Startup News Digest: 3/24/17

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

Political Struggle Over the Copyright Office Continues. Following last year’s dramatic removal of Maria Pallante as Copyright Register, the struggle between Congressional leaders and the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, continues. Despite the fact that Hayden has been clear about her intention to appoint the new Register, (as current law grants her the authority to do), top Republicans and Democrats introduced legislation yesterday that would make the position President-appointed and Senate-confirmed. This shift comes at a time when stakeholders across the board are calling for modernization of the Copyright Office, especially the digitization of records in order to simplify the determination of copyright holders. Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees met with Hayden earlier this month in an attempt to hold off on her nomination, however she later wrote them to tell them she planned to move forward with the process in order to ensure an “efficient and effective Copyright Office to serve Congress and the wide variety of stakeholders.” We’re tracking.

Government Gains Access to Protesters’ Cell Data. According to court papers filed by the Justice Department on Wednesday, the government has found a way to extract data from more than 100 cell phones belonging to protesters arrested during the riots on Inauguration Day. The filing notes that “[a]ll of the rioter cellphones were locked,” and that law enforcement is “in the process of extracting information from the rioters’ cellphones pursuant to lawfully issued search warrants.” While it is not clear how the government has been able to access the data from these locked phones, law enforcement has numerous tools and partners at their disposal that can help to hack into locked or encrypted devices. The data from the phones will eventually be exported into a secure cloud-based platform to which the defendants’ lawyers will have access. However, we’ll have to wait until the trial starts to learn how the government broke into the phones, and even then, law enforcement may not reveal its tools and methods.

Lack of Diversity in Tech is Recognized by all but Tech Employees. While the lack of diversity in the tech sector has been addressed ad nauseum, it appears that tech employees have somehow missed the memo. In a recent survey, 94 percent of American tech workers gave the industry a passing grade on diversity. Despite the participants’ perception of a balanced workforce, 76 percent of technical jobs are held by men, with blacks and Latinos making up a mere 5 percent of all employees. In further diversity-related news, SmartAsset released its 2017 report on the best cities for women in tech this week. Washington, DC took the top spot for the third year in a row, edging out Kansas City, MO only narrowly. While women make more than their male counterparts in a few cities, the nationwide gender gap has actually grown in the tech sector over the past year by around 2 percent. Interestingly, the cities in which the pay gap was the smallest or non-existent are all in the midwest, further indicating that investing in Middle America may pay dividends.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Lisa Garner in Jackson, TN. West Tennessee may not be the first place that comes to mind when asked to envision a startup community, but Jackson, TN is working hard to be a place where startups can grow and thrive. This week, we chatted with Lisa Garner, Executive Director at theCO and founder of Garner Blue, about how the small size of Jackson’s ecosystem is one of its strengths: “One of the best things about being an entrepreneur in Jackson is that the barrier to entry is pretty low. You could sit down with the mayor or have lunch with some of the key players in our community...In Jackson there is a lot of room for companies to grow and the community has their back.”  Read the full profile here.

Join Us in DC NEXT TUESDAY at Noon to discuss the findings of an upcoming paper on copyright filtering technologies from Engine's Evan Engstrom and Princeton University's Nick Feamster. We'll analyze how content filtering tools operate and how they impact the broader internet ecosystem. The discussion will also examine how various actions by policymakers to mitigate copyright infringement could affect startup productivity and creative production. Lunch from Taylor Gourmet will be provided. Learn more here.

Miss Our Event on Startups Innovating with Big Data? Earlier this month, Engine held its first briefing of the year: a conversation around the ways that startups are harnessing big data to drive innovation and develop targeted solutions for some of society’s greatest challenges (hosted in conjunction with the publication of our report on the same topic). The event was headlined by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who were joined by a distinguished panel of startup leaders and policy analysts. Engine Program Manager, Monica Laufer, recaps the event in a blog post this week. Check it out here.