SIIA Digital Policy Roundup: House Pushing Forward on Patent Reform, Surveillance Reform Debate, Internet Begins Move, FCC Vacant Seats Filled

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House Pushing Forward on Patent Reform
One of SIIA’s top public policy priorities for 2013 has been to get meaningful patent litigation abuse legislation enacted. Throughout the year momentum has been building toward that goal, and last week House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) introduced the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309). The bill has broad bi-partisan support and a diverse list of organizations lined-up in support, includes groups representing restaurants, realtors, casinos, grocers, hotels and many others who have found themselves looking down the barrel of a patent infringement lawsuit brought by a Patent Assertion Entities (PAE), commonly referred to as patent trolls. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill Tuesday in which former PTO Director, David Kappos, and others testified, and the Committee is expected to markup up the bill in the near future, perhaps as early as next week.

Surveillance Reform Debate Boosted by Key Proposals
Yesterday, SIIA commended Sen. Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on introducing their USA FREEDOM Act, legislation focused largely on government collection of U.S. phone records and government’s broad collection of Internet data. Global trust in U.S. IT products is being eroded by revelations about U.S. intelligence programs and concerns about government access to privately held user data by U.S. companies. Therefore, SIIA continues to call for the U.S. government to make a greater commitment to transparency and oversight in balancing the deeply connected goals of improving economic and national security and preserving civil liberties. Also yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a private session to consider draft legislation on the topic, which reportedly would modify the NSA rules but ratify the core of its surveillance operations. While consideration of these and other legislative proposals are likely to continue in the weeks ahead, it’s likely that this issue will extend into 2014.

Internet Begins Move Beyond .com, .org and .gov
For the past several years there have been twenty-one generic top-level domain names (gTLDs). These names include the ones that most everyone is familiar with, like .com, .net, and .org and also those that people are less familiar with like .museum, .tel and .aero. As of last week all that changed when ICANN, the organization responsible for the Internet address system, added four new gTLDs. The addition of new gTLDs is part of a process put in place by ICANN several years ago to dramatically expand the number of gTLDs. The new gTLDs take advantage of ICANN’s new ability to extend beyond Latin character sets. The four new gTLDs are the Chinese word for game, the Arabic word for web, and the Russian words for online and site. The four new gTLDs will not go live until next month as trademark holders are given first bite of the apple to register addresses using their own trademarks before anyone else can. These are just the first four, users will see a host of new gTLDs in the near future — a total of 1,400 are presently planned. For more information on how to ensure your company is protected as ICANN moves forward see SIIA’s primer for members.

After 6 Months, FCC Vacant Seats Filled
Almost six months after Julius Genachowski stepped down as Chairman of the FCC, the Senate has confirmed Tom Wheeler as the Chairman and Michael O-Rielly as the new Republican commissioner. Once the panel is up to speed, it’s likely they will have a greater ability to press forward with key initiatives for SIIA members, such as the effort to review, modernize and enhance the E-rate program.

For the latest key policy developments affecting the software and digital content industries, subscribe to the Digital Policy Roundup Newsletter.

David David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.