Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. To receive this weekly digest in your inbox, sign up at http://engine.is/digest.
Join Us in Pushing Back Against the EC’s Copyright Proposal. Earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) published a dangerous copyright reform proposal that would require online portals to implement filtering technologies to proactively police their users’ conduct. If adopted, this proposal would have a devastating impact: raising the cost of operating an online platform startup to untenable levels, diminishing investment capital for new companies, and threatening to bankrupt existing portals. In an attempt to fight back against the EC’s proposal, Engine has drafted a startup sign-on letter to USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the State Department, urging leaders at those agencies to engage with the EU to push back against this new copyright regime on behalf of America’s startups. If your startup is interested in joining the letter, please email Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Judiciary Signals It Will Review Copyright Law in 2017. In other copyright news, on Thursday morning the House Judiciary Committee announced the first in a series of copyright policy proposals for next Congress, signaling the beginning of a broader review of copyright law. Included in the proposals is a call for a more autonomous Copyright Office, a popular topic of discussion since the removal of Maria Pallante from the position of Register in October. While many stakeholders commended Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Conyers (D-MI) on their commitment to bringing the Copyright Office into the digital age, there was substantial skepticism surrounding some of the proposals, especially the creation of a small claims process for copyright holders, which could end up creating a new tool for unscrupulous copyright litigants to abuse. The Committee established that the “proposals are not meant to be the final word on reform...but rather a starting point for further discussion by all stakeholders.” The Committee will be accepting comments from interested stakeholders until January 31, 2017. We’re tracking.
Expanding Access to CS Education. In a modern economy where demand for skilled technology workers is increasing every day, improving the talent pipeline through quality K-12 computer science education is more important than ever. However, computer science is available in just 40 percent of schools and only 32 states allow the subject to count as a graduation requirement. In conjunction with Computer Science Education Week, an initiative that aims to get kids excited about computer science, Emma takes a look at some of the actions policymakers can be taking to make quality CS education more accessible to a wider range of students. Highlights include increasing the availability of CS courses, allowing those courses to count as a math or science graduation requirement, and improving access to quality teacher training. Check out the full post here.
The Supreme Court Sets a New Patent Precedent. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced a victory for Samsung in its design patent case against Apple. The ruling, which represents a win for the startup community, sets a new precedent for how design patent damages may be calculated and awarded. Previously, Samsung had been ordered to pay Apple the entire profits for the phones utilizing the design in question—nearly $400 million. But in the unanimous ruling, the court held that an award for design patent infringement does not necessarily allow the patent holder to obtain damages equivalent to the total profits of a product in which the patented design is used. Instead, courts can award damages for particular components. Following the Court’s announcement, Engine’s Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, welcomed the outcome, noting that “this ruling brings design patent law into the 21st century and will help to ensure that America’s intellectual property system inspires, rather than stifles, innovation.”
Policymakers Hold Hearing to Consider AT&T-Time Warner Merger. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel held a hearing to discuss the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which was originally announced in October. Democrats on the panel expressed skepticism over AT&T’s claims that the merger would result in lower prices for consumers or that it would not give AT&T significant leverage over their competitors. Some Republicans on the panel, namely Senator Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Perdue (R-GA), seemed more supportive, defending the merger as “nothing new” and “capitalism.” In addition to drawing criticism from Members of Congress, the merger has also failed to gain the public support of President-elect Donald Trump, who said on the campaign trail that he would block it. The hearing is only the first hurdle for the merger on its long road to approval. It remains to be seen how the Department of Justice, and possibly the FCC, will respond.
Capital Access Package Passes House. There’s a chance that startups may get a gift from Congress this holiday season. On Monday, the House passed a package of bills aimed at increasing capital access opportunities for entrepreneurs by a vote of 391-2. The package included six provisions, some of which had previously passed the Chamber with bipartisan support, including the Fix Crowdfunding Act and the Supporting America's Innovators Act. Of particular note was the inclusion of the Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act, which would expand the definition of an accredited investor to include investors who may not meet the income or net-worth thresholds but have education or experience related to a particular investment or hold a securities-related license. Engine has advocated for similar sophistication measures in the past. While there is no guarantee that the Senate will bring up the package for a vote before year’s end, we remain hopeful.
AI XPRIZE Team Registration Deadline Approaching. Do you want to change the world? The IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence XPRIZE is waiting for you. From revolutionizing healthcare to changing how children are taught, the possibilities are endless. Teams have the chance to define their own goals and projects, and will go head-to-head competing for a $5 million grand prize. The registration deadline to register as a team is January 19, 2017. More details can be found at ai.xprize.org.