Startup News Digest 5/03/19

The Big Story: Supreme Court debates hearing Google-Oracle case. The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the Trump administration for its opinion on whether it should hear the long-running Oracle v. Google copyright infringement case involving the Android operating system and access to software interfaces. The justices did not give the Justice Department a deadline to respond.

The case focuses on whether developers, like Google, can create new applications that rely on standard ways of accessing common functions across devices and programs. If the case ultimately goes in Oracle’s favor, it could chill future software development by limiting developers’ ability to create programs that can operate across multiple systems. Oracle first filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google in 2010. A jury cleared Google of infringement in 2016, but the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington overturned the decision last year after ruling that Google used Oracle’s software code in the Android operating system without proper authorization.

As Engine noted in an amicus brief in the case, interoperability is particularly important to startups because small businesses won’t invest in or create new products unless they are confident they will also work across dominant platforms. 

Policy Roundup: 

Join us this afternoon for our second "Nuts and Bolts of User Privacy" event. Engine and the Charles Koch Institute will be hosting a Hill panel today at noon to discuss the buzzwords of data privacy, including what it means to have data anonymized and aggregated, what privacy harms can arise from that kind of data, and what companies and policymakers can do to mitigate those harms. Learn more and RSVP here.

The final panel in our series will be on May 17 at noon. We will be discussing what has happened since the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation was implemented last year. Please stay tuned for further information about the panel!

We need your help to reinstate net neutrality. Last month, over 120 startups joined Engine in calling on the House to pass the Save the Internet Act, which would reinstate the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality protections. We're resending our letter with updated wording to Senate leadership, encouraging them to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. Your participation would go a long way in helping to convince the Senate to pass this much-needed bill. You can view the letter here and sign on here.  

Defining Harms Without Stifling Startups. Determining how to hold Internet platforms responsible for harmful content is one of the biggest issues facing regulators today. Engine Policy Director Rachel Wolbers explains why policymakers need to define digital harms without hurting startups.

Innovation thriving because of patent law developments. A new one-pager from Engine highlights how startup activity has thrived since passage of the 2011 America Invents Act and the 2014 Supreme Court Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision, with startup activity increasing by 194 percent since both developments. But even with the positive steps, startups and other companies continue to struggle with patent infringement-related concerns. Amazon even began testing a program that matches sellers claiming infringement and the accused merchants with third-party lawyers to settle disputes—potentially a faster alternative to traditional patent suits. 

 U.K. government wants tech to better censor harmful content. The United Kingdom is asking tech companies to censor harmful content around self-harm, suicide, and anti-vaccination posts.

Labor Department clarifies status of virtual marketplace workers. The U.S. Department of Labor said in a letter that workers who find clients through online platforms are independent contractors and are not considered employees of those companies under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Sri Lanka lifts social media ban. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena lifted the ban on several social media networks implemented in the wake of the Easter church and hotel bombings that killed over 250 people across the country.

White House seeks public input on AI standards. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is seeking public comment about ways to develop technical standards for artificial intelligence technology.

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere. Casper, Wyoming. When it comes to startups and small businesses across Wyoming, Jerad Stack wears a lot of hats--as an angel investor, startup founder, and ecosystem builder. As a member of the state’s ENDOW Executive Council, Jerad also has unique insights into efforts to attract and grow business opportunities across the state.