May 10, 2018 |

From Player Pianos to Paper Notices: A Modern Update to Music Licensing Is Long Overdue

Originally Appeared: Billboard on May 10, 2018

Rarely does a century-old musical instrument drive policy in Washington, but that’s exactly what’s happening in the music community at this moment. Everyone from Internet Association (IA) members to artists to record labels are supporting a new piece of legislation called the Music Modernization Act (MMA), that will help bring music licensing into the digital age. The bill passed the U.S. House unanimously recently and now heads to the Senate.

So what’s the driving force behind this new bill? Player pianos. We’re not kidding.

Read The Full Article on Billboard →

May 10, 2018 |

Why Car Sharing Is Good For California Motorists

Originally Appeared: The Sacramento Bee on May 10, 2018

Cars are expensive to buy and maintain, and 95 percent of the time they sit unused. Fortunately for Californians, state lawmakers have the opportunity to make car ownership more affordable and practical.

Assembly Bill 2873 would support internet-enabled car sharing, which connects vehicle owners with consumers and travelers. These legislative efforts have been stalled by rental car companies, which want to preserve the status quo and prevent competition (“Don’t let startups play by own rules,” Viewpoints, April 23).

Californians have shared their personal cars nearly 74,000 times through the Turo service. Nearly half of Turo users joined to increase their mobility, while another 20 percent joined to earn money; the average user earns $539 a month by renting their vehicle for just 10 days.

Read The Full Article on The Sacramento Bee →

May 9, 2018 |

Internet-Enabled Services Create Opportunity For Brooklyn Communities And Small Businesses

Originally Appeared: Bklyner on May 9, 2018

The internet is about opportunity. Its evolution continues to open doors for students to further their education, for communities to exchange ideas, and for small businesses to leverage tools that help them market their products and engage consumers. In places like Brooklyn, one of the most diverse communities in America, the growth of the internet fosters economic opportunity, cultural inclusion, and community building.

Internet-enabled innovation expands the possibilities for local businesses and other organizations to thrive in an increasingly global and digital world. A recent visit to local businesses and community organizations on our “Internet Community Crawl” highlighted the immense value internet-enabled services provide New Yorkers in the City’s most populated borough.

On the crawl, we heard from Brooklynites at Domo Taco, viBe Theater Experience, and Berg’n beer hall, each of whom highlighted the critical role the internet has played in growing their organizations and making a difference in the community.

Read The Full Article on Bklyner →

May 7, 2018 |

Regulation Won’t Help Internet Free Speech

Originally Appeared: The Wall Street Journal on May 7, 2018

Mark Epstein’s “How To Keep Online Speech Free” (op-ed, April 30) highlights many of the tensions internet companies face in balancing the demands of creating safe online communities and protecting their users’ constitutional rights. What one person may consider abusive or hateful content could be speech protected under the First Amendment.

All the while tech companies are stuck in the middle and use a mix of artificial intelligence and human review to get it right. Tech companies are expected, fairly, to police a lot of content and, unfairly, to be perfect at it in the eyes of all audiences. Tech companies want to get it right and that’s why they’re taking additional steps to be transparent about the guidelines, community standards and enforcement policies they consider when the public asks for content to be removed or left untouched. These are admittedly tough decisions that sometimes vary based on the social norms in any community or given country.

Read The Full Article on The Wall Street Journal →

November 7, 2017 |

Barriers to digital trade threaten U.S. internet’s success abroad

IA recently completed its yearly assessment of barriers to digital trade that American exporters face around the globe. In comments to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), IA identified over 100 government measures in more than 40 foreign markets that are limiting, restricting, or outright blocking American internet-enabled exporters. Barriers to digital trade – including data flow restrictions, unbalanced copyright and liability regimes, restrictive regulation of online services, and a number of new emerging problematic foreign measures – continue to threaten American leadership on digital trade and the enormous potential of the digital economy.

The internet sector is a key driver of the U.S. economy, with internet industries representing an estimated 6 percent of U.S. GDP, totaling nearly $1 trillion. The industry now accounts for more than 10.4 million American jobs, 86 percent of which are outside major tech hubs. U.S. industries – small and large – once locked out of trade, are using internet-enabled tools to reach foreign markets and customers in ways never imagined, even a decade ago.

Yet as the internet becomes ubiquitous to trade, many countries are now taking starkly different approaches to the laws and regulations that affect the internet, creating conflict with the U.S. legal frameworks that have allowed digital trade to thrive. In just three years, there has been a significant drop-off in the number of the world’s top internet companies that are based in the U.S. To maintain U.S. leadership, IA encourages USTR to redouble efforts to preserve and expand the internet’s role as a key driver of U.S. exports, job creation, and economic development by making digital trade a top priority in the 2018 National Trade Estimate Report.

In this year’s comments, IA identified barriers to digital trade in key markets – from unbalanced copyright and liability regimes in the EU (including Spain, Germany, and France), Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, and Ukraine to restrictions on U.S. cloud services providers in China, to regulations on so-called “over-the-top” (OTT) services in Brazil, Colombia, the EU, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. IA also highlighted a number of emerging measures governments are proposing such as local presence and/or partnership requirements and forced transfers of technology, encryption keys, source code, and algorithms that continue to act as burdensome market access barriers. These barriers often play a direct role in how IA members decide to expand in foreign markets, pursue new customers, expand operations, and decide to monetize products and services. In some cases, due to these barriers, companies have been forced to abandon key foreign market all together.

In addition to engaging directly with our trading partners on these barriers, IA believes USTR should use ongoing and future trade negotiations to fight for a clear set of rules for how governments treat digital trade. For example, updating NAFTA represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to both establish common rules for the North American market and set the precedent for future U.S. trade agreements. With this in mind, IA strongly urges USTR to prioritize digital trade in NAFTA modernization talks by seeking strong commitments on data flows and restrictions on server localization; intermediary liability protections; customs modernization; and balanced copyright – including copyright safe harbors and limitations and exceptions for the digital environment – that reflect U.S. law. IA believes an updated NAFTA must benefit all U.S. stakeholders, not just some at the expense of others.

IA looks forward to working with USTR in the coming year to continue addressing foreign barriers to digital trade.

October 19, 2017 |

Internet Association Applauds Signing of California State Senator Bradford’s SB 182, Which Helps Ridesharing Drivers By Easing Administrative Burdens and Protecting Their Privacy

On October 13, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 182, a bill which marks a big step forward for ridesharing in California. SB 182 will ease administrative and financial burdens on transportation network company (TNC) drivers by allowing them to obtain only a single business license in order to operate in the entire state.

California’s current business licensure requirements do not meet today’s reality of internet-enabled ridesharing. Drivers for TNC platforms are inherently mobile and often cross through multiple municipal jurisdictions when picking up and dropping off riders. As a result, drivers unknowingly may have been subject to different business licenses, fees, and requirements as they drive through multiple cities. These licensing laws did not anticipate the advent of internet-enabled ridesharing and have created serious compliance burdens for Californians who are using these platforms to help make ends meet.

SB 182 provides the solution by allowing TNC drivers to obtain a single business license where they are domiciled in order to operate in California.

SB 182 also protects the privacy of drivers by preventing the personal information they’ve submitted to a local jurisdiction to get a business license from being disclosed on a public website. Combined, these changes will help modernize the state’s business license laws to meet the realities of the digital age and protect workers in the 21st Century workforce.

Internet-enabled ridesharing has made transportation more affordable, convenient, and accessible than ever before. SB 182’s updates to existing business license requirements will ensure that outdated business license laws do not put this important economic lifeline at risk for drivers throughout California.

Internet Association was pleased to sponsor SB 182 and sincerely thanks Senator Steven Bradford for his great leadership throughout the legislative process and Governor Jerry Brown for approving the measure.

October 6, 2017 |

Cloud First Must Be More Than A Slogan

Internet Association believes in the power of cloud computing to improve government processes and maximize the impact of each taxpayer dollar. IA is proud to represent world-class cloud providers with a relentless focus on helping federal, state, and local governments do just that. That’s why it was disappointing to see the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issue a Request for Information that failed to even acknowledge the possibility of a cloud-first approach.

Since 2011, the Cloud First policy for government procurement has directed U.S. agencies to prioritize secure cloud solutions when making new investments. This mandate reflects the fact that leading cloud providers offer best-in-class capabilities for achieving not only cost savings and efficiency gains, but real security advantages. It is therefore no surprise that Congress doubled down on the cloud push with 2014 legislation, or that the current administration is embracing public cloud services as it pursues urgent cybersecurity goals.

But cloud adoption still lags across federal departments and independent agencies. While this transition may at one time have seemed daunting, today it is clear that the true costs and risks lay in failing to move forward.

Public cloud solutions from federally-certified providers enable agencies to focus on their missions even as they improve asset utilization, consolidate duplicative systems, and gain speed and agility in provisioning IT resources. They allow agencies to benefit from private sector innovation while removing barriers to their own experimentation and erasing constraints around limited or inflexible technical capacity. And this typically occurs as costs fall, a key objective given growing public dismay that too much of the federal government’s $80 billion-plus IT budget is spent simply maintaining obsolete systems.

Today it is well understood that leading cloud providers offer superior built-in compliance and audit controls, continuous security upgrades, and a wealth of industry-recognized certifications. The size and scale of these vendors also ensures constant security innovation and protection against attacks that would cripple a smaller network of data centers.

Both public and private entities like the CIA and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have turned to commercial cloud providers for this very reason. FINRA, a private body protecting investors from fraud and other wrongdoing in the securities industry, relies on these tools to securely process 37 billion records each day. FINRA’s move is part of a wider push into the cloud by the financial services industry and its overseers. These groups often manage vast quantities of sensitive information and come under frequent cyber-attack. Rather than go it alone, they have endorsed the security and operational gains offered by public cloud options.

Federal agencies managing similar data sets ought to take note. As they plan their own cloud transitions and structure solicitations, these bodies must also favor outcomes-based targets over needlessly prescriptive dictates. Government clients should always request adequate documentation and be able to structure cloud-hosted applications and data based on their unique risk management priorities. But dictating technical procedures from the start prevents industry from achieving the desired ends through proven best practices.

As expectations rise and budgets shrink, agencies can no longer afford to simply default to yesterday’s technology. Public cloud solutions offer a compelling answer. Those planning IT expansions owe it to their internal stakeholders and to the taxpayer to closely consider them.

September 20, 2017 |

SESTA Hearing Highlighted By Willingness To Find Compromise

“At Internet Association, we stand behind the goals of SESTA [the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017]. We want to see an end to sex trafficking online.”

That quote, given as testimony by IA’s own Abigail Slater during yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing, reflects our collective commitment to end online sex trafficking.

Fortunately, yesterday’s hearing showed positive signs of things to come, with both lawmakers and industry actors indicating they are open to compromise in order to achieve the mutual goal of ending child sex trafficking. It is essential that any bill allows Internet Association members to continue their significant efforts with law enforcement, anti-trafficking groups, and victims to confront this problem without unforeseen new liability.

IA reaffirmed in testimony yesterday its commitment to working with the Senate Commerce Committee, sponsors of the bill, and individual Members on how we can improve language in SESTA. We also stand ready to support legislation to make it easier for victims of these crimes to seek justice and hold perpetrators accountable in criminal and civil court.

The internet industry is not alone in looking for solutions that can improve SESTA. In fact, a bipartisan group of key Senate Commerce Committee Members used yesterday’s hearing to call for compromise on SESTA. Lawmakers, including Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) highlighted the need for the legislation to achieve its desired effects while avoiding unintended consequences that would make solving the problem harder.

The internet industry stands ready to support a SESTA compromise that enables the crucial and ongoing fight against sex trafficking online. Internet Association looks forward to our continued engagement with lawmakers on this critical issue as we find ways in which all well-intentioned parties can agree on the details of legislation.

September 19, 2017 |

Working Together to Combat Sex Trafficking

Today, Internet Association will testify before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on an critical issue to our nation: the effort to combat sex trafficking.

Internet Association member companies are 100 percent committed to the fight against sex trafficking. Criminal actors like Backpage.com must be fully and quickly brought to justice for their horrific crimes.

IA supports the goals of Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (S. 1693). The internet industry is actively working with the Senate on amendments that will ensure justice while also allowing the good actors IA represents to continue their efforts with law enforcement and NGOs to stop sex trafficking online. This can include targeted amendments to SESTA that allow victims to seek justice against perpetrators and bad actors that knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.

Legitimate internet companies are partners in the fight to combat sex trafficking. Technology is part of the solution to this problem, and our members have a long track record of working with law enforcement, anti-trafficking groups, and victims to stop illegal activity. Some examples of how we work together are provided in our testimony, and represent only a small snapshot of our companies’ work, which includes:

  • Robust community guidelines, internal policies, and proactive enforcement practices to remove content that promotes sex trafficking;
  • Working with law enforcement in all 50 states to actively take down illegal content and bring offenders to justice; and
  • Partnering with non-governmental organizations to help combat sex trafficking.

These efforts harness both significant financial resources from IA members and their engineering talent to help develop technological tools used to combat this heinous crime. For instance, the Spotlight tool developed by Thorn with support from several IA member companies. Spotlight is a web-based application used to detect and help rescue victims of sex trafficking. Today, Spotlight is used by 4,000 law enforcement officers at over 700 agencies nationwide. More importantly, it has been used to identify over 2,000 perpetrators of sex trafficking.

The internet industry remains committed to the fight to end human trafficking. We do not have to choose between justice against Backpage.com and protecting legitimate online services. This is not a binary choice.

There is also no single solution to this terrible problem. The fight against trafficking requires a multipronged approach and a committed partnership between the government and private sector to succeed. We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to improve SESTA to ensure victims get justice and we can ensure there are no future victims.

 

July 17, 2017 | ,

Virtuous Circle on the Hill Recap

Internet Association President & CEO Michael Beckerman welcomed guests to the VC on the Hill conference, highlighting the ties between IA’s annual Virtuous Circle event in California and the day’s event in DC to bring together thought leaders on innovation policy.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) gave a keynote address emphasizing the ongoing importance of net neutrality rules for online platforms. Congresswoman Eshoo also emphasized the need to ensure digital issues remain bipartisan issues, and recognized the ongoing need for more high skilled immigration to ensure the best and brightest remain in the US.

Senator Ron Wyden delivered a keynote address on the state of digital trade, calling for an updated NAFTA framework that includes key provisions for the digital economy, including modern customs rules, balanced IP framework, and intermediary liability protections modeled after Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

A panel of IA companies, including Etsy, eBay, Google, and Amazon, discussed opportunities for new digital trade provisions in the upcoming NAFTA negotiation. Etsy, Amazon and eBay highlighted the need for small sellers to be able to cross borders without onerous customs provisions, and all companies emphasized the need for the free flow of data and balanced IP.

Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) discussed the importance of the internet to businesses nationwide, highlighting her focus on broadband access as a new member of the Senate Commerce Committee as well as the Capito Connect Initiative in her home state.

IA Chief Economist Christopher Hooton presented the findings of a new report from NERA on the economic value of the U.S. safe harbors, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the Copyright Act. A panel of experts from R Street, Engine, FreedomWorks, and the Center for Democracy and Technology discussed the ongoing need for both safe harbors to remain robust for the promotion of innovation and creativity. The panel agreed that US leadership in this area was critical for both free speech and startup growth, and agreed that even attempted to “narrowly” amend the laws would undermine positive growth for the online ecosystem.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) discussed the ongoing need to innovate here in the US and around the world, advocating for free trade agreements and a strong commitment to free market development of new idea and technologies.

Online sellers and micro businesses held a luncheon discussion about the ability to engage in the flexible economy through online platforms. Participants highlighted that opportunities provided by the gig economy allowed them to supplement earning potential with the freedom to chose their own hours according to individual needs, and the ease of entering into these new ventures was a key driver of their success.

IA Senior Vice President Gina Woodworth led a fireside chat with Matt Lira, Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy and Initiatives. Matt highlighted that the White House’s tech week in June was the start of a continuing dialogue over how to modernize government and harness the power of technology to improve operations. Matt also emphasized the importance of an inclusive and robust conversation with thought leaders and technologists to achieve shared goals across the political spectrum.

 

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IA Director of Trade Policy Jordan Haas issued the following statement on news from USTR that negotiators are not close to a deal on NAFTA.

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