Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 28

UPDATE: The March 29 hearing on cyber attacks has been postponed. No new date has been scheduled.

March 29

Hearing:

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the economic impacts of cyber attacks.
2:30 p.m., 253 Dirksen Building

March 30

Hearing:

The Subcommittee in Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the America Invents Act (this year’s effort at patent reform legislation).
1:30 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

Google Books Settlement Remains Unsettled

The ongoing saga of the Google Books case will continue, according to a recent opinion from the judge overseeing the negotiated settlement. Google Books prompted a 2005 suit for copyright infringement because the service offered snippets of copyrighted material for viewing free-of-charge. The parties in the class action suit have been wrestling over a settlement since 2008. The most recent version of the settlement would, among other things, set up a registry for so-called orphan works (items still in copyright, but without an identifiable rights holder) and allow Google to make more of the copyrighted works it has scanned available for view and possibly for printing. Rights holders would receive some compensation for this permission and associated sales, but Google would retain exclusive access rights to a large number of books (though libraries and universities would be able to purchase subscriptions).

There are several concerns about the settlement, including the status of international rights holders (the matter is a U.S. court case), and possible privacy infringements for those who browse Google Books. But the focus of this week’s opinion was on two areas: the copyright for orphan works and antitrust concerns. Each of those two areas relates to another concern – that the proposed settlement goes beyond addressing the harms that brought the suit about in the first place. The arrangements to handle distribution and copyright claims for orphan works are better suited for Congress to decide than the courts, and the initial case was limited to the showing of snippets of copyrighted material, not of whole works of copyrighted material.

As envisioned in the settlement, it would be possible for a copyright owner to lose their rights because they do not opt out of the agreement. This is a noted break with past practice with respect to copyright owners, who are generally considered to have the right to do (or not) what they wish with respect to their works, and other parties seeking to use the work have the responsibility to obtain rights to it. Because orphan works are a significant portion of the works at issue in this case, it would be possible for someone who owns the copyright to a work to have it used by Google not only without their consent but without their knowledge.

From the antitrust perspective, because Google is the only private entity engaged in the scanning of large amounts of copyrighted material (especially orphan works), they would have significant advantages in the markets for these works and for indexes to this work. Third parties can access, index, and display snippets of material Google has, but only if they have entered into agreements with Google. Part of the advantage to Google in market dominance comes from the shifts in copyright burden from third parties to copyright holders.

The court has kept open the possibility of another revised settlement, encouraging the parties in its opinion to consider shifting the opt out requirement of the agreement to an opt in. This would appear to address most of the copyright concerns outlined in its opinion. A settlement conference is scheduled for April 25 to discuss further progress in the matter.

Policy Highlights from Communications of the ACM – December 2010 (Vol. 53, No. 12)

Below is a list of items with policy relevance from the December issue of Communications of the ACM. As always, much of the material in CACM is premium content, and free content one month may slip behind a pay wall the next. You need to be a member of ACM or a subscriber to CACM to access premium content online.

News: Education
CSEdWeek Expands Its Reach by Marina Krakovsky
A review of computer science education to note the second Computer Science Education Week held in December 2010.

News: Society
The New Face of War by Samuel Greengard
A review of current and future possibilities in cyberattacks framed by the Stuxnet worm.

News: Forum
A Matter of Privacy by David Lindley
Summary of a September 2010 forum about online privacy held in Washington, D.C.

Viewpoints: Broadening Participation
The Role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Contributing to an Educated Work Force by Ann Quiroz Gates
The author argues that supporting the efforts of minority serving institutions to become stronger institutions provides an additional tool for encouraging broader participation from underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Viewpoints
We Need a Research Data Census by Francine Berman
An argument is made for a Research Data Census to take periodic snapshots of the digital data landscape. Such a census could provide guidance in decisions about data storage and management across the country.

Practice
The Theft of Business Innovation: An ACM-BCS Roundtable on Threats to Global Competitiveness by Mache Creeger
A roundtable discussion among security and policy experts on the new security threat to business information.

ACM Washington Update Vol. 15.2 (March 16 2011)

CONTENTS

[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] 2010 ACM A.M Turing Award Recognizes Les Valiant
[3] USACM Supports Defense Against FY ‘11 Cuts
[4] USACM Comments on Federal Trade Commission Online Privacy Report
[5] USACM Joins Statement of Concern Over Expansion of Intercept Law
[6] Senate Passes Patent Reform Bill
[7] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at http://www.acm.org/usacm/update/]


[1] NEWSLETTER HIGHLIGHTS

Contrary to press reports, there are other things going on in Washington besides the budget negotiations. There are more details on each item below, as well as on our weblog at:
http://www.acm.org/usacm/weblog:

* Les Valiant wins A.M Turing Award for his work in computer science theory.

* USACM joined with other numerous other organizations on a letter urging the Senate to to resist deep cuts to science agency budgets approved recently by the House of Representatives.

* USACM submitted comments in response to FTC’s preliminary staff report concerning online privacy. The report outlines a proposed privacy framework.

* USACM signed on to a statement developed by the Center for Democracy and Technology in response to possible changes to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

* The Senate passed a bill intended to reform the patent system.


[2] 2010 ACM A.M. TURING AWARD RECOGNIZES LES VALIANT

Les Valiant, the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been recognized for his work in machine learning and the theory of computation with the 2010 ACM A.M. Turing Award. The Award, which comes with a $250,000 prize, is supported in part by Intel and Google, and is considered the top prize in computing. It is named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, who was instrumental in the early development of modern computing.

Over his career, Dr. Valiant has made notable contributions to several parts of computer science theory. He helped establish the foundation of computer learning theory. Valiant also developed the concept of complexity of enumeration and a theory of algebraic computation. His work in parallel and distributed computing theory is also well regarded.

Read more about Dr. Valiant’s work:
http://www.acm.org/news/featured/turing-award-2010


[3] USACM SUPPORTS DEFENSE AGAINST FY ‘11 CUTS

USACM signed a letter sent to the Senate leadership early in March urging them to resist the deep cuts to science agency budgets approved by the House of Representatives. The cuts would be for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The letter was organized by the Task Force on American Innovation; over 170 organizations have signed on.

The basic argument of the letter was to encourage the continued doubling path for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. Echoing language from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the letter indicates that even in a time of cuts and savings there is still a need for investment in education, infrastructure, and research and development, especially to help support needed economic growth. The proposed cuts work counter to that need for investment.

The final resolution of this budget debate may be soon, or another temporary measure may have to be passed. The current continuing resolution that funds the government is scheduled to expire on March 18.

The full letter can be read online at:
http://www.aplu.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=3023


[4] USACM COMMENTS ON FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION ONLINE PRIVACY REPORT

On February 18th, USACM submitted comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) preliminary staff report concerning online privacy. Titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change,” the report outlines a proposed privacy framework involving the following general principles:

– Companies should integrate privacy into their regular business operations (a Privacy by Design approach)

– Consumer choice needs to be presented in a more streamlined fashion than current practice

– Companies should increase the transparency all of their data practices, including those in the parts of their business that don’t engage with consumers directly.

The FTC also sought comment on the development and use of a Do Not Track policy comparable to the Do Not Call list to reduce telemarketing calls. USACM encouraged the FTC in its comments to define Do Not Track in a way that was technology neutral. It is also important to have a Do Not Track system that allows for a variety of consumer choices. There must be some options between track everything and track nothing so that consumers can really craft a personalized Internet experience that reflects their preferences. Additionally, USACM repeated its arguments for a dataflow-based lexicon and enhanced privacy risk models to help ensure consumer privacy online.

The full report can be read online at:
http://ftc.gov/os/2010/12/101201privacyreport.pdf

ACM’s comments can be read online at:
http://usacm.acm.org/PDF/Commerce_Department_Online_Privacy_Comments_USACM.pdf


[5] USACM JOINS STATEMENT OF CONCERN OVER EXPANSION OF INTERCEPT LAW

In the middle of February the Center for Democracy and Technology released a statement it developed to respond to possible changes to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). USACM is one of the organizations that signed the statement.

The statement was developed due to press reports that there are efforts within the executive branch to expand the law, which requires companies to modify their electronic telecommunications equipment to facilitate wiretaps for law enforcement and other purposes. Originially passed in 1994, CALEA has been expanded to address changes in technology. However, as the statement indicates,

“Clearly, lawful electronic surveillance plays an important role in enabling government agencies to fulfill their obligations to stop crime and to protect national security. These goals, however, must be reconciled with other important societal values, including cybersecurity, privacy, free speech, innovation and commerce.”

The statement goes on to address significant concerns that need to be covered for future changes to laws that deal with electronic communications. It is important to preserve trust in communications systems.This can be achieved by safeguarding cybersecurity, not compromising encryption, protecting privacy and promoting accountability. If these steps (which are given more detail in the statement) are taken, the nation can support innovation and competitiveness interests while preserving lawful interests in electronic surveillance.

There is no specific proposal to change CALEA at the present time. But there is enough of a concern about making sure electronic communications remain secure and productive that a statement like the one CDT issued makes sense.

The full report can be read online at:
http://www.cdt.org/pr_statement/statement-concern-about-expansion-calea


[6] SENATE PASSES PATENT REFORM BILL

On March 8 the Senate passed a bill intended to reform the patent system. S. 23, the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would take steps to harmonize the U.S. patent system with those in the rest of the world. The most notable change amongst them is to make the U.S. system based on the first to file rather than the first to invent. The bill also allows for relevant third parties to file information with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This information would assist USPTO examiners with the evaluation of the patent. And perhaps most importantly, the bill makes necessary changes to the USPTO that allow it greater control over the fee money that it collects and the ability to establish satellite offices (the first one is planned for Detroit).

The entire Bill can be read online at:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s23/text


[7] ABOUT USACM

USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery (www.acm.org), unites computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

USACM acts as the focal point for ACM’s interaction with the U.S. Congress and government organizations. It seeks to educate and assist policy-makers on legislative and regulatory matters of concern to the computing community.

For more information about USACM and ACM, see:

http://www.acm.org/usacm/about.html


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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of March 14

March 14

Hearing:

The Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on promoting and protecting Internet commerce
4 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

March 15

Hearing:

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Freedom of Information Act in the digital age
10:15 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building

March 16

Hearing:

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will have a hearing on the state of online consumer privacy.
10 a.m., 253 Russell Building

Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on cyber threats to critical infrastructure.
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

March 17

Briefing
The American Chemical Society is sponsoring a briefing on supercomputing for science and economic competitiveness
noon, Capitol Visitors Center

Senate Passes Patent Reform Bill

On March 8 the Senate passed a bill intended to reform the patent system. S. 23, the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would take steps to harmonize the U.S. patent system with those in the rest of the world. The most notable change amongst them is to make the U.S. system based on the first to file rather than the first to invent. The bill also allows for relevant third parties to file information with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This information would assist USPTO examiners with the evaluation of the patent. And perhaps most importantly, the bill makes necessary changes to the USPTO that allow it greater control over the fee money that it collects and the ability to establish satellite offices (the first one is planned for Detroit).

The full text of the bill is available online. How quickly the House will address the bill is unclear.

2010 ACM A.M. Turing Award Recognizes Les Valiant

Les Valiant, the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been recognized for his work in machine learning and the theory of computation with the 2010 ACM A.M. Turing Award. The Award, which comes with a $250,000 prize, is supported in part by Intel and Google, and is considered the top prize in computing. It is named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, who was instrumental in the early development of modern computing.

Over his career, Dr. Valiant has made notable contributions to several parts of computer science theory. His 1984 paper, “A Theory of the Learnable” helped establish the foundation of computer learning theory. Valiant developed the concept of complexity of enumeration and a theory of algebraic computation. His work in parallel and distributed computing theory is also notable, advanced new models, strategies and algorithms that moved the field forward.

Congratulations to Dr. Valiant on receiving the 2010 ACM A.M. Turing Award. You can learn more about Dr. Valiant’s work and the Turing Award via the ACM website and press release.

USACM Supports Defense Against FY ‘11 Science Cuts

USACM signed a letter sent to the Senate leadership last week urging them to resist the deep cuts to science agency budgets approved recently by the House of Representatives. The cuts would be for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The letter was organized by the Task Force on American Innovation and over 165 organizations have signed on.

The basic argument of the letter was to encourage the continued doubling path for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. Echoing language from the Task Force letter supporting the COMPETES legislation and from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the letter indicates that even in a time of cuts and savings there is still a need for investment in education, infrastructure, and research and development, especially to help support needed economic growth. The proposed cuts work counter to that need for investment.

The final resolution of this budget debate may be soon, as the current continuing resolution that funds the government is scheduled to expire on March 18.