HBO’s “Silicon Valley” has built a successful show satirizing the real Silicon Valley’s hubris and worst excesses. Many of the funniest moments follow the struggles of the protagonists with various venture capitalists who have invested in their business (Russ Hanneman anyone?). VCs – or “Angel Investors” – are the demigods of Silicon Valley. Their decisions can make or break companies. As such, they hold a special place in tech circles and their opinions are given a lot of deference.
It’s this VC worship that likely led Silicon Valley-backed intellectual property skeptic advocacy group Engine to commission a 2014 survey of investors (and law firms that advise them) concluding VCs may be less likely to invest in “digital content intermediaries” (firms like YouTube) if the company were exposed to legal risk for copyright infringing content on their sites.
The notion that investors account for legal liability as they choose their investments isn’t insightful or new. And the idea that a VC might choose not to invest in a new business built on facilitating access to unlicensed copyrighted content shouldn’t be either.
This “innovation at all costs” mentality, which seems to fuel the Engine report, reminded me of a 2013 Wired article discussing Silicon Valley’s “threadbare nature of digital exceptionalism.”
The undue emphasis placed on entrepreneurship, combined with a limited view of who “counts” as an entrepreneur, functions to exclude entire categories of people from ascending to the upper echelon of the industry. And the ideal of authenticity privileges a particular type of self-presentation that encourages people to strategically apply business logics to the way they see themselves and others.
Q. Why did you vote for Donald Trump instead of Ted Cruz?
A. The whole establishment is corrupt. The whole Republican Party is corrupt. I’m done with them. Donald Trump isn’t beholden to anybody—not the establishment, not the lobbyists, not the crony capitalists. He will look out for the people and do what’s right for America, not what’s right for Wall Street. He can do it all by himself.
Q. Why do you conclude the Republican Party is corrupt? They agree with you on almost every issue.
A. They said they were going to get rid of Obamacare but they didn’t. They said they were going to fix immigration but they didn’t. They let Obama get away with executive orders, and they didn’t investigate Benghazi or the IRS or Hillary’s email scandals. They signed a budget deal with Obama instead of cutting spending. They all suck.
A. Yeah, but what came of it? NOTHING! We voted them in and they didn’t get a thing done. I’m through with all of them. They betrayed us.
Q. You do understand that, to pass laws, House Republicans had to get the agreement of the Senate, which was in Democrat hands for the first part of the Obama administration, and of course they had to get Obama’s signature. You can’t change the law without getting the President’s signature. You know that, right?
A. They should have forced change from Congress. They should have shut the whole place down until the Senate and Obama were forced to overturn Obamacare, cut spending, and throw Hillary in jail. They should have refused to pass the spending bills and just shut the whole thing down until we got our way.
One argument against the FCC’s recently announced “AllVid” plan to regulate and “open up” the video set-top box is that set-top boxes are NOT a natural monopolistic platform that must be regulated by government in order to allow competition – in fact, set-top boxes are on the verge of being phased out and replaced by a variety of innovative new options. Apple TV, for instance, is an example of innovative new hardware for video access. But even a look at Apple TV lets you quickly see the real future of video access – apps. Put simply, in the normal course of innovation responding to consumer demands, set-top boxes are being replaced by apps on smart TVs, mobile and streaming devices. There may never be a better example of government regulation being behind the pace of innovation.
And today, Comcast announced its Xfinity Partners Program, which will allow Comcast customers to access their Xfinity content through a variety of devices and platforms using an Xfinity TV Partner app. Samsung and Roku have already joined the program, which means Comcast customers simply won’t need a set-top box if they own one of the new Samsung or Roku devices featuring the Xfinity TV app.
Seeing Comcast join the impressive number of over-the-top video providers who allow access to their content through apps demonstrates that the FCC’s AllVid rulemaking is not a response to a problem in the marketplace. The FCC has also done no economic analysis whatsoever to justify its scheme. Nevertheless, the FCC is pushing the Allvid scheme very aggressively with shortened timeframes for comments and public input. One has to wonder what, exactly, is the FCC trying to accomplish? And why the rush?
Meanwhile, industry continues at the speed of innovation while the FCC regulates looking backward. Read More >>
I've seen EFF doing this lately with the TPP bill. They've been using fear mongering to make people believe that they're seriously gonna go to prison for making a free mod for a game, or that it's gonna destroy the internet somehow. People are eating it up though.
Right on cue, the latest effort to invent controversy centers on a breathless EFF conspiracy theory – government lawyers have secretly expanded the scope of penalties for copyright infringement during a technical review of the TPP text by changing the word “paragraph” to the word “subparagraph” in a footnote.
To be fair, it is true that this change means the footnote only applies to one part of the paragraph, and that does actually make a difference. The paragraph at issue sets out rules for calculating and applying remedies for criminal theft of intellectual property, and the footnote allows countries to ignore those rules, except for more significant cases. The change means only the last part can be ignored (except for more significant cases), not the whole paragraph. Sensing an opportunity, the EFF pounces insisting there is “no rational basis” for the change. Let’s examine that.
The very first obligation in the paragraph — where the footnote no longer applies — is that the punishment should fit the crime. In the precise terms of the agreement, countries must provide “Penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistent with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity.” Now, if the footnote applied to this requirement, it would be saying that in lesser cases, the punishment doesn’t have to fit the crime and doesn’t have to provide a deterrent. Would that make any sense to you?
I’ve just discovered the International Authors Forum (IAF), and I’m in love.
For one thing, IAF features prominently on their website and in their materials the critical text of Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, which states:
Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
It drives the CopyLeft and Access to Knowledge folks crazy that the key international human rights document includes intellectual property rights as a basic human right. Yes it does. They try to reconstruct the sentence sometimes to make it sound like it means the opposite of how it is written, but they’re wrong.
Anyway, the International Authors Forum has a great document [PDF] on their website where authors from around the world including developing countries explain how expanding copyright exceptions and limitations would be harmful to their attempts to produce cultural products in their own markets. It’s worth your time. Read More >>
The Consumer Electronics Show, hosted by CTA, is appropriately lauded for being a showcase of technology and innovation. As they tout themselves, “For 50 years, CES has been the launch pad for new innovation and technology that has changed the world. Held in Las Vegas every year, it is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies and where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.”
This year the buzz around the show was even greater than usual, largely because of the promise of a connected life becoming real in so many ways—from cars, to wearables, to thermostats and home alarm systems. Sharper pictures, bendable screens, virtual reality and the reality that your “phone” is rapidly becoming your personal “smart hub” all fought for attention inside the show. But the most accessible innovation may have been happening off of the show floor.
This year Uber, the ride hailing app provider, was operating in Las Vegas during the show. The impact was obvious. The infamous hours-long taxi lines for those trying to leave the convention center were cut by half or more. This year show attendees were able to make productive use of their time instead of waiting thirty minutes or more for a cab from the hotel to the show. As a further customer service, Uber partnered with a Dallas start-up company, Vinli, to provide riders with a Wi-Fi connection while they rode. The entire experience of attending a trade show that attracts 180,000 visitors to Las Vegas changed for the better Read More >>
On Tuesday, February 9, IPI was pleased to host and co-sponsor with Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation a public forum on civil asset forfeiture. The two panels featured a spectacular array of experts, including elected officials and policy experts.
Video of the two panels is now available hosted on YouTube. Here are the links: Read More >>
We’ve often argued that a combination of government enforcement and private voluntary agreements is necessary to reduce illegal online theft of copyright materials [ex here and here]. Everyone in the online world has an interest in ensuring that a complete array of rich content is easily accessible online, but that requires a healthy Internet environment, which means the rule of law predictably applies in the online world as well as it does in the analog world. That the online community resists the idea that piracy is a “killer app,” either for Internet adoption or for selling advertising.
And it’s entirely consistent with America’s long tradition of civil society and free association for voluntary agreements among Internet players to be a big part in creating this healthy internet ecosystem. That’s why it’s been cheering to see several recent examples of voluntary agreements designed to reduce online piracy.
Last week Donuts—the world’s largest Internet domain name registry and the registrar of the new .MOVIE domain extension, announced that it has entered into an agreement with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Essentially, infringement notices from MPAA to Donuts will be treated with high priority, and MPAA’s notices will have a presumption of credibility, so long as MPAA provides sufficient information to Donuts. That information includes:
A statement that the MPAA is authorized by its members to submit the referral;
Detailed description of the clear and pervasive copyright infringement occurring on the domain (e.g., sample URLs, screen shots);
Non-exhaustive identification of the law(s) being violated and a description of why the copyright infringement violates the specified law(s);
Statement that, prior to sending the referral, the MPAA alerted or attempted to alert the registrar of record and hosting provider, including a description of the response received, if any, from registrar and hosting provider and an explanation of why such responses failed to mitigate the infringement;
Statement that the referral is submitted with a good faith belief that the information contained therein is true and accurate; and
Confirmation that the referral was subject to careful human review and not submitted solely based on automated Internet scanning or scraping services.
This is more than enough information to guard against the concerns of copyright critics that such takedown notices are sometimes used nefariously to suppress legitimate content.
IPI commends Donuts for its willingness to work cooperatively with content owners to reduce online piracy. We’ve not simply reproduced the entire agreement in this blog entry, but the agreement is a robust model for other registrars and operators to follow, and we hope further such voluntary agreements are in the offing. Read More >>
On February 10th the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released the fourth edition of its International IP Index. The Index is a mapping and ranking of the climate for IP-based innovation in the 38 economies around the world that account for nearly 85 percent of global GDP.
There is a ranking, of course, because people (and governments) like lists. And while the rankings easily lent themselves to highlighting on social media, the great value is the nation-specific discussion of changes in country policies that have improved their IP climate, and nation-specific discussion of gaps and areas for improvement. For instance:
Malaysia is noted for improvements in its IP climate, and its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will result in further improvement in its IP policies.
Israel’s 2014 patent reforms, including data protection for pharma-related clinical data and patent restoration for biopharma.
But several European countries, including Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Italy, are noted for lax efforts at combatting online piracy.
The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are noted for continuing to tie IP protection to concessions on market-access and for an overall policy of using weak IP protection as a means of trying to favor their own domestic interests.
Even the U.S. is faulted for weak enforcement against trade secrets theft.
One day soon the streetlight will do far more than simply hold back the darkness. AT&T envisions an entire smart city where such poles might alert citizens to danger, respond to gun shots by enabling all lights in the area to automatically turn on, or determine how to conserve energy and still be effective in providing all the light needed. During the AT&T Developers Summit, held immediately before the Consumer Electronics Show in January, a vision for smarter cities was revealed by AT&T and their partner companies. Their combined vision is the Smart Cities initiative. Read More >>
PTAB is the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which was created in the America Invents Act (AIA) patent reform bill in 2012. The idea was to find a quicker way to find and invalidate patents that should not have been issued.
The Redline case, like so many others, shows just how much of a wild west inter partes review is at the Patent Office. PTAB judges do not implement the rules and laws uniformly, and joke is being made out of due process. Why? Because these proceedings need to be completed within 12 months, so the PTAB cuts corners and simply doesn’t believe they can offer the process that patent owners, and increasingly petitioners, deserve. This is making post grant proceedings seem more like a kangaroo court or some hang ’em high court right out of a Clint Eastwood western.
Derek Scissors of AEI published a paper back in December containing his analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which at some point one assumes will be submitted to Congress by President Obama.
Scissors is a free-trader who recognizes the need for such agreements in the absence of an effective WTO trade liberalization process. Based on several of his written pieces, Scissors 1) thinks the TPP as negotiated is distinctly better than no TPP, 2) is disappointed that the U.S. didn’t work harder to get a better deal, 3) thinks we should still try to fix the TPP within the framework of the existing parties to the agreement and, if that doesn’t succeed 4) we should fix the TPP at the cost of dropping countries that refuse to go along with the proposed fixes.
If this cannot work, free traders should not abandon the TPP. The next step would be to shrink the number of participants in the first round.
Scissors recognizes that the business community is pretty solidly behind the TPP as an improvement the status quo.
Here at IPI, we’ll be writing a lot more on the TPP as the debate begins in earnest. But for now I wanted to highlight the fact that Scissors’ disappointment with the TPP do not stem from the most popularly criticized and controversial sections of the agreement, the intellectual property and agriculture sections. His chief criticisms are with the sections having to do with state-owned enterprises (SOE) and with the excessive number of exceptions that were granted to countries to simply not conform to the agreement in particular areas. It would have been far better to allow those countries longer phase-out times for those domestic considerations rather than simply granting them a carve-out from trade liberalization.
The strength of Scissors’ paper is how handily he rebuts the most commonly voiced arguments against the TPP. In particularly, as you might guess, I’m interested in his comments on the intellectual property section, which he grades at a B+. Read More >>