurt the leagues because could turn off more fans.
GIFs and Vines are just a couple of ways sports fans consume information and content in radically different ways than a generation ago. Sports leagues should embrace the change, as customers enjoy and share their products, or risk turning off potential fans. No one is going to replace watching the Super Bowl or World Series with snippets like GIFs and Vines, but they will use these new mediums to supplement and enjoy the games.
Case in point: tonight, the Eagles are playing the New York Giants on Monday Night Football in an epic NFC East showdown. As part of my game day routine, I like to watch pump-up videos of my team and specifically revisit moments when my team beat the Giants. My favorite video to watch is of the Eagles amazing comeback over the Giants in 2010. It is colloquially known as the “Miracle at the New Meadowlands.”
For years, the best video on youtube of this was one that synced up the Fox video broadcast with audio of the Eagles radio broadcast, featuring the legendary voice of Merrill Reese. It is an incredible video to watch, but unfortunately, last year it was taken down for copyright violations. It really isn’t hard to see how this was unlicensed and unauthorized by Fox, the Eagles or the NFL, but regardless it was an amazing video to enjoy. I would literally get goose bumps watching it.
Thankfully, someone recently reposted it on a French video-streaming site called Daily Motion, where Eagles fans watch and enjoy the memories. That’s not because we are copyright pirates, but because it is the only place where we can relive the magic of that moment and share it with our children and friends. The video is a marketing tool that exposes people to the NFL and not an outlet to cheat the league.
On another note, the proliferation of unauthorized GIFs and Vines also have an additional benefit for the NFL. After reading all these in-depth analyses I am more likely to have an overly inflated confidence in my fantasy-football skills, making me a potential gambler (err, I mean, player) on FanDuel or DraftKings, which has a pretty lucrative deal with Roger Goodell… but that’s another story.
In the meantime, GO EAGLES!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Baseball’s ongoing debate concerning the propriety of exuberant behavior exhibited by players in the throes of celebration has been settled. The final verdict was rendered to thunderous applause by a post-homerun bat flip executed by Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista in the final game of the American League Divisional Series.
Of somewhat lesser note, that seventh inning three-run homerun also cemented his team’s lead and the ultimate series victory over the Texas Rangers.
The Internet’s consensus view of those who would cast a raised eyebrow toward Bautista’s flip is that they are enemies of fun and – in the same breath – should be scorned for wanting to see baseball played “the right way.”
But while the bat flip fans are wrong – bat flipping is no more a part of the actual game of baseball in North America than gratuitous celebration is a part of any sport, with the possible exception of professional wrestling – what’s made the public discourse surrounding bat flipping – an otherwise innocuous sporting absurdity – so heated is the way that it has been used by some as an analogy to a larger policy debate about racial politics and immigration.
In the broadest possible terms, bat-flip fans endeavoring to soak a sports debate in politics – for instance, the Huffington Posts of the world – seek to support not only the self-expression of the players who flip bats, but also the “passion” and “intensity” of the culture that has engendered their propensity to do so. They dismiss the mores of the existing baseball culture as stand-ins for invidious discrimination and believe that to suggest a player should “play the right way” is a racial dog-whistle.
This reading, an example of critical theory in action, adds controversy and acrimony at the expense of clarity by opting to apply a cultural lens to an action that is no more Latin American than hamburgers are American.
The era of bat-flipping in Major League Baseball was ushered in, according to Vice, by African-American shortstop Jimmy Rollins in 2001 (though, here’s an instance of Tom Lawless flipping off in 1987). Supposing Vice‘s exhaustive scientific research is correct, and in light of the fact that the percentage of Latin American players in the league that year was 26 percent, or only 1 percent lower than it was a decade later in the solidly bat-flip era of 2012, it becomes apparent that bat-flipping is a scourge correlated with no race.
Regardless of the way they supposedly play the game, when in the United States, Latin-American players have exhibited no predisposition to bat flip. Instead, it is a practice that has gained momentum by preying on a decidedly mutable characteristic – personality.
Nonetheless, the racial politics that have been foisted upon bat-flipping has cooled opposition to it for the simple reason that opposing it has become synonymous with prejudice. Hence, the debate over bat-flipping is over. Flipped bats are our future.
Yet, the foiled argument’s coda bears consideration. As unwritten rules and “playing the right way” are ushered out of sports, they will be replaced by formal proscriptive sportsmanship guidelines. Those measures, and not a quietly understood language of respect, will become the true enemies of expression in baseball.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Are lawyers the driving force behind artistic freedom? Astonishingly, that’s the impression you get when you read the Copyright Alliance’s account of a recent panel on music copyright hosted at George Mason University. To be clear, they note the importance of creators, in the sense that…
The following piece was co-authored by R Street Governance Director Kevin Kosar.
Autumn is shaping up to be a very trying time for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Highway funding and Federal Aviation Administration laws are set to expire. The federal government will hit its debt ceiling sometime in November, and the country will begin defaulting on payments owed if the limit is not raised. The divisive Trans-Pacific Partnership awaits final action. Oh, and the recently averted government shutdown will resurface in mid-December, unless the Kentucky senator can cut a deal with the House.
For sure, the new House leadership will have its hands full as well. But McConnell’s plight is especially unenviable. Unless he can stop the Senate from backsliding into gridlock, the leader may find himself and the Republican Party again relegated to the minority.
The year did not begin badly for McConnell. The Senate and House passed a budget resolution for the first time since 2003. The upper chamber showed uncharacteristic dispatch by passing a disapproval resolution (under the Congressional Review Act) in little over a month. The Bipartisan Policy Centerreported the McConnell Senate has worked more days than former Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate did. Senate committees also have readied more bills for votes.
Things look much less sunny now. Congress has an immense amount of work to complete on complex and divisive issues. The Senate’s fall calendar is tight, with many days lost to holidays and state work days (i.e., days senators spend back home pleasing constituents and raising money for reelection).
And there is this big problem: It’s becoming harder and harder for any majority leader to get bills passed in the Senate. As our new research study found, individual senators are tripping up legislation as a regular course of business.
They do this by offering amendments to legislation – lots of them. Twenty years ago, senators offered about 2,650 amendments in a two-year period. Last Congress, more than 4,100 amendments were offered. And as the chart below shows, each major (or “landmark”) bill is drawing more and more amendments.
For example, when McConnell tried to move the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act earlier this year, more than 300 amendments were offered. Allowing debate and votes on the all of them would have taken months. The majority leader was forced to spend considerable effort horse-trading and using various parliamentary tactics to make the amendments go away.
Why do senators do this? Because they can. Unlike the House, the Senate permits unlimited debate. The chamber also does not require amendments to be germane in most cases. A senator can offer a contentious amendment on abortion to, for example, a foreign policy bill. Time-sucking debate on the amendment continues unless or until the majority leader can muster sufficient votes to either stop the gabbing (invoking cloture) or kill the bill (tabling it).
Worse, individual senators frequently force votes on politically toxic amendments designed to make the other party look horrible to voters. Democrats queue up campaign finance reform amendments, and Republicans offer amendments to override Obama’s immigration order. These votes then are used in next season’s campaign ads.
The flood of divisive amendments, particularly from legislators in the minority, has made it unbelievably difficult for a majority leader to call up, amend and vote on a bill. If McConnell blocks amendments through parliamentary maneuvers, fellow senators take revenge by withholding their approval of bills. If he permits their amendments, the chamber grinds to a stop. Last Congress, then-Majority Leader Reid tried to deal with this mess by calling for votes on very few bills. He was trashed for running a do-nothing Senate and lost the chamber to Republicans.
This autumn, the partisan electoral calculations will grow even more intense. Democrats have every incentive to gum up the works, because 24 of the Republican Party’s 56 Senate seats are in play in 2016. If the Senate becomes a basket case, voters will likely punish Republicans at the ballot box next year. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin? It could happen.
Unfortunately, the problem of too many toxic amendments can only be solved by the Senate itself. The chamber could change its rules to require germaneness or adopt reforms that make it easier to choke off debate. But the Senate rarely changes its basic operating rules. So there is every reason to be glum about the prospects for good governance this fall.
Reviewing the third quarter presidential campaign filings, one finds that Donald Trump runs his presidential campaign much like he ran his casinos – in the red.
The Trump campaign ended the third quarter with $254,772.88 of cash on-hand, which is about 48 percent less than the $487,736.16 with which it started the quarter. Trump is therefore spending money at a faster clip than he’s raising it. Moreover, the campaign also has incurred more than $1.8 million of debts and obligations – no doubt, many of them to Trump himself (he’s billed the campaign $700,000 for the use of his jet). That leaves the campaign with negative cash, which should be a familiar position for the real estate magnate whose companies have declared bankruptcy four times.
What makes this particularly strange is that Trump has done relatively little actual campaigning. He’s gotten by thus far on an enormous amount of free media. He makes public appearances in large venues, but hasn’t done nearly the same amount of flesh pressing that the other candidates have. His campaign expenses thus should be fairly lean. Yet he’s burning through money at a fairly brisk rate.
That’s but one of the treasure trove of tidbits one can glean from the most recent filings, made available last night from the Federal Elections Commission. While most media reports focus on how much each candidate raised, the far more interesting question is how much each campaign has. By comparing the reported cash on-hand at the beginning and end of each quarter, you can see which candidates are making progress this early in the season, and which are fading into oblivion.
This bit of analysis excludes the campaigns of Chris Christie, John Kasich, Lawrence Lessig, Scott Walker and Jim Webb, all of whom filed disclosures for the first time and thus all of whom officially started the quarter at $0. It also excludes Lincoln Chafee, who has yet to file a disclosure for either the second or third quarter, and Jim Gilmore (as far as anyone can tell, he’s still in the race, despite little evidence to that effect), who hasn’t filed a third-quarter disclosure, but who had $3,545 at the end of the second quarter.
Looking at the gainers, it looks very much like the top of the polls, with the notable absence of Trump. The big winners in the third quarter were Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson, both of whom more than doubled their cash on-hand, and Carly Fiorina, whose campaign coffers swelled more than fivefold.
At the other end of the spectrum, we find the decliners – those who are spending money faster than they can raise it. Not surprisingly, topping the list is Rick Perry, who already has suspended his campaign. But just behind him is former New York Gov. George Pataki, whose campaign had less than $14,000 at the end of the third quarter and is thus, effectively, over. And then there are the campaigns of Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul and, yes, Donald Trump, whose cash on-hand each fell by roughly half over the course of the quarter.
When you then subtract the debts owed by these campaigns (in Santorum’s case, including debts incurred during his 2012 run, as both that and a separate 2016 campaign committee both remain active) you get a picture that looks like this:
Thus, we see that, in fact, George Pataki and Rick Santorum are already bust. But they are just a little in the red. The Donald is YOOOGELY in the red.
Looking just at campaign committee cash on-hand, the two Democratic front-runners are way on top in the money race, both with more than double the resources of the closest Republican, Ted Cruz. That lead changes significantly when we turn to the next bit of disclosure – the independent expenditure committees (aka “Super PACs“) that have been established to support specific candidate campaigns. Though Super PACs must be run independent of the formal campaigns, for a number of the candidates, they serve as the primary fundraising apparatus.
Through Oct. 15, here are the funds raised and expended by Super PACs devoted to declared candidates. Thus, we are excluding those that have been established either for potential candidates like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, or for those who already have dropped out, like Rick Perry and Scott Walker. There are no Super PACs identified as supporting Jim Webb, Lawrence Lessig or Lincoln Chafee.
You can see there that even the Trump Super PAC is in the red, spending more than $60,000, when it hasn’t actually raised any money to-date. This also is where the commanding fundraising lead of Jeb Bush becomes evident. Bush-aligned Super PACs have more cash at their disposal than those of the next 10 best-funded candidates (Cruz, Rubio, Clinton, Carson, Christie, Huckabee, Paul, Fiorina, Jindal and Graham) combined.
Putting it all together – which isn’t entirely fair, as the campaigns can’t draw directly from the Super PACs – the money race as of today looks something like this.
That’s right, when it comes to campaign cash, poll-leading billionaire Trump trails the likes of Lawrence Lessig and Jim Gilmore. Chew on that for a moment.
It should be noted that Trump obviously could alleviate these problems simply by writing a big check to the campaign himself. That he hasn’t thus far done that is telling. It suggests he’s still waiting to see how things progress. If they go badly, it’s certainly within character for him to walk away.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
“They’re using the standards to raise good little Soviets.” It might be hyperbole, but that’s the kind of thing that makes your ears perk up as a parent.
Over the last year or two, the state’s political dialogue has constantly focused on Alabama’s public education standards, and that’s not a bad conversation to have. Some suggest the standards are “developmentally inappropriate” while others highlight the standards’ benefit for college and workforce readiness.
I’m the proud father of three boys. My eldest is in first grade, and I’ve paid close attention to his education. I’ve written about my experience with Common Core-aligned math, but I’m also following his reading material closely.
Like many parents, I’m concerned with what my children are actually learning outside my home and whether that instruction is equipping them with the tools they need to have opportunities in the future.
When my son comes home from school, he usually has three books in a satchel for his reading homework. His teacher has asked parents to read 20 minutes a night with their child. It’s not always easy to find the time, but it’s a priority for us.
The books are short and pretty straightforward. If he does his reading homework for the week, he receives Smarties—amazing what you can get a six-year-old to do for candy.
What I’ve found so far has been particularly encouraging. If the Alabama State Department of Education is conspiring to raise the Iron Curtain, they have a funny way of showing it.
Already, I’ve come across two books advocating critical principles of work and the marketplace. The first was a book about sledding. Two kids want a new sled, but they realize they need to perform small jobs to earn the money to buy it. They work, get paid and buy the sled. My son lives in Alabama and has virtually no use for a sled, but I’m pretty sure he understood the point.
This week we read a book called “The Animal Painter.” The book was about an artist who sells her wares to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller. Again, the book reinforced market principles and the importance of work in a few short pages.
Some of the books are just fun. We read a story about a missing frog where the solution to finding said frog is cutting out a blue piece of paper that mimics a pond. I’ve captured many frogs in my life, but I apparently missed the memo on the fake water trick. While it seemed silly to me, the reading provided an opportunity for me to talk with my son about the best way to catch frogs. He’s using his mind; he’s thinking critically. I like that.
For all the negatives we hear about Alabama education, my initial experience is with the reading work is quite positive. I’m encouraged to see some of the lessons we’re teaching him at home being reinforced at school.
My family’s experience may not be the same for others around the state, but these are the types of conversations we need to be having. Our education choices and policies are critically related to the success of our state, but it’s often tough to find common ground precisely because the stakes are so high. For those of us willing to try, let’s highlight the successes and focus on improving the weaknesses. Our kids are worth it even if we don’t get a roll of Smarties for doing the work.
Ridesharing giant Uber returns to Florida’s second-largest county today after a two and one-half month hiatus. This development both appears to resolve the at-times nasty public battle over whether transportation network companies would be allowed to operate legally in Broward County and highlights why the Legislature needs to take up a statewide solution when it reconvenes next January.
Uber’s return comes in the wake of a 6-2 Oct. 13 vote by the Broward County Commission approving new rules for TNCs. The rules loosened significantly a number of onerous requirements that had forced the ridesharing service to pull out of Broward July 31. The final regulations allow TNCs to conduct their own third-party background checks, drop an earlier requirement that TNC drivers must submit to fingerprinting and would hold the services to state commercial insurance standards, rather than stricter standards that were proposed locally.
While 27 states have passed legislation to legalize and regulate ridesharing services, Florida remains the largest of the 23 states that have not. In the 2015 session, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, both introduced bills to clarify the insurance rules for TNCs. Grant’s bill also would have preempted city and county rules and reserved those powers to the state.
However, with the Legislature adjourning in June without taking action on those measures, the result has been a patchwork of local approaches. In Broward’s neighbor to the north — Palm Beach County, the state’s third-largest — a county commission vote on ridesharing rules that had been scheduled for late September was postponed indefinitely, with county commissioners saying they would wait until the state Legislature took up the issue in 2016.
In Hillsborough County – which includes Tampa and is the fourth-largest in the state – the Public Transportation Commission (created by the state Legislature and the only county agency of its sort in the state) has filed suits seeking to force Uber to cease-and-desist. However, in August, Circuit Judge Paul Huey denied the PTC’s request for an injunction, finding that it failed to meet its burden to show that Uber was violating the commission’s taxi regulations.
‘Because an Uber driver does not necessarily satisfy the definition of a ‘taxicab’ under the unambiguous language of the PTC’s ordinances, the Court declines to enter injunctive relief at this time,’ Huey wrote.
A separate suit pending before Huey asks that he declare the commission’s rules do apply to Uber. However, the PTC announced last week that it has halted all legal actions, as lawmakers and regulators look to broker a compromise. The commission also has agreed to stop ticketing Uber and Lyft drivers for violating local taxi regulations, a move that engendered significant anger from the taxi industry. More recently, the commission voted yesterday to cut permit fees for limos and taxis by 25 percent in 2016.
At the other end of the spectrum, and in a somewhat surprising move, Sarasota city commissioners earlier this month voted unanimously to scrap its existing taxi code altogether. Rules that for years had required drivers to get transport licenses, pass background checks and have their vehicles inspected were abolished.
There’s even signs the state’s largest county, Miami-Dade, may be leaning in that same direction. Mayor Carlos Giménez recently predicted the county would, by year’s end, wrap up work on a legislative framework that would legalize TNCs while deregulating taxis and compensating cab drivers for the lost value of the medallions that currently give them monopoly privileges in the market.
‘Demand is too great’ for the companies and their cellphone-based ride services, Giménez said. ‘You’re not going to put that genie back in the bottle.
‘I’m not going to drag Uber and Lyft back into the 20th century,’ he continued. ‘I think the taxi industry has to move into the 21st.’
There is no question that ridesharing has become a popular transportation option in Florida. Perhaps the best evidence for this are the very public attempts by the state’s two most high-profile political figures – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush – to associate themselves with the industry while out on the presidential campaign trail.
Brandes, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, has vowed to reintroduce his measure in the 2016 session, with provisions that also would abolish the Hillsborough PTC. The final text isn’t yet available, but that sounds like a major step in the right direction. Smart, sensible rules that address basic insurance and public safety concerns, but that don’t artificially set rates, constrain competition or create unreasonable barriers to entry, should be adopted statewide.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Rayburn HOB - 2103
From the Washington Free Beacon:
Lori Sanders, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute and herself a young mother, recalled working part-time at a children’s clothing store in college at age 20 to help support her son.
“It was very hard for our manager to dole out hours. We had a steep payroll cutoff and that was as many as we could have,” Sanders said. “And there were other single moms at the store as well, and so one of the things that is just a reality that the left doesn’t want to deal with is, when you talk about increasing the minimum wage, the number of those hours that are available goes down.”
“When you’re managing a work flow on a floor for a store with a set number of hours, the people that are going to be hurt are the ones who are inflexible, which are the ones who are probably single mothers.”
The U.S. House late last week voted to lift the politically contentious 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. This sends debate over to the Senate, which already has passed measures through two committees supporting an end to the export ban.
It also certainly put the White House on notice. President Barack Obama already has issued a veto threat. The administration maintains, “legislation to remove crude export restrictions is not needed at this time,” offering their explicit support for a policy that fails the public in so many ways.
It’s high time to lift the ban. Here are a few reasons why:
- The ban on exporting crude oil didn’t work. Congress initiated the ban on crude oil exports, along with a suite of other measures, as part of the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) that was intended to promote energy security in the wake of the debilitating Arab oil embargo. The policy was formulated on an odd assumption: that keeping crude oil at home would insulate the United States from future global oil-supply shocks. This worked for about a decade, until the share of imported oil began to skyrocket. Any supply restrictions or price increases internationally were directly reflected in the prices that Americans paid at the pump.
- The ban on exporting crude oil does not protect Americans. The crude export ban is odd in another way: once that oil is turned into a useful product, like gasoline or propane, it can be freely traded internationally. That means that crude oil prices reflect domestic supply and demand realities, while product prices reflect global supply and demand realities. Restricting the export of crude oil has no positive impact on pricing or fuel availability for Americans. In fact, exporting crude oil could, per the U.S. Department of Energy, “lower petroleum product prices for U.S. consumers.”
- The ban on exporting crude oil actually diminishes our energy independence. The oil boom overloaded domestic refining capacity and prices fell dramatically against international prices. In September 2011, domestic per-barrel prices were $29.59 below international levels, while gasoline prices stayed stuck at $3.66 per gallon. We had abundant supply, but very few customers. These artificially low prices forced oil producers to reign in production, research and investment in future innovation. The predictable result is an industry dedicated to trimming margins, not to pushing the boundaries of production techniques.
- The ban on exporting crude oil destroys wealth and jobs. Independent studies from NERA Economic Consulting, IHS Global, the Aspen Institute, the American Action Forum and others have found that lifting the ban would dramatically increase oil production, inject billions into the domestic economy and attract hundreds of thousands of new jobs across all regions. The estimated losses in productivity, wealth generation, the tax base and employment are staggering figures, and a helpful reminder that limits to free trade, however well-intentioned, stifle economic growth.
Innovations in oil development have produced an energy boom that’s upended global markets and turned the United States into the largest combined oil and gas producer on earth. This productivity has met resistance only through an archaic failure of energy policy. It’s high time to overturn the export ban and promote free trade and American energy independence.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
R Street Institute
1050 17th Street NW #1150
1050 17th Street NW #1150 - Washington
Events 38.9034083 -77.0388481
1050 17th Street NW #1150
District of Columbia
25 Massachusetts Ave NW
25 Massachusetts Ave NW - Washington
Events 38.8984564 -77.0103322
25 Massachusetts Ave NW
US Capitol Building
House Visitor Center Room 200