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US trade agency isn't allowed to block overseas internet data


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If you've followed the smartphone patent wars, you know that the US International Trade Commission is a force to be reckoned with -- copy someone's product and you could face a sales ban. Its authority apparently doesn't extend into the digital realm, however. An appeals court has ruled that the ITC can't block internet transmissions from other countries when it hands down a ruling. The court argued that there's a "fundamental difference" between data and material goods, and that the ITC's authority only covers physical objects.

The ruling is going to please ClearConnect, which faced a ban after Align Technology (of InvisAlign fame) tried to block it from sending digital models for braces. The impact of this case might go much further, though. The music and movie industries saw ITC digital bans as a way to fight piracy -- they could simply ask the Commission to block an offending site. They won't have that shortcut, then. At the same time, this is good news for internet companies and civil liberties groups worried that the ITC would get censorship powers. Either way, companies embroiled in data disputes will have to go elsewhere to get a solution.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

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