Startup News Digest 9/13/19

The Big Story: CASE Act exacerbates existing copyright problems. Legislation that could make copyright law more confusing and easy to misuse is making its way through the House. The House Judiciary Committee held a markup on Tuesday of the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019,” or the “CASE Act.” As Engine IP Counsel Abby Rives explained in a recent InsideSources op-ed, the CASE Act—which passed committee on a voice vote—would “exacerbate existing problems in copyright enforcement and cause new ones.”

 As Abby explained, the legislation would create "a Copyright Claims Board within the U.S. Copyright Office that would hear 'small-claim' copyright infringement cases." But the new board would lack several crucial protections found in traditional courts and would not have to follow its own precedent or apply a consistent interpretation of copyright law. The board's decisions—which could include damages up to $30,000 per case—would also not be subject to appeal.

The greater risk and uncertainty that would result from the bill's passage would have an outsized impact on startups and their users, many of whom won't know to or know how to defend against an infringement claim when their use of copyrighted material should be protected by fair use. Engine remains concerned that the bill would magnify uncertainty in existing copyright law and would "incentivize bad faith copyright infringement claims and create potential traps for startups and their users."

The Nuts and Bolts of Encryption. Please join Engine and the Charles Koch Institute on Friday, September 20th at noon for the first panel in our three-part series on the nuts and bolts of encryption. We'll be discussing what encryption is, how it works, and the various ways that it's used every day. Learn more and RSVP here.

Policy Roundup:

Improving the accuracy of broadband mapping data. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the need for more accurate broadband mapping data. 

Lawmakers continuing to focus on content moderation practices. The hotel industry is pressing lawmakers to support legislation that would strip online rental platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway of Section 230 liability protections if they allow any postings for short-term rentals that violate state or local ordinance on their sites. The Senate Commerce Committee is also planning to hold a hearing next week with executives from major tech companies to “examine the proliferation of extremism online and explore the effectiveness of industry efforts to remove violent content from online platforms.”

Concerns with the STRONGER Patents Act. Engine joined over 80 U.S. businesses in a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that expressed serious concerns that the STRONGER Patents Act—discussed during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Wednesday—"would significantly weaken the U.S. patent system to the detriment of American businesses."

Business community wants a federal data privacy framework. The Business Roundtable sent a letter to lawmakers this week calling on Congress to pass user privacy legislation that would preempt state laws. The letter was signed by 51 CEOs from major U.S. companies. As Engine said in a recent report written with the Charles Koch Institute, a patchwork of state laws would make it difficult for companies to operate across the entire United States. 

EU antitrust chief to stay on for second term. Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief who is known for her oversight of U.S. tech companies including in the areas of data, competition, business, and tax practices, has received another five-year term.

Antitrust probes of tech industry. The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly been focusing on specific types of business conduct and harms in its continuing antitrust probe of large tech companies, potentially signaling a move towards eventual enforcement actions. As we explained earlier this week, lawmakers and officials investigating “big tech dominance” need to ensure that the startup community’s perspective is also taken into account.

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere. Indianapolis, Indiana. The Speak Easy, a non-profit coworking space in Indianapolis, serves as a successful hub of entrepreneurial activity in the Midwest. Hosting startups and businesses from a variety of industries, The Speak Easy provides a setting for entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate with one another.