Startup News Digest: 2/26/2016

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. 

Apple and the FBI Continue to Clash over Encryption. The battle between Apple and the Justice Department intensified this week. Both Apple CEO Tim Cook and FBI Director James Comey called on Congress to settle the debate with legislative action. But with a gridlocked, divided Congress, it’s unlikely that legislators will provide answers anytime soon. So for now, the debate will continue to play out in the courts. On Thursday, Apple filed its formal response with the court, arguing that the government’s demands overstep the All Writs Act and violate the company’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter rallied around Apple, announcing that they’d file joint briefs with the court supporting the company’s position. Meanwhile, Apple hinted that it was working on security enhancements that will prevent even Apple itself from breaking encryption on devices in the future.

Google Fiber Expanding to Huntsville and San Francisco. Google Fiber announced this week that it is adding San Francisco, CA and Huntsville, AL to the growing list of cities where it provides gigabit service. But in a departure from its traditional approach of building networks from scratch, the company will utilize existing fiber networks to provide service in both cities. With thousands of miles of “dark fiber” networks going unused across the U.S., this type of public-private partnership “could serve as an effective, low-cost model for other cities seeking to increase broadband competition and provide next generation speeds to its citizens.” Read our full analysis of Google Fiber’s exciting new approach here.

Should Software be Protected by Copyright? The Copyright Office recently opened a public inquiry seeking commentary on the legal and policy challenges related to copyright’s application to software embedded in everyday products (such as tractors). Engine filed comments identifying the many challenges to startup innovation that arise from this application. Written by a team of legal students at Stanford Law School, the comments examine difficult questions surrounding the appropriate scope of software copyrights, focusing on how granting copyright protection to essentially functional code can hurt startup competition by undermining interoperability between platforms and services, and how limiting a user’s right to modify software in devices they own poses a range of threats to innovation and security.

African Americans in Tech Briefing on Hill. The Diversifying Tech Caucus, the bipartisan, bicameral caucus that Engine helped establish last year, held its first briefing of 2016 earlier this week. In a packed room of over 70 congressional staffers, a panel of tech workers, leaders, and entrepreneurs spoke about African American participation in the tech workforce. Read the highlights in our recap here.

ICYMI: SEC Offers Investors Guidance on Crowdfunding: Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission published its first Investor Bulletin “to educate investors about a new investment opportunity”—investment crowdfunding. The SEC explains who is eligible to buy stakes in crowdfunded companies (anyone, though there limitations based on an individual’s income and net worth) and what potential investors should keep in mind when pursuing these new investments.  With final rules for equity crowdfunding issued late last year, investment crowdfunding is scheduled to come online in May.

Happy Birthday, Net Neutrality. It has been exactly one year since the FCC approved its monumental Open Internet Order, keeping the Internet open for innovators across the U.S. Take a trip down memory lane and check out our statement from last February here.