Article on the “Legal Aspects of Interface Accessibility in the U.S.”

The December issue of the Communications of the ACM includes an article co-authored by USACM Accessibility Committee Chair Harry Hochheiser and committee member Jonathan Lazar on the “Legal Aspects of Interface Accessibility in the U.S.” Their article responds to and expands upon ACM President Vint Cerf’s article from a year ago, “Why Is Accessibility So Hard?

Vint Cerf’s article, published in the Communications of the ACM in November 2012, sought to spark a dialogue on how to improve accessibility in the field. He highlighted some challenges to accessible adaptation, including the proliferation of platforms, the wide range of modes of interaction, the unlimited variations of applications, and the diverse needs of users. He stated that “no amount of automatic adapting will make a poorly designed interface accessible.” He asserted that accessibility, like security, needs to be “built in” to the initial design. He concluded by inviting ACM members, SIGs, UX design experts, and users to provide their thoughts on how we can “approach this problem with a richer combination of design principles, pragmatic tactics, and artful implementations than we have in hand today.”

Why is accessibility so hard? Technology is only part of the reason. . .

Asserting that technical hurdles are only part of the overall challenge, Hochheiser and Lazar state, “The technical complexity of making interfaces accessible to people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments is matched by a daunting regulatory and legal framework.” The article discusses accessible design, including the role of standards, guidelines, and practices to support accessibility and usability. The article then explores the framework of federal and state laws and regulations and how the legal landscape can create perceptions of accessibility as difficult to implement. They conclude with a call to action for computing professionals to be involved in public policy discussions related to accessibility. The article concludes with a list of helpful and informative articles, websites, and other resources.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2013

Today, December 3, is the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year’s theme is “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all.” The UN says that more than 1 billion people, or roughly 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. A major focus of the day is to “highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive policies, as well as promote public awareness to break barriers and open doors: for an inclusive society for all.”

USACM is dedicated to making computing more accessible for everyone. USACM recognizes the value of building appropriate accessibility features into the design of interfaces, platforms, and devices. Designing for accessibility has benefits well beyond better support for people with disabilities. A commitment to making technologies more accessible will pay dividends in evolving technology that can be more easily accessed – and more easily understood and used – by everyone. These advances will result in better access to important information, and broader participation in commercial and educational activities by all citizens.

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FTC Workshop on Digital “Native Advertising” on December 4, 2013

The Federal Trade Commission will hold a workshop titled, “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?,” on December 4, 2013, to explore the increasing trend of “native advertising.” The all-day workshop will feature remarks by FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, perspectives from the Director and Staff Attorney of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and three panels comprised of advertising industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, computer scientists, and other stakeholders. Among the panelists is usability expert Jeff Johnson, an ACM Distinguished Speaker. The workshop is open to the public; no advance registration is required. A live webcast will be available.

Online native advertising goes beyond the traditional display banners. It seeks to provide a non-interruptive, integrated experience for the user. Native advertising blends sponsored content with editorial, news, entertainment, and other content. Examples include promoted tweets on Twitter, sponsored likes/comments/shares on Facebook on users’ pages, sponsored stories on Facebook, promoted listings on Yelp, and check-in ads on Foursquare. The Atlantic offers “sponsor content” that may be created by the advertiser in collaboration with The Atlantic’s marketing staff. As depicted in the Workshop’s title, the concern is that these practices could make it difficult for users to distinguish the blurred lines between paid advertising and editorial content, which carries the risk of triggering enforcement action by the FTC for unfair or deceptive practices.

When the FTC updated its “.Com Disclosures” guidance for online and mobile advertising in March 2013, the agency emphasized the need for “clear and conspicuous” disclosures across various digital devices and platforms used by consumers. The updated guidance clarified that such disclosures should be “as close as possible” to the digital ad and displayed large and long enough for consumers to view the disclosure. For audio disclosures, the audio should be sufficiently loud for consumers to hear it. The FTC cautioned that, if the disclosure could not these requirements for a particular technology, the advertiser should not use the ad for that device or platform.

As part of this workshop, experts will present recent research about how consumers interact with their devices, provide insights on the current and emergent technological limitations and unique characteristics of mobile and online environments, and discuss the implications for disclosures when content is aggregated by search engines or retransmitted through social media.

For more information and to watch the live webcast, visit: FTC Workshop on Native Advertising – “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?”

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FTC Seeks Public Comments on Proposed Patent Assertion Entity Study

The Federal Trade Commission has extended the deadline for public comments on its proposed study of patent assertion entities (PAEs) until Monday, December 16, 2013.

The study would seek information from roughly 25 companies whose business model relies primarily on buying and selling patents, and asserting patents through licensing and enforcement. The information is intended to help the agency better understand the impact of patent assertion entities on innovation and competition. The FTC also intends to send information requests to an additional 15 patent assertion entities and other entities asserting patents in the wireless communications sector.

The FTC states that the study will seek information relevant to the following questions:

  • How do PAEs organize their corporate legal structure, including parent and subsidiary entities?
  • What types of patents do PAEs hold, and how do they organize their holdings?
  • How do PAEs acquire patents, and how do they compensate prior patent owners?
  • How do PAEs engage in assertion activity (i.e. demand, litigation, and licensing behavior)?
  • What does assertion activity cost PAEs?; and
  • What do PAEs earn through assertion activity?

The FTC’s proposed Section 6(b) study was recommended by panelists during the Patent Assertion Entity Activities Workshop, jointly sponsored by the FTC and U.S. Department of Justice in December 2012.

Public comments can be submitted on the FTC website.

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New Federal Regulations Require Accessible Airline Websites and Kiosks

New federal regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation require airlines to make their websites and airport kiosks more accessible for people with disabilities. Airlines have up to 2 years to make reservation, flight, and frequent flyer account information on their websites accessible and up to 3 years to make their entire websites accessible. They have up to 10 years to ensure that at least 25% of kiosks are accessible.

The required technical standard for airline websites is WCAG 2.0, an international web accessibility standard published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Airline websites, including any embedded third-party software, will need to meet the standard’s Level AA performance criteria. The U.S. Access Board has proposed incorporating WCAG 2.0 into its anticipated update of Section 508 requirements governing the accessibility of public websites provided by federal agencies.

Airlines must consult with individuals or organizations representing visual, auditory, tactile, and cognitive disabilities when testing the accessibility and usability of their websites. As a best practice, airlines are encouraged to work with disability advocacy organizations when developing accessible websites, rather than waiting until the testing phase, so accessibility can be built-in by design. The Final Rule encourages, but does not require, airlines to integrate all the feedback. Airlines are not obligated to incorporate suggested web accessibility changes that would be “unduly burdensome to implement.”

External links to partially or entirely inaccessible websites “containing information and consumer comments about the carrier’s services” must be accompanied by a disclaimer that the external website is not within the airline’s control and might not follow the same accessibility policies. The Final Rule uses the example of the Social Security Administration, which provides a popup “External Link Disclaimer” for social media links. In contrast, the Final Rule spotlights the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as two agencies that have “collaborated successfully” with those social media providers to provide accessible interfaces; their websites do not provide an “External Link Disclaimer” when users click on social media links.

Customers with disabilities who are unable to book flights online due to inaccessible airline websites continue to be entitled to online airfare discounts when making reservations by phone. The Final Rule reinforces the existing obligation of airlines to disclose online discounts and to waive fees not imposed on online reservations. The Final Rule warns airlines that a failure to provide such disclosures and equivalent pricing could result in enforcement action. Underscoring this warning and the need for properly trained customer service staff, the Final Rule references a research study conducted in 2010 by USACM member Dr. Jonathan Lazar, a Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and the Director of the Universal Usability Laboratory at Towson University, and his students. That research study revealed possible compliance problems whereby customers who identified themselves as disabled and unable to book flights online due to accessibility problems did not always receive equivalent pricing by phone as online customers.

In 2010, Dr. Jonathan Lazar and students at the Department of Computer and Information Sciences of Towson State University conducted a study involving test calls to major carriers to determine how consistently carriers comply with these requirements. Their findings suggested that there are compliance problems. After placing a series of 60 phone calls (15 calls to each of 4 major carriers), students who self-identified as blind and specifically stated that they were unable to access the carrier’s Web site noted at least one instance per carrier of price discrimination (e.g., discounted Web-based fares offered online were not disclosed to the caller or the agent refused to waive the telephone reservation fee). The rate of compliance failure was as high as 33 percent and 40 percent respectively for two carriers.

The new regulations apply to U.S. and foreign airlines with at least one flight in the United States capable of carrying more than 60 passengers. The Final Rule amends rules implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as a rule prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition.

For more information, read the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Final Rule on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of November 18

November 19

Hearing:

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the data security of the Healthcare.gov website.
1o a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on regulation of medical apps and health software.
10 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the security of the Healthcare.gov website.
10:15 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

November 22

Hearing:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee will hold a field hearing on education and technology
1:30 p.m., Phillip O. Berry Academy, 1430 Alleghany Street, Charlotte, North Carolina

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of November 11

November 12

Hearing:

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on multiple nominees, including the Associate Director for Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

5:40 p.m., S-216 Capitol Building

November 13

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the information security of the HealthCare.gov website.

10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

The Research and Technology subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on research investments at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  The hearing will also cover education programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of November 4

November 4

Meeting:
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is meeting to discuss national security surveillance programs (the meeting was originally scheduled for October 4).  USACM Chair Eugene Spafford will appear before the Board in the afternoon.

9:15-4:15 Mayflower Hotel,  1127 Connecticut Avenue N.W.

November 6

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act (hearing originally scheduled for October 2).

2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

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Internet Policy Task Force Seeks Public Comments on “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy” Report

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force invites public comments on its report, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy.” The 122-page report provides an analysis of copyright policy since 1995, recommends possible regulatory and legislative actions, and identifies specific policy issues for further discussion and public input. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) provided input to the report. The Internet Policy Task Force will accept written comments until November 13, 2013.

A public meeting to discuss various copyright policy issues raised in the report has been rescheduled for December 12, 2013. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on the International Policy Task Force website.

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USPTO Software Partnership Meeting on Prior Art Searching Techniques and Tools on December 5, 2013

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will hold the next Software Partnership meeting on December 5, 2013, from 1-4:30 pm ET at its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The focus of the meeting will be on “ways to improve the USPTO’s prior art searching techniques and tools.” Members of the public are invited to attend. The deadline for requests to attend in person is November 27, 2013. The meeting also will be online via WebEx.

The meeting will be organized around three main segments. First, the USPTO will provide a presentation on searching techniques and tools currently used by examiners to find and evaluate prior art for software-related patents. Then, selected participants will provide presentations. Lastly, a questions and comments session will allow stakeholders to provide input on possible approaches and projects identified during the discussion and to provide additional suggestions and observations. The USPTO intends the meeting to be of particular interest to software experts with a background in search technologies and patent practitioners who conduct searches for prior art.

The USPTO is particularly interested in public input on the following topics:

  • Prior art search techniques
    • Search strategies
    • Examiner search training and guidance
    • Enhanced search tools such as semantic query analysis and improved database indexing
  • Prior art databases and resources
  • Additional best practices for searching

In April, the ACM U.S. Public Policy Council was among the stakeholders to submit comments to the USPTO expressing an interest in discussing further how to improve finding and assessing relevant prior art as part of the Software Partnership activities.

For more information about the Software Partnership meeting on December 5, 2013, and how to request to participate, see the Software Partnership page on the USPTO website.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of October 28

October 29

Markup:

(Rescheduled from October 24) The House Homeland Security Committee will review pending legislation, including H.R. 3107, the Cybersecurity Boots-On-The-Ground Act.  This bill would (as currently written) require certain classifications and assessments of the federal cybersecurity workforce.

10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

October 30

Hearing:

The Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies and the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on cyber incident response.

9 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of October 21

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hearing:

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on “The Evolution of Wired Communications Networks.” 10:30 am, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Markup:

10/24 update – Rescheduled for October 29 at 10 am. The House Committee on Homeland Security will markup H.R. 3107, the Homeland Security Cybersecurity Boots-on-the-Ground Act, which would require the Secretary of Homeland Security “to establish cybersecurity occupation classifications, assess the cybersecurity workforce, develop a strategy to address identified gaps in the cybersecurity workforce, and for other purposes.” 311 Cannon House Office Building.

Hearings:

10/24 update – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “PPACA Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose?” 9 am, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

10/23 update – Rescheduled for October 29 at 1:30 pm. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a hearing on “NSA Programs.” 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.

10/24 update – Postponed. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade will hold a hearing on “The FTC at 100: Where Do We Go From Here?“. 1 pm, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

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USPTO Software Partnership Meeting on October 17 at U.C. Berkeley School of Law

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will hold a Software Partnership Meeting tomorrow, October 17, 2013, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm Pacific Time, at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law. The meeting will provide a forum for the software and high-tech communities to hear about governmental activities to improve patent policies and examinations and to discuss the potential use of glossaries in software-related patent applications. Members of the public are invited to attend in person. Space is limited. The meeting also will be online via WebEx.

The meeting topics will include:

  • A summary of the feedback from the Software Partnership listening sessions held in February
  • An overview of the White House Task Force on High-Tech Patent Issues
  • A discussion of the possible use of glossaries in patent applications
  • Proposed next steps by the USPTO

The USPTO has provided the following discussion questions regarding glossaries for the participants to consider:

  • What impacts on prosecution have you seen from using glossaries (e.g., efficiency, clarity, number and type of rejections)?
  • How do you evaluate the impact of glossaries on prosecution?
  • Please provide specific examples where the use of a glossary was helpful during and/or after prosecution (i.e., litigation, re-exam, re-issue, licensing).
  • Do you utilize a particular format for the definitions within the glossary (e.g., tables, formulae, bulleted list)? Why or why not? If possible, please provide an example of your preferred format.
  • Do you foresee any issues or concerns with the use of glossaries during and/or after prosecution? If so, what issues or concerns?
  • What incentives, if any, could the USPTO provide to encourage you to participate in a glossary pilot program and provide a glossary for claim terms in applications under the pilot?
  • For the technological areas where you practice, which specific areas would benefit from the use of a glossary in the specification? Why?

See the full list of discussion questions and meeting details.

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AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships in Big Data and Analytics

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is accepting applications for its Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program. Fellows are placed in congressional and executive branch offices. This year, a new track in Big Data and Analytics will place PhD computer scientists in federal agencies. This is a great opportunity for computer scientists to help policymakers better understand the federal policy and regulatory issues from a technological perspective.

Key policy issues for Big Data and Analytics Policy Fellows could include:

  • Data governance for big data analytics projects
  • Data privacy and security
  • Safeguards against data misuse
  • Innovation
  • Infrastructure
  • Integrity
  • Ethics of intelligent information systems
  • Public benefits of big data

AAAS expects to place up to 15 Big Data and Analytics Fellows.

Applicants must hold a PhD or an equivalent doctoral-level degree in a scientific or engineering disciple or a master’s degree in engineering with three years of professional experience. The program is only open to U.S. citizens.

The deadline for applications is November 1, 2013.

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Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies Hears from USACM

In light of the leaks surrounding U.S. national intelligence surveillance efforts, President Obama appointed a group to review those programs to determine if they are in the best possible balance with other national interests.  This Review Group requested comments from the public on its charge:

“[W]hether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.”

On Friday USACM submitted comments to this group.  Expanding on the comments we submitted to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in August, USACM outlined the challenges involved with computing systems used in surveillance activities.  USACM recommends that the Review Group have an ‘independent systems-engineering analysis of the data structure(s) developed” as a result of current surveillance programs.  Such an analysis will make it easier to examine the trade-offs involved between technical capabilities, national security interests, privacy and civil liberties interests and other concerns.  This examination of tradeoffs should accompany a full and open public dialog.

Our comments go into additional detail about the limitations of computing, the potential risks of massive data collection programs, and the need for effective oversight mechanisms to address those risks and limitations. Programs of the size and scope suggested by recent leaks present notable data management challenges.  Addressing those challenges will require technical sophistication, strong oversight and rigid safeguards.

The Review Group is supposed to provide recommendations to the President no later than December 15.

Posted in ACM/USACM News, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings Week of September 30

October 3 – ETA I was optimistic that all of the scheduled activities for this week would proceed as intended. The October 2 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee, and the markup session of the House Homeland Security Committee were postponed. The October 4 meeting of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has also been postponed. Though the Board is still operating on funds from the previous fiscal year, several witnesses were restricted in their travel due to the shutdown.

Original Post – Well, it would appear that some things are still happening during the shutdown. I would recommend, however, that you double check before visiting any of these meetings in person.

October 2

Markup:
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing to review pending legislation, including a bill on the cybersecurity workforce.
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Building

Hearing:
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing connected to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. USACM Co-Vice Chair Edward Felten will testify.
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing in connection with a draft bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

October 4

Meeting:
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will hold a meeting on two national intelligence surveillance programs. USACM Chair Eugene Spafford will speak on one of the panels.
9:15 a.m., Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1127 17th Street NW, Washington D.C.

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Library of Congress Announces New Mobile App for Braille and Audio Books

The Library of Congress announced today that its Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) system is going mobile with an app for Apple devices now available for download and a forthcoming Android app in development. These mobile apps will allow the 800,000+ institutional and individual users registered with its National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to access audio and braille books and magazines, as well as music, on their mobile devices.

The Library of Congress anticipates a “surge of downloading” with the introduction of these mobile apps because many NLS users with smartphones have requested access through mobile apps. The Library of Congress also anticipates a surge in demand based on the proliferation and availability of mobile devices for consumers that offer relatively high functionality and built-in accessibility at relatively low costs. To help entice users to make the switch to digital downloads, the Library of Congress continues to add new content daily to BARD’s expanding repository. Currently among the 50,000 digital items is a large searchable collection of Web-Braille books for users with a refreshable braille display.

Eventually, the Library of Congress expects digital distribution to replace its cassette-based audio books, which have been used for more than 35 years but ceased production three years ago in the switch to digital formats. Production of the “obsolete” cassette machines for reading the cassettes ended six years ago.

The Library of Congress told Congress last year that 85 percent of NLS users still rely on door-to-door mail delivery of cassette books and digital talking-books on cartridges and NLS-provided machinery to play them.

For more information about the new BARD mobile app for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, read today’s Library of Congress press release.

For more information about the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) provided by the Library of Congress, visit http://www.loc.gov/nls/

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USACM Provides Input On Next Version Of Open Government National Action Plan

As part of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Initiative, it released a National Action Plan in September 2011. Based in part on its progress on the first version of the Plan, the government is working on version 2.0, and requested input from the public. USACM submitted comments yesterday.

A summary of our recommendations to the government for the next edition of the plan:

  • Design tools and plans for increasing access to information with both businesses and the public in mind
  • Evaluate progress on the Action Plans regularly and share that information with users
  • Greater public participation strategies that involve computing also need appropriate social structures to succeed in attracting participants outside of developers and technologists
  • Encourage feedback and public participation tools that can facilitate multi-directional communication and/or collaboration
  • Responding to disasters and similar events would be a good area to encourage activity through prizes and/or competitions
  • More datasets should be released through ‘research.data.gov’ that can be used for researchers and the public

There is no set deadline for when National Action Plan version 2.0 will be released.

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Cybersecurity Framework Now At Discussion Draft Stage

While cybersecurity legislation slowly inches forward in Congress, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is moving faster in implementing its responsibilities under the recent Executive Order on cybersecurity. Last month we noted that NIST circulated a draft outline of the Cybersecurity Framework (H/T Nextgov).

Now there’s a discussion draft of the actual Framework. Developed in time for the latest public workshop on the Framework, the discussion draft is intended to help firms and others involved in critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Besides compiling relevant best practices, standards and guidelines, the framework provides tools for companies to measure where they are in terms of cybersecurity and where they need to go.

NIST identified several areas for improvement for future iterations of the Framework:

  • Authentication
  • Automated Indicator Sharing
  • Conformity Assessment
  • Data Analytics
  • International Aspects, Impacts, and Alignment
  • Privacy
  • Supply Chains and Interdependencies

To get the quickest snapshot of how the Framework might work, check out Appendix A, the Framework Core. It describes functions, categories, subcategories, and informative references that NIST sees as crossing across all sectors of critical infrastructure.

The timeline remains unchanged. A final draft is due next February, and a draft with formal comment should be released in the fall.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of September 16

September 18

Markup:

The Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will review two bills related to cybersecurity.

September 19

Hearing:

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Jo Handelsman (Associate Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy/OSTP), Robert Simon (Associate Director for Energy and Environment, OSTP), and Kathryn Sullivan (Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
10 a.m., 253 Russell Building

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2nd Anniversary Forum of the America Invents Act on September 16

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host the America Invents Act (AIA) Second Anniversary Forum on Monday, September 16, 2013, from 1-5 pm ET at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. A live webcast will be available.

USPTO patent experts and administrative patent judges will discuss recent updates, trends in filings, how to avoid pitfalls, progress on improving patent quality, and options for application processing, including preissuance submissions, supplemental examination, and micro-entity discount.

A panel discussion with the patent judges from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will cover post-grant review, inter partes review, and covered business method review.

To get a good seat, arrive early. The forum is free with seating on a first-come, first-served basis.

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FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series: Yevgen Borodin

The FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series will feature Yevgen Borodin on “Improving Accessibility for the General Public” on September 12, 2013, at 10 am EDT. The presentation will be followed by accessible technology demonstrations in the FCC’s Technology Experience Center. The event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration for in-person attendance is not required but highly encouraged. A live webcast will be available.

Dr. Borodin, a Research Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department at Stony Brook University in New York, will use the example of web accessibility to explore how accessibility is usually incorporated after-the-fact and how assistive tools have lagged behind the latest innovations. He then will discuss how to shift the paradigm to strategies that incorporate accessibility by design, such that technologies are universally accessible from the start.

In 2007, he won the first place Graduate Research award in the ACM Student Research Competition for his research on “HearSay: Context-Directed Non-Visual Web Browser.”

The technology demonstrations in the FCC’s Technology Experience Center will include:

  • Yevgen Borodin will demonstrate: (a) Capti Narrator, a web browser assistant that creates a list of articles containing the extracted main content of web pages; (b) Voiceye, a system for creating and scanning barcodes; and (b) IVEO, an interactive learning system.

  • John Carlin of Ai Squared will demonstrate the ability to magnify hardcopy printed materials or to transform them to speech using optical camera recognition and ZoomReader for iOS or ZoomText ImageReader for Windows.

  • Patrick Timony of the DC Public Library will demonstrate accessibility features of iOS devices.

  • Gregg Vanderheiden of Raising the Floor will demonstrate the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII), a cloud-based approach to personalizing user interfaces.

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U.S. Access Board Public Meeting on September 11

The U.S. Access Board, an independent federal agency, will hold its regular public Board Meeting on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The meeting will be accessible to persons with disabilities.

In the morning, the Board will receive an overview of the new U.S. Access Board website, which has been designed with the forthcoming “Section 508 Refresh” accessibility standards and guidelines in mind.

In the afternoon, the Board will consider ad hoc committee reports on self-service transaction machines and information and communications technologies. The ad hoc committees will be meeting on September 9 and 10, but those meetings are closed to the public.

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USACM Submits Comments to the FCC on Accessibility Waiver Request for E-Readers

USACM today submitted comments to the FCC on a request by the Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers to exempt e-readers from the accessibility requirements under the advanced communication provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

Congress passed the CVAA to help ensure that people with disabilities are able to utilize the Internet-based communications technologies of the 21st century, including mobile devices and technologies. The law allows the FCC to waive the accessibility requirements for features, functions, or classes of equipment “designed primarily for purposes other than using advanced communications services.” Advanced communications services under the CVAA include interconnected VoIP services, non-interconnected VoIP services, electronic messaging services, and interoperable video conferencing services.

Here, the Coalition seeks a waiver for e-readers, as a class of devices. The Coalition states that “e-readers are devices designed, built, and marketed for a single primary purpose: to read written materials such as books, magazines, newspapers, and other text documents on a mobile electronic device.”

In its public comment, USACM:

  • agrees with the Coalition that e-readers designed primarily for reading meet the waiver eligibility criteria under the CVAA;
  • cautions against distinguishing e-readers from other classes of devices based on screen type, storage capacity, and processing speed;
  • observes that current product lines of e-readers previously demonstrated the technical capability to provide audio;
  • recognizes the value of accessibility to a broad range of users beyond users with disabilities; and
  • recommends a limited-time rather than permanent waiver, should the FCC grant the waiver.

To review the Coalition’s waiver request for e-readers, related documents, and other public comments submitted to the FCC, use the FCC’s electronic comment filing system to search for filings. The Proceeding Number is “10-213.”

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New Report on Computer Science Teacher Certification in the United States

Computer science teacher certification throughout the United States is “deeply flawed” and requires coordinated action by federal and state policymakers, education administrators, and teachers to establish statewide systems and more effective approaches to prepare, support, and credential computer science teachers, according to a new report by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA).

As pointed out in the report, Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S., America’s economic future depends on young people discovering computer science. “To make that happen, it must be taught. To teach it, there must be a qualified, valued Computer Science teaching workforce,” the report says.

The U.S. labor data referenced in the report show the increased importance of computer science to students’ prospects for future employment. According to the federal government, computing skills are in demand, and computing jobs will continue to be among the top 10 highest-performing growth areas in the country’s long-term outlook.

Further, we are experiencing a fundamental and long-term shift within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs toward computing careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, when today’s high school students graduate from colleges and universities, at least half of all STEM job openings will be in computing and computing-related fields.

With such a fundamental, long-term shift occurring, states nationwide need to enhance the capacity of educational institutions to provide students with fundamental computer science knowledge and skills.

Yet, the report’s in-depth research into computer science teacher certification in the 50 states and the District of Columbia reveals “confused, disparate and sometimes absurd teacher certification processes” and “confounding processes and illogical procedures—bugs in the system that keep it from functioning as intended.”

To address the critical issues uncovered by the research, the report provides a number of policy recommendations related to the credentialing of computer science teachers, including providing pathways for teachers with prior industry experience, ongoing professional development for teachers, and incentives for school administrators to offer rigorous computer science courses taught by qualified computer science teachers.

Read the full-text of the report and the related CSTA blog post online.

Posted in Education and Workforce | Comments closed

USPTO Software Partnership Meeting on October 17

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will hold a Software Partnership Meeting on October 17, 2013, at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law in Berkeley, California to provide a forum for the software and high-tech communities to hear about governmental activities to improve software-related patent policies and examinations and to have a discussion on possible ways to improve claim clarity through the use of glossaries.

To help facilitate the discussion, the USPTO has provided a set of questions related to claim clarity, the current use of glossaries, and the potential structure of a possible glossary pilot program. Written comments in response to those questions should be submitted to the USPTO by October 3, 2013.

The meeting also will explore the written feedback the USPTO received from the prior roundtables held in February in California and Washington, D.C. and will provide an overview of recommended actions identified by the White House Task on High-Tech Patent Issues in June 2013. USACM was among several stakeholders who submitted comments to the USPTO in February on possible ways to enhance the quality of software-related patents.

The October 17 meeting is open to the public, but advance registration is required. Requests to attend or to speak must be received by September 27, 2013.

For more information about the October 17 Software Partnership Meeting, see:
http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/software_partnership.jsp

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FCC Requests Public Comments on Accessibility Waiver for E-Readers

The FCC is accepting public comments on a request by the Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers to exempt e-readers from accessibility requirements applicable to “advanced communications services” under the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and its implementing regulations. The deadline for public comments is September 3, 2013.

Congress passed the CVAA to help ensure that people with disabilities are able to utilize the Internet-based communications technologies of the 21st century, including mobile devices and technologies. Advanced communications services include interconnected VoIP services, non-interconnected VoIP services, electronic messaging services, and interoperable video conferencing services.

The law allows the FCC to waive the accessibility requirements for features, functions, or classes of equipment designed primarily for purposes other than using advanced communications services. Here, the Coalition states that “e-readers are devices designed, built, and marketed for a single primary purpose: to read written materials such as books, magazines, newspapers, and other text documents on a mobile electronic device.”

For more information, see the FCC announcement:
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2013/db0801/DA-13-1686A1.pdf

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USACM Provides Feedback on Non-Web Accessibility Guidelines

USACM submitted feedback to the W3C on the latest draft of the “WC3 Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies.” The proposed guidance document seeks to provide informative guidance on how the international standards for web accessibility, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, can be interpreted and applied to non-web documents, software, and technologies.

As indicated in the final draft, several requirements of the international web accessibility standards and their success criteria apply verbatim to non-web ICT. Several other requirements comply: (a) by replacing “web” with “non-web document(s) and software”; (b) by adding “video description” and “descriptive narration” when the criteria refers to “audio description”; or (c) by adding “accessibility features of software” when the criteria refers to “user agents” and/or “assistive technologies.”

Detailed guidance is given for WCAG 2.0 requirements where applying them may pose challenges, such as resizing with assistive technologies, keyboard interfaces, parsing, and custom user interface components.

The document, if adopted by the W3C, will become a “Working Group Note” published by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

For more information, see the working draft of the WC3 Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies at:
http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/WD-wcag2ict-20130711/

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NIST Working On Big Data Technology Roadmap

On September 30, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will host a Big Data workshop at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The focus of the workshop is to continue the work of the NIST Big Data Working Group in developing a Big Data Technology Roadmap. Registration for the conference is free and open to the public, but must be done by September 23.

The Big Data Working Group was established in June to start work on the Technology Roadmap. The Roadmap is intended to help determine the appropriate “analytic techniques, technology infrastructure, and data usage” to support the secure adoption of Big Data. Defining Big Data will be an important part of this work, and definitions is one of the major products the Working Group will have available in advance of the September 30 workshop.

The workshop is not the beginning of the NIST project, but perhaps the end of the beginning. Public feedback to the initial draft of the Roadmap will inform further drafts and possibly influence subsequent deadlines.

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Federal CIO Council Announces Re-Organization

The Federal CIO Council is the primary cross-agency group for information technology management in the government. On Friday the Council announced a major reorganization.

Now led by the federal Chief Information Officer, the Council coordinates federal IT management policies, and works with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Office of Management and Budget as appropriate to develop standards in this area.

As it currently stands, the CIO Council is organized under six committees and 29 subcommittees. The new structure would have just three committees and appears to shift more activity to the Council’s Executive Committee and staff. The committees are Innovation, portfolio management, and information security and identity management. Besides the three committees, the Council would engage with ‘Communities of Practice’ in areas including privacy, accessibility, and workforce to help develop appropriate policies. There will be 14 members of the Executive Committee, with two representatives from each of the committees, and one from each community of practice. There will be a vice-chair of the Council, but that person has yet to be named.

Read the full reorganization plan and the associated blog post online.

Posted in Accessibility, Digital Government, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee Meeting – August 15, 2013

The USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, August 15, 2013, from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting is open to the public. The meeting will also be available by WebEx.

Agenda items include:

  • America Invents Act Training Update
  • Legislative Update
  • Patent End-to-End (PE2E) System
  • International Harmonization
  • Finance/Budget Update/Sequestration

The meeting details and full agenda are available at: http://www.uspto.gov/about/advisory/ppac/20130815-ppac-quarterly-meeting.jsp

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USACM Welcomes Claudia Gordon as White House Public Engagement Advisor for the Disability Community

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council welcomes President Obama’s appointment of Claudia Gordon as the new White House Public Engagement Advisor for the Disability Community.

Ms. Gordon previously served as the Special Assistant to the Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a Senior Policy Advisor within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and manager of the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities. She also previously worked as a consulting attorney with the National Council on Disability.

“Accessibility to cyberspace and its content and services is more important than ever. I look forward to finding opportunities for ACM to reinforce Claudia Gordon’s efforts to improve access to computer-based systems,” said Vint Cerf, ACM President.

“Ms. Gordon has a long-standing reputation for actively engaging in policy approaches that make tangible differences in the lives of people with disabilities. I am confident that she will drive forward initiatives that translate ideas into government action, improve public awareness, and increase public involvement in federal disability policies,” said Jonathan Lazar, a member of the USACM Accessibility Committee.

Her appointment comes as the federal government is in its final stages of a multiyear effort, known as the Section 508 Refresh, to revise the regulations governing accessibility requirements for government websites under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the guidelines governing equipment under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. Later this year, the U.S. Department of Justice anticipates moving forward with its rulemaking to address web accessibility regulations for state and local governments under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Throughout her career, Ms. Gordon has taken the lead to ensure broader and more inclusive approaches. We look forward to working with her, her office, and the Administration to improve the lives of people with disabilities by advancing the accessibility of information and communication technologies,” said Harry Hochheiser, Chair of the USACM Accessibility Committee.

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The Executive Branch Works On Implementing the Cybersecurity Executive Order

Since the President issued an Executive Order on cybersecurity information sharing back in February, several groups have worked on implementing parts of that order. The Senate Commerce Committee has also gotten in on the act, recently approving a bill that would put some parts of the executive order into law.

While a draft of the Cybersecurity Framework required by the Executive Order won’t be out until later this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been working hard in gathering input on what practices, procedures, tools and other guidance should be part of it. NIST released a draft outline Read More »

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USACM Outlines Limitations Of Computing For Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) is an independent federal agency established based on recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It’s responsible for reviewing executive branch actions in relation to counterterrorism activities to ensure that privacy and civil liberties concerns are part of the conversation in developing and reviewing such policies.

In light of recent disclosures concerning National Security Agency (NSA) electronic surveillance activities, the PCLOB held a workshop on July 9 to review legal, technical and policy issues surrounding two programs. One focused on collection and search of telephone metadata (things like the number called, length of call, etc.) and the other on the collection of electronic communication information. As part of the public record for this workshop, USACM submitted comments to the Board.

In its comments, USACM outlined technical issues for the programs, as well as how to effectively deal with the fallibility of computing systems in the context of these programs. Given the nature of the information that underlies much of this discussion, the comments are necessarily at a high level.

In the letter, USACM highlighted the challenges involved in successfully implementing policies that would help limit access to and use of the collected information. It recommends a systems engineering analysis for the collection and analysis structures utilized through the surveillance programs. This would include technical requirements, operational assumptions and relevant data collection and use practices. That would help the agency better understand the trade-offs involved in balancing national security concerns, privacy and civil liberties principles, and the technical capabilities of the NSA.
Read More »

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USACM Statement to the House Ways and Means Committee on Intellectual Property Provisions in Trade Agreements

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council today submitted a statement to the House Ways and Means Committee as part of the record for the hearing on “President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.”

The hearing touched upon major trade negotiations underway, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a possible Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), and an expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

The statement identifies three principles for the U.S. government to consider when negotiating provisions relevant to intellectual property protection and enforcement within trade agreements: balancing IP protections with public and private rights, promoting innovation and competition, and preserving the data privacy of individuals.

During the hearing, U.S. Trade Representative Froman said that intellectual property is a “critical part of our economy,” including a critical part of our relationship with the EU. He also said that the “digital economy of digital trade is playing an increasing role” in all trade agreements.

Relevant to the three principles within the USACM statement, Froman addressed intellectual property protections and enforcement generally, the role of innovation, and the data privacy of individuals.

1. Balance Intellectual Property Protection with Relevant Private and Public Interests
Froman broadly discussed intellectual property protections and enforcement. He said that the TTIP provides an opportunity to raise and strengthen IP rights and enforcement for the global community. He did not directly address concerns about ensuring fair uses of intellectual property, as raised in the USACM statement.

2. Promote Innovation and Competitiveness
The USACM statement encourages public policies that foster and encourage a wide variety of technological advancements, approaches, and systems to emerge within a competitive marketplace. Consistent with that principle, Froman said that “as technology develops and the Cloud develops, we want to make sure that businesses are able to structure their operations in a way that makes maximum sense.” He also said cross-border data flows and services are a particular focus of the TPP.

3. Preserve Data Privacy of Individuals
Consistent with the USACM position on the importance of balancing commercial and government needs with protecting the personal data privacy of individuals, Froman stated that it is important to “strike the right balance” with privacy concerns.

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed

Internet Policy Task Force Releases New Green Paper on Copyright Policy

The U.S. Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force today released a green paper titled “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy.” The 122-page report provides an analysis of copyright policy since 1995, recommends possible regulatory and legislative actions, and identifies specific policy issues for further discussion and public input. The USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) provided input to the report.

The Internet Policy Task Force reiterated the Obama Administration’s call for action to allow cell phone unlocking by consumers. Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (H.R. 1123). The bill would restore and extend an exemption to the DMCA to allow consumers, as well as third-parties acting at the request of a consumer, to unlock cell phones for the purpose of allowing the consumer to switch network providers.

The Internet Policy Task Force also recommended the following additional legislative reforms:

  • Updating the libraries and archives exemption in Section 108
  • Updating the Chafee Amendment to ensure access to copyrighted works by people with disabilities
  • Amending the Copyright Act to ensure illegal audio and video streaming can be punished similarly to other types of criminal reproduction and distribution
  • Examining potential legislative adjustments to address mass digitization

The Internet Policy Task Force identified several policy issues for further exploration, discussion, and public input. Here are some of the topics in the report:

  • Fostering voluntary best practices for online enforcement
  • Creating inclusively developed fair use guidelines for various user communities
  • Improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown systems
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of voluntary private sector initiatives to combat online infringement
  • Assessing the role for the government to improve the online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive public and private databases of rights information

The Internet Policy Task Force identified five issues in the process of being interpreted by the courts:

  • The meaning of “public performance” in context of new video streaming technologies
  • What constitutes temporary reproductions
  • The scope of distribution rights online
  • The scope of DMCA safe harbors, particularly with respect to repeat infringers
  • The application of “old” contracts to the new digital economy

The full-text of the “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy” is available at:
http://www.uspto.gov/news/publications/copyrightgreenpaper.pdf

Posted in Intellectual Property, Web Accessibility | Comments closed

Witness List for Thursday’s Hearing on “Innovation in America: The Role of Technology”

House Hearing on “Innovation in America: The Role of Technology”
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
Thursday, August 1, 2013, 9:30 a.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
A live webcast will be available.

Witnesses:

Danae Ringelmann
Founder & Chief Customer Officer, Indiegogo

Jim Fruchterman
President and CEO, Benetech

Nathan Seidle
CEO, SparkFun Electronics, Inc.

Rakesh Agrawal
Founder & CEO, SnapStream Media

Van Lindberg
VP, Intellectual Property, Rackspace

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The Week Ahead: Congress to Hold Hearings on Copyright and Patents

Four hearings on Capitol Hill this week will focus on intellectual property issues related to cellphone unlocking, standard essential patents, copyright, and cross-border intellectual property rights under a new trade agreement.

Tuesday, July 30

Senate Hearing on “Standard Essential Patent Disputes and Antitrust Law”
Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
Tuesday, July 30, 10 a.m. ET
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 226
A live webcast will be available.
Witnesses:

  • A. Douglas Melamed, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Intel Corp
  • Donald J. Rosenberg, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Qualcomm
  • Suzanne Munck, Chief Counsel for Intellectual Property, Deputy Director, Office of Policy Planning, Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • John D. Kulick, Ph.D., Chair, Standards Association Board, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

Wednesday, July 31

House Markup of H.R. 1123, The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act
House Judiciary Committee
Wednesday, July 31, 10 a.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141

Thursday, August 1

House Hearing on “Innovation in America: The Role of Technology”
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
Thursday, August 1, 2013, 9:30 a.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
A live webcast will be available.
Witnesses: To be announced.

House Hearing on “The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Outlook and Opportunities”
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
Thursday, August 1, 2013, 1:30 p.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2200
A live webcast will be available.
Witnesses:

  • Edward F. Gerwin, Jr., President, Trade Guru LLC
  • Amgad Shehata, Vice President, International Public Affairs, United Parcel Service
  • Steven Metalitz, Counsel, International Intellectual Property Alliance
  • Celeste Drake, Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist, The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
Posted in Events, Intellectual Property | Comments closed

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 29

July 30

Markup:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will review pending legislation. Scheduled for consideration is a new cybersecurity bill introduced last week.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

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Congress to Consider Copyright This Week

Two U.S. House of Representatives committees will consider copyright issues at three hearings this week.

 

Markup of H.R. 1123: The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act
House Judiciary Committee
Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 10 a.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141

The full Committee will consider and markup H.R. 1123, the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.” The bill would repeal the DMCA exemption decision of 2012, replace it with the prior exemption, and call upon the Librarian of Congress to consult and determine whether to include other categories of wireless devices beyond telephone handsets, e.g. tablets. Committee Chairman Goodlatte has offered an amendment that would add clarifications for the unlocking at the discretion of the purchaser and require a GAO study and report on the issues. See my previous blog post for highlights from the Committee’s hearing in June on H.R. 1123.

 

Hearing on “Innovation in America: The Role of Copyrights”
House Judiciary Committee – Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
Thursday, July 25, 2013, 9:30 a.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
A live webcast will be available.

This hearing is part of the ongoing exploration by the Committee into potential copyright reforms. For additional background, see the May 16th hearing on the Copyright Principles Project (CPP), a project first convened in 2006 by Professor Pamela Samuelson at Berkeley Law School to discuss the diverse perspectives on copyright issues and the need for comprehensive reform to respond to technological advances, new business models, and innovative and emergent uses of copyrighted works.

 

Hearing on “The U.S.-E.U. Free Trade Agreement: Tipping Over the Regulatory Barriers”
House Committee on Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade
Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:45 a.m. ET
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2123
A live webcast will be available.

This hearing will focus on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the United States and the European Union. The background memo mentions intellectual property rights. Scheduled witnesses include Dean C. Garfield, the President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, and Jean Halloran, on behalf of Consumers Union and the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 22

July 23

Hearing:
The Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity and Asia.
2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Building

July 24

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on health care and information technology.
10:30 a.m., 215 Dirksen Building

July 25

The Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee continues its series of hearings on data centers and cloud computing.
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the work between the private sector and the National Institute for Standards and Technology on cybersecurity.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

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Presidential Commission on Election Administration Continues Listening Tour

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, established by Executive Order earlier this year, has held two official meetings and been present at other meetings of election officials. While the first meeting, held June 21st in Washington, D.C. was a brief affair, the June 28th meeting in Miami was a full day affair, listening to elected officials, advocacy groups, and motivated voters from all over Florida.

USACM was one of many organizations (and individuals) who submitted comments to the commission, with an emphasis on the roles election technologies can play in election administration. Our comments encouraged the Commission to take advantage of technical expertise as it gathers information and prepares its report. The next Commission meeting is scheduled for August 8 in Denver. Additional meetings are scheduled for September 5th in Philadelphia and September 20th in Ohio, though per the Commission charter, resources are budgeted for an average of two meetings a month for 12 months, with the Commission expected to operate for no more than a year.

Posted in E-voting | Comments closed

FCC Open Commission Meeting on July 19

The FCC will discuss the IP Speech-to-Speech Relay program and a report on the implementation of Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) at its Open Commission Meeting this Friday, July 19, 10:30 am-noon ET. A live webcast will be available.

According to the meeting announcement, the accessibility topics will be the last two agenda items:

Agenda Item 4: Speech-to-Speech and Internet Protocol (IP) Speech-to-Speech Telecommunications Relay Services (CG Docket No. 08-15); Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities (CG Docket No. 03-123): The Commission will consider a Report and Order addressing mandatory minimum standards applicable to the Speech-to-Speech Relay program and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking input on ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this program.

Agenda Item 5: Update on the Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA): In recognition of the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, together with the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Media Bureau, will provide a report on the Commission’s implementation of the CVAA since its passage in 2010.

Additional information about the July 19 meeting is available at:
http://www.fcc.gov/open-commission-meeting-july-2013

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Library of Congress Legislative Data Challenge: Markup of U.S. Legislation in Akoma Ntoso

The Library of Congress invites the public to participate in its first Legislative Data Challenge. The winning solution will provide the most effective representation of four specific bills of the U.S. Congress using the international legislative information standard Akoma Ntoso, as well as a discussion of the suitability of that standard to represent U.S. legislative data. The winning individual or team will present the solution at a Legislative Data Forum in Washington, D.C. to be hosted by the Library of Congress.

The challenge is part of a broader initiative to develop international data exchange standards for legislative data, as mentioned by Robert Reeves, the Deputy Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Gherardo Casini, the Head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Office and Executive Coordinator of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, at the 2013 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference.

The Akoma Ntoso standards and guidelines are used by many countries for legislative and legal documents. These standards and guidelines define common formats for data interchange and open access, and schema for data, metadata, citations, and cross-references. One of the goals of Akoma Ntoso, an initiative of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is to foster improved search, interpretation, and visualizations of law and legislative data.

To learn more about the Library of Congress Legislative Data Challenge, visit:
http://akoma-ntoso-markup.challenge.gov

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House Committee on Ways and Means Invites Public Submissions on President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda

The House Committee on Ways and Means is accepting public statements for the record for Thursday’s hearing on President Obama’s trade policy agenda. The deadline for public submissions is Thursday, August 1.

Thursday, July 18

House Hearing on “President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman”
House Committee on Ways and Means
Thursday, July 18, 9 a.m.
Longworth House Office Building – Room 1100
A live webcast will be available.

According to the hearing announcement, the focus of the hearing will be an exploration of current and future trade issues, such as:

(1) developing and passing of Trade Promotion Authority legislation;
(2) seeking to conclude a successful Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement this year;
(3) negotiating with the European Union for a comprehensive and ambitious trade and investment agreement;
(4) negotiating a Trade in International Services Agreement that increases access for all sectors of our economy;
(5) improving our important trade relationship with major emerging economies like China, India and Brazil, and addressing their trade barriers;
(6) ensuring appropriate trade enforcement efforts;
(7) advancing WTO negotiations, including “post-Doha” issues at the WTO such as Information Technology Agreement (ITA) expansion, a trade facilitation agreement and an agreement for trade in environmental goods and services;
(8) negotiating Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with China and India and exploring new BITs and investment opportunities; and
(9) establishing long-term, closer ties with important trading partners.

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House Hearing on Mens Rea in Federal Criminal Law on July 19

Friday, July 19

House Hearing on “Mens Rea: The Need for a Meaningful Intent Requirement in Federal Criminal Law”
House Judiciary Committee
Friday July 19, 9 a.m.
Rayburn House Office Building Room 2237
A live webcast will be available.

This hearing is related to the activities of the Committee’s Over-Criminalization Task Force of 2013, co-chaired by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

Scheduled witnesses include: John S. Baker Jr., Ph.D., Visiting Professor, Georgetown Law School, Visiting Fellow, Oriel College, University of Oxford, Professor Emeritus, LSU Law School; and Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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Highlights from Clayton Lewis on “The Future of Inclusive Design”

At the FCC today, Computer Science Professor Clayton Lewis asserted a new paradigm for accessibility is emerging and that this paradigm may require changes to public policies related to accessibility, such as Section 508, and intellectual property laws.

Professor Lewis, a member of the ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, kicked off today’s FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series with his presentation on “The Future of Inclusive Design.” The day also included accessible technology presentations and demonstrations in the FCC’s Technology Experience Center.

Lewis framed the discussion in terms of the “Raman Principle,” how to push beyond the Raman Principle, and the needed changes in public policy to respond to the new paradigm.

The Raman Principle

The Raman Principle, named after computer scientist T.V. Raman, Ph.D. at Google Research, states: “The way to think about the visual system is as a way to ask questions about a spatial database. If you give someone another way to ask the questions and get the answers, they don’t need vision.”

This approach provides access to the underlying information and changes the way we think about accessibility. “This idea shifts our focus from making presentations accessible to making content accessible,” explained Lewis. Think about screen readers, he suggested. Although screen readers make certain types of information more accessible, screen readers create a direct path to a non-visual presentation that bypasses the visual presentation. We should provide access to the underlying activity and content, he asserted.

“We have accessibility problems everywhere today because people are creating presentations rather than content,” he said. “We have to replace presentation-oriented tools by content-oriented ones.”

An example of this shift is the increased online access to government content through application programming interfaces (APIs) and bulk downloads. Such access provides programmatic access to content rather than presentations of content. How do we then provide technical accessibility to the content? Third-party providers create and make available clients. In the future, clients might be increasingly tailored to particular users, in keeping with the overall trend away from mass production to mass customization.

Lewis asserted that this model of programmatic accessibility supported by clients not only changes the way we think about accessibility but also has the potential to provide superior access. For example, commands can traverse the logical structure, not just the layout order, and thereby leverage the underlying semantic structure. He provided an example of data flow programming to illustrate his point.

The outcome is a transformation in the approach to providing content so that people with disabilities can easily access the information. He suggested that this new paradigm supports non-visual “visual” programming and the non-visual “visualization” of data.

Further, he sees a broader strategic trend, dating back decades, that has given us today’s difficulties with Section 508 compliance. That trouble can be summed up in one acronym, “WYSIWYG.” Although John Seely Brown controversially warned the computing and disability communities back in 1984 that WYSIWYG was the wrong way to go that warning largely went unheeded, according to Lewis. Even Lewis thought Brown was very mistaken at the time. Yet, Lewis said he come to agree with Brown over the years because WYSIWYG doesn’t allow for more abstract ideas not tied to the presentation.

He observed that one “underexploited” opportunity to improve accessibility is to make content management systems more inclusive by design.

Pushing the Raman Principle

How does the Principle apply when we think about the inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities, he asked. The traditional paradigm is to have a linear progression from task to web page to user understanding. Application of the Raman Principle, he said, would suggest asking the question: “How can we make this task easier to perform?”

Public Policy Challenges

Among the challenges of the increased shift to programmatic access and clients is that government agencies responsible for producing the content might not produce clients. Who then is responsible for accessibility, he asked. Is it solely the providers of the clients? Since clients are developed by non-governmental entities, is government required to make sure they are accessible?

The question isn’t just theoretical, he asserted. He illustrated his point with the example of the Department of Veterans Affairs Blue Button, which allows veterans to download their personal health information in plaintext. The government does not provide clients to view the content. He originally thought it was a horrible idea because it provided no context to make it usable, but he then realized that clients would do that. Yet, does this foster accessibility, particularly given that the Veteran’s Administration is neither providing nor funding the creation of clients. He observed that the VA likely met their Section 508 compliance obligations because that responsibility lies with the clients to be accessible. Since those are developed by non-governmental entities, he said, the government doesn’t need to make sure they are accessible.

Accordingly, there is a new division of labor and responsibility. The government produces the content and makes that content available in “open and machine-readable” data formats. Lewis didn’t mention it, but President Obama issued an executive order on May 9, 2013 to require agencies to comply with a federal Open Data Policy and to make data available in machine-readable formats.

Public Policy Responses

To respond to the challenges of the new paradigm, public policy will need to address not only accessibility, such as Section 508, but also intellectual property laws. The Raman Principle, he said, suggests the conflict with intellectual property rights, particularly copyright, might get even worse. He recommended that someone within a government agency should convene a roundtable or similar forum to discuss these issues.

He said we also need to promote advances in software tools. He referred to the Global Public Infrastructure Initiative and FluidProject.org as examples of efforts to foster flexible, inclusive, innovative, and customizable approaches. He reiterated the challenge put forth a few years ago by Jamal Mazrui, the FCC Deputy Director of the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, at a similar convening of experts and interested stakeholders at the FCC. “The Mazrui Challenge” calls for more software tools for use by developers with disabilities to create apps and software programs for people with similar disabilities.

Additional information and related materials from today’s FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series are available at:
http://www.fcc.gov/events/accessibility-innovation-initiative-speaker-series-presents-clayton-lewis-future-inclusive-de

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 15

July 17

Hearing:
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on health information technology
10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Building

Subcommittees of the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a joint hearing on information sharing in the new health care law.
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

July 18

Hearing:
The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on consumer data protection.
11 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

The Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the president’s recent cybersecurity executive order.

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Accessible Technology Demos at the FCC on July 16

Tomorrow, the FCC will feature demonstrations of accessible technology solutions from 12:30 to 3 p.m. in its Technology Experience Center. The event is part of the FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series.

As a reminder, USACM member Professor Clayton Lewis will be kicking off the day with his presentation on “The Future of Inclusive Design Online,” beginning at 10 a.m. A live webcast of his presentation will be available.

The accessibility technology demonstrations will include:

  • APIs and developer tools to leverage the information in the FCC’s Accessibility Clearinghouse
  • A cloud-based service that automatically corrects web accessibility problems on a web page and displays the corrected page to the user in real time
  • Tools and services for captioning of video and audio
  • A cloud-based infrastructure for analyzing and managing the accessibility of website components

Additional information is available at:
http://www.fcc.gov/events/accessibility-innovation-initiative-speaker-series-presents-clayton-lewis-future-inclusive-de

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FCC Open Internet Advisory Committee Meeting on July 9

The FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, July 9, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT, to discuss issues related to its four working groups: (1) mobile broadband, (2) economic impacts of open internet frameworks, (3) specialized services, and (4) transparency. A live webcast will be available.

At the Committee’s public meeting in May, the group discussed the importance of the FCC’s educational role in the mobile broadband ecosystem, the decreased control of service providers, the difficulty of defining “specialized services,” consumer-related issues, selective throttling of network traffic, and the challenges of labeling programs designed to educate and inform consumers about performance, data caps, and pricing.

Tomorrow’s discussion is anticipated to include an update on the final report for the term, which will draw upon the efforts of the four working groups.

The 21-person committee is led by Harvard Computer Science and Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain as Chair and MIT Senior Research Scientist David Clark as Vice-Chair.

Information about the July 9 meeting is available at:
http://www.fcc.gov/events/open-internet-advisory-committee-meeting-july-9-2013

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of July 8

July 9

Workshop:
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will hold a public workshop on surveillance programs. Technology experts will be part of at least one panel during the event.
9:30 a.m., Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Hearing:
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on cyber threats to intellectual property.
10:15 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

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US Rejoins World’s Top 5 Countries for Innovation

The United States is one of the five most innovative countries in the world, according to the Global Innovation Index 2013, a hefty 392-page report published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). After being off the top 5 list since 2009, the United States saw “strong increases in software spending and employment in knowledge-intensive services” to climb from being ranked 10th in the world in 2012 to 5th in 2013.

The United States was outranked in the top 10 by, in order: Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. The United States beat Finland, Hong Kong (China), Singapore, Denmark, and Ireland.

Before describing the strengths and weaknesses of the United States in the global innovation-driven marketplace and what you can do to help the U.S. retake the top spot, let me first explain how they measured innovation.

What Makes a Country Innovative?
To measure the innovative nature of each country, the Global Innovation Index 2013 uses a framework of seven high-level categories (five inputs and two outputs) covering 84 individual indicators and relying on data from 30 public and private sources. The analysts made adjustments to the framework in 2013. The survey examines 142 economies representing 95% of the world’s population and 99% of the world’s GDP.

    Inputs

  1. Institutions – political, regulatory, business environments
  2. Human capital and research – education, research and development
  3. Infrastructure – ICT, general infrastructure, eco-sustainability
  4. Market sophistication – credit, investment, trade and competition
  5. Business sophistication – knowledge workers, innovation linkages, knowledge absorption

    Outputs

  1. Knowledge and technology outputs – knowledge creation, impact, diffusion
  2. Creative outputs – intangible assets, creative goods and services, online creativity

What Makes the U.S. “Innovative”?
The U.S. is the world leader in research and development and ranks second in the world for its business and market sophistication.

U.S. Innovation Rankings in the World
Business sophistication – 2
Market sophistication – 2
Human capital and research – 6
Knowledge and technology outputs – 7
Institutions – 17
Infrastructure – 17
Creative outputs – 19

• Research and Development
Continued U.S. world leadership in the traditional innovation indicator of research and development is largely attributable to the rankings of the top three U.S. universities. Other indicators for R&D performance included gross expenditure on R&D, where the U.S. ranked 10th, and the number of researchers per million population, where the U.S. was one of 32 countries without data. The analysts opted not to estimate data.

• Business Sophistication
U.S. business sophistication rankings were boosted by the number of patents filed in at least three foreign offices, royalties and licenses as a percentage of service imports, high-tech imports, and the percentage of gross expenditure on research and development financed by business.

• Market Sophistication
U.S. market sophistication rankings were boosted by the ease of getting credit, financial resources provided to the private sector, the ease of protecting investors, the total value of stocks traded, and the number of venture capital deals.

• Individual Indicators
Other indicators contributing to the U.S. regaining its lead as one of the five best-ranked countries included: performance in online government services, computer software spending, GMAT test takers, and the number of five generic top-level domains (gTLDs) registered per population. The five generic domains included com, org, net, biz, and info. The analysts did not include edu or gov. The U.S. tied with Luxembourg, Belize, and Canada for the top spot for the most registered gTLDs per population.

U.S.A. – We’re No. 1! (10% of the time)
The U.S. can celebrate its top honor in the following 8 of the 84 individual indicators:

  • Research and development
  • Computer software spending as a percentage of GDP
  • Government online services
  • Cost of redundancy dismissal, including unemployment protections
  • Total value of stocks traded as a percentage of GDP
  • Number of GMAT test takers (but we ranked 51 in their test scores)
  • Citable documents (H index)
  • Number of registered generic top-level domains (TLDs) per population

U.S.A. – Let’s Take Back the Top Spot!
The U.S. isn’t even in the top 10 for institutions, infrastructure, and creative outputs.

• Institutions
Although the U.S. has a relatively strong regulatory and business environment, the presence of violence and terrorism (44th for political stability), barriers to starting a business (31st), and low ranking in its freedom of the press (29th), contributed to the U.S. ranking 17th in the world under the institutions category.

• Infrastructure
The U.S. received its lowest ranking within the infrastructure category – gross capital formation. Also within infrastructure, the U.S. ranked 74th in the world for its ecological sustainability, which assesses energy use and environmental performance. This low ranking suggests that the U.S. would benefit from energy and environmental growth strategies.

• Creative Outputs
U.S. creative output rankings show intangible assets (86th) are an issue, specifically trademarks. The U.S. ranked in the bottom half of the world for the number of trademarks based on GDP when adjusted by purchasing power parity. Also, the U.S. ranked 43rd in the number of international trademark registrations issued through the Madrid system by country of origin. In contrast, the U.S. ranked in the top 15 for the number of patent applications filed by residents under the WIPO-administered Patent Cooperation Treaty and the number of patent families filed in at least three foreign countries. The U.S. also ranked in the top 50 for service imports of IP royalty and license fees.

To take the lead again as #1, the U.S. likely would need to work on its exports of computer and information services, ease of paying taxes, ICT access and use, market capitalization, joint venture/strategic alliance deals, and high-tech exports. It also would need to address its lowest rankings.

• Lowest Ranked
Here are the ten individual indicators where the U.S. ranked lowest, with the ranking given:

  1. Domestic trademark registrations – 77
  2. Non-agricultural market access weighted tariff – 77
  3. Graduates in science and engineering – 77
  4. Growth of GDP per worker – 80
  5. Exports of communications, computer, and information services – 84
  6. ISO 14001 environmental certifications – 94
  7. FDI net inflows as a percentage of GDP – 97
  8. ISO 9001 quality certificates/ PP$ GDP/ – 99
  9. Gross tertiary outbound educational enrollment – 122
  10. Gross capital formation as a percentage of GDP – 123

Help Make U.S.A. #1 in 2014
Show your patriotic pride in your country by making edits on Wikipedia entries and uploading your videos to YouTube. Each time you do, your country gets recognized for being innovative.

The full report and online interactive tools are available at:
http://www.globalinnovationindex.org

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USPTO Invites Public Comments on Reducing Online IP Infringement

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invites public input on the effectiveness of voluntary initiatives encouraged by the Obama Administration to reduce online intellectual property infringement. The deadline for public comments is Monday, July 22, 2013.

The USPTO invites input from all interested parties on the processes, data metrics, and methodologies that could be used to assess the effectiveness of cooperative agreements and other voluntary initiatives to reduce infringement. The USPTO additionally welcomes input on the following questions:

1. How should “effectiveness” of cooperative voluntary initiatives be defined?
2. What type of data would be particularly useful for measuring effectiveness of voluntary initiatives aimed at reducing infringement and what would that data show?
3. If the data is not readily available, in what ways could it be obtained?
4. Are there particular impediments to measuring effectiveness, at this time or in general, and if so, what are they?
5. What mechanisms should be employed to assist in measuring the effectiveness of voluntary initiatives?
6. Is there existing data regarding efficacy of particular practices, processes or methodologies for voluntary initiatives, and if so, what is it and what does it show?

Request of the United States Patent and Trademark Office for Public Comments: Voluntary Best Practices Study
78 Federal Register 37210
https://federalregister.gov/a/2013-14702

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FCC’s Speaker Series Will Feature Clayton Lewis on Inclusive Design Online

The FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series will feature USACM member and accessibility expert Clayton Lewis on “The Future of Inclusive Design Online” on Tuesday, July 16, at 10 am EDT. The event is free and open to the public. A live webcast will be available.

Event Summary
The evolution of technology is creating challenges to traditional thinking about making information and services available to people with differing functional needs and preferences, and creating opportunities to provide superior access. This talk will survey some of the developments, such as the shift from focus on access to presentations of content to access to content itself; the replacement of mass production by customized, individualized creation; non visual access for traditionally “visual” activities like games, interactive simulations, and visual programming; the need for tools usably by end users to craft their own information environment; the prospect that technology can automatically create new and different presentations of information and services; and the policy changes that may be needed to address these opportunities.

Clayton Lewis is a Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he has been based since 1984. He is a pioneer in the science of usability. He was manager of the Human Factors Group at the IBM Watson Research Center in the early 1980s where he led and inspired some of the first HCI projects on iterative, user centered design. He has had a strong influence on HCI with regard to designing for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities. He has made designers and developers of accessible technologies aware of these groups, where previously they had been left out. Major projects in which he has participated include Fluid, an international family of projects on accessible web technology, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure initiative (GPII), and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT). His work has been recognized in many ways, including invitations to contribute to deliberations on technology and policy in many national and international venues.

He has twice served as Technical Program Chair or Co-chair for the ACM CHI Conferences on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the leading international conference in that field. He was elected to the ACM CHI Academy in 2009, recognizing his contributions to the field of human-computer interaction. In 2011, he was further recognized by the ACM CHI Social Impact Award, for his work on technology for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities as Scientist in Residence at the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.

He was named University of Colorado President’s Teaching Scholar, a life title signifying the University’s highest award for teaching, and served as Computer Science department chair from 1999 to 2003. He earned an A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University, an M.S. from MIT for interdisciplinary study in mathematics and linguistics, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in experimental psychology.

He is currently on leave from the university, working as a consultant to the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation, part of the U.S. Department of Education, helping to develop an initiative on cloud computing for people with disabilities.

Clayton Lewis: The Future of Inclusive Design Online
FCC’s Accessibility & Innovation Initiative Speaker Series

July 16, 2013, 10 a.m. – noon EDT
FCC Commission Meeting Room
445 12th Street, S.W., Room TW-C305
Washington, D.C. 20554
Live webcast: http://www.fcc.gov/live
Twitter: @USACM @FCC #Accessibility #a11y

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New AP Computer Science Principles Exam

The College Board announced this month a new Advanced Placement course and exam – Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). The course will introduce high school students to fundamental concepts of computing beyond computer programming. The course will be introduced in 2016, with the first exam to be administered in 2017.

The proposed curriculum will teach students to analyze computational artifacts, develop an abstraction, develop and express algorithms, and learn how mathematical and logical concepts can be used in programming.

The ACM SIGCSE Board endorses the new AP Computer Science Principles exam. “We agree with the goal to create a new AP exam that attracts a diverse range of students and introduces important computer science concepts, beyond the basic syntactic and semantic structures of a programming language,” said Renee McCauley, ACM SIGCSE Chair, in a letter to SIGCSE members when the College Board and NSF was piloting the proposed curriculum framework in high schools.

The National Science Foundation is providing a $5.2 million grant to fund the creation and introduction of the AP Computer Science Principles course and exam.

To learn more about the new AP Computer Science Principles course and exam, see the College Board’s press release, available at: http://press.collegeboard.org/releases/2013/national-science-foundation-provides-52-million-grant-create-new-advanced-placement-compute

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USACM Notes Technology In Letter to Voting Commission

On Friday the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, established earlier this year by Executive Order, will hold its first public meeting in Washington, D.C. As part of the public comment period prior to the meeting, USACM sent the Commission Co-Chairs, Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsburg, a letter.

In that letter USACM reminds the Commission of the importance technology has in modern election systems. We note that technology can help improve voting access for many populations that have had trouble casting their ballots. In addition, there are certain requirements for an election system that require additional scrutiny of any technology used for voting purposes. They include:

  • Reliability
  • Responsiveness
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Auditing
  • Usability

USACM has a long history of research and advice to policy makers on technology in support of voting systems. As the Commission works on its report and recommendations, we remain available to contribute as needed.

Besides the meeting on Friday in Washington, the Commission will hold another public meeting on June 28 in Coral Gables, Florida. Other meetings may be announced at the Commission website.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 17

June 18

Hearing:
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the nominee to head the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

June 19

Hearing:
The Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a second hearing on government approaches to biometric IDs.
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

June 17 Edited to Add the following meeting
June 19

Meeting:
The National Institute of Standards and Technology Big Data Task Force will hold its first meeting.
1 p.m., Online only

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FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee Meeting on June 14

The FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EEAC) will meet tomorrow, Friday, June 14, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm EDT, to discuss the technologies and protocols needed to ensure access to Next Generation 911 emergency services by individuals with disabilities. A live webcast will be available.

The Next Generation 911 (NG911) system will support communications from internet-enabled devices, allowing callers to exchange text, data, images, and video with a 911 operator. This fundamental shift in emergency communications has the potential to facilitate faster and more accurate information exchange between emergency responders and callers with hearing and speech disabilities.

As a sneak-peak into what this might mean pragmatically during an emergency situation, researchers from the University of North Texas on Tuesday gave the media a demonstration of a Next Generation 911 mobile app that allows text-to-speech, remote control of the camera on the mobile device, and the ability to monitor and transmit information about the victim’s vital signs. The app was developed with support from the National Science Foundation. It is not yet available to the public.

The June 14, 2013, EAAC meeting details are available at:
http://www.fcc.gov/document/emergency-access-advisory-committee-announcement

 

Additional Background Materials

The “FCC EAAC Report on TTY Transition,” March 11, 2013, is available at:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-319386A1.pdf

The “FCC EAAC Report and Recommendations 2011″ is available at:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-312161A1.doc

The “FCC EAAC Report on Emergency Calling for Persons with Disabilities; Survey Review and Analysis 2011″ is available at:
http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/EAAC/EAAC-REPORT.pdf

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Tomorrow’s House Hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act

Tomorrow morning, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to consider whether to repeal, reauthorize, or revise the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). The Committee previously held a hearing on possible reauthorization in February. The law allows satellite TV providers to retransmit broadcast signals. It also establishes compulsory copyright licensing. Unless Congress acts, the law will expire at the end of 2014.

The background memo for the hearing poses the following questions:

  • And with the rise of streaming, are Internet-based video companies the nascent providers of the day needing protection, or does the increased competition mean it’s time to deregulate?

  • Ultimately, the question is can Congress better ensure viewers have access to the content they want while respecting the investments of the programmers that create it and the distributors that deliver it, and does doing so require more government intervention or less?

“The Satellite Television Law: Repeal, Reauthorize, or Revise?”
House Energy and Commerce Committee
Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
June 12, 10:30 a.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2123
Live webcast will be available.

Full hearing details and list of scheduled witnesses are available at:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/satellite-television-law-repeal-reauthorize-or-revise

FAQ on STELA from the U.S. Copyright Office is available at:
http://www.copyright.gov/docs/stela/stela-faq.html

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 10

June 11

Hearing:
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on improving federal information technology practices.
10:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building

June 12

Hearing:
The Senate Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing on cybersecurity preparedness and response.
2 p.m., G-50 Dirksen Building

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Consumer Advocates and Industry Endorse Cellphone Unlocking Bill at House Judiciary Committee Hearing

A legislative proposal to allow consumers to unlock their cellphones garnered support from consumer advocates, wireless industry executives, and a coalition of copyright owners at yesterday’s House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. Michael Altschul, Senior VP and General Counsel at CTIA, stated that H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, represents a “reasonable balance that protects consumers and carriers alike.”

The bill would repeal the 2012 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption rulemaking for unlocking cellphones, reestablish a prior exemption, and direct the Librarian of Congress and Register of Copyrights to determine whether the unlocking exemption for enabling interoperability with other networks should be expanded to include other types of mobile devices, such as tablets. The current 2012 DMCA exemption extended a cellphone unlocking exemption but with a significant modification. The current exemption only applies to cellphones purchased before January 26, 2013, not newly purchased phones.

Cellphone unlocking involves circumventing copyrighted software and other technical protection measures installed by the carrier to prevent users from accessing the firmware that connects the cellphone to a particular carrier’s service. Software locks can be found on cellphones offered to consumers at subsidized prices — sometimes at very low cost or for free — in exchange for a fixed-term service contract for the cellphone. Without an exemption, consumers who unlock their cellphones without the carrier’s consent risk civil and criminal liability under the DMCA.

CTIA, a trade association representing major cellular carriers, previously opposed the scope of the requested exemption during the 2012 rulemaking process due to its potential to enable commercial misuse, including bulk unlocking and reselling of cellphones. At yesterday’s hearing, Altschul clarified CTIA’s position on the policy distinction between the rights of individual consumers and commercial misuse. He stated, “While clearly justified by market circumstances and the requirements of the DMCA, the ruling went beyond CTIA’s request, in which we were clear that we would not oppose a continued exemption that permitted unlocking undertaken by an individual customer for non-commercial purposes.”

CTIA does not endorse an interpretation of H.R. 1123 as enabling an interoperable “universal phone” compatible with multiple carriers. Altschul emphasized the need to distinguish between “unlocked phones” and “interoperable phones.” He said the software lock, as well as carrier consent to unlock it, is a critical way to prevent people from gaming the system to get phones below marketplace costs and serves as means to deter cellphone theft and trafficking in cellphones.

Steven J. Metalitz, testifying on behalf of a coalition of Joint Creators and Copyright Owners, agreed that H.R. 1123 is an “appropriate and well-considered way” to change the current exemption. He further stated, “It restores the status quo ante, without undermining a critically important provision of Title 17 that has done so much to benefit producers, distributors, and consumers of copyrighted works.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who introduced a bill to make it permanently lawful to unlock cellphones and other mobile devices to switch carriers, expressed her support for H.R. 1123, which is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. She stated her bill, H.R. 1892, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie, would be in addition to Goodlatte’s bill, noting that proposed changes to the DMCA will require modification of U.S. obligations under some free trade agreements.

In his remarks, Chairman Goodlatte stated that broader changes to the DMCA “is a question for another day.”

“Today we will hear from several witnesses, all of whom participated in the 2012 rulemaking, who do feel such an exemption is warranted. I also recognize that some may prefer changes to the underlying statutory language of Section 1201. Whether or not such changes would have the support of this Committee is a question for another day. I have already announced a comprehensive review of our nation’s copyright law and there will no doubt be a future opportunity for interested parties to discuss Section 1201 in more detail.”
Statement of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Assuming that Congresses passes legislation to authorize a new rulemaking determination, a key issue will be how broadly the exemption should applied. In deciding the current exemption, the Register of Copyrights rejected extending it to “tablets” and other mobile devices because “this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined.” Taking a broad-based approach, H.R. 1123 directs the Librarian of Congress to consider “any other category of wireless devices in addition to wireless telephone handsets.”

The archived video and written testimonies from the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet legislative hearing on H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, is available at:
http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/113th/hear_06062013.html

The full-text of H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, is available at:
http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1123

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Senate Briefing on Accessible Information and Communication Technologies

Former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho, who was the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, moderated a Senate briefing yesterday on “The Impact of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on Global Commerce and the International Accessibility Eco-System.”

The briefing brought together 200+ participants from government, the tech industry, academia, and the disability communities as a precursor to a formal hearing on whether the U.S. should ratify the CRPD and as a pre-conference session for the M-Enabling Global Summit on accessible mobile technologies occurring today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C. and sponsored by the FCC, the International Telecommunications Union, and G3ict.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is legally binding on 131 countries, is an international treaty that promotes and protects fundamental civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Among its provisions, Article 4 imposes a general obligation on countries to promote accessible information and assistive technologies. Article 9 requires countries to promote the “design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early state so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.” Article 21 requires countries to take appropriate measures to ensure access to information “on an equal basis with others,” including providing public information in accessible formats and technologies without additional cost. Article 21 urges private entities to provide online “information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities” in support of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion and to access to information.

The panelists identified several reasons why U.S. ratification of the CRPD would be beneficial for U.S. companies, employees, and consumers. Summarizing the various statements of the panelists, Coelho, said that U.S. participation in the treaty would further U.S. leadership in accessible technologies, foster global harmonization of accessibility standards, and create broader market opportunities for accessible technologies. For U.S. businesses, international cooperation and harmonization could help them expand their reach globally, create jobs, and provide consumers and employees with improved accessible software and devices at lower costs because the tech industry will be able to leverage accessibility standards across multiple markets.

Coehlo also observed that several panelists expressed support for ratification because it would allow the United States “to have a seat at the table” as the international community discusses approaches to accessibility.

Andrew Kirkpatrick, the Group Product Manager for Accessibility at Adobe Systems, discussed the challenges behind the policy goal of making “digital experiences that are accessible for everyone.” He noted that, although accessibility sounds like it should be easy, the reality is that “there is actual work involved.”

That work includes understanding requirements, finding developers who understand accessibility, coding the product, conducting appropriate testing to ensure effective compatibility with the diverse environment of assistive technology tools, and working with assistive technology vendors to make sure new products will work together. Then, there is the challenge of educating a range of internal and external audiences about what the accessibility features and functionality are and how to use them.

U.S. ratification of the treaty, he said, “will underscore the message that accessibility is a topic that we agree needs to be addressed in a globally and harmonized manner.” He asserted that harmonization will have benefits for users and the software industry, in that accessibility will be addressed similarly around the world.

David Dikter, the CEO of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), stressed the importance of making sure “that we can have digital experiences that are accessible for everyone” but observed that accessibility isn’t easy to achieve. U.S. ratification of the treaty, he said, will benefit the assistive technology industry, including expanding opportunities in other countries.

Frances West, the Director of the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center, said the United States needs to engage with the international community to ensure continued innovation in the marketplace. “So if you want to really provide solutions on the innovation side, we don’t have all the answers in the United States; we actually need to count on other parts of the world.” Similar to David Dikter and Andrew Kirkpatrick, she asserted that accessibility isn’t easy: “If it’s easy, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Brian Markwalter, Senior VP of Research and Standards at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), said, “One of the hard parts is the dialogue between the user community and what tends to be a very technical community of engineers driving standards around technology products.” He noted that CEA membership continues to grow and change with technological advancements, with mobile being a big growth area.

Judy Brewer, who directs the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C, highlighted the importance of CRPD Articles 9 and 21, which require countries to promote accessible technologies. She agreed with Frances West that accessibility drives innovation. She discussed how a globalized environment can help align software engineers and provide them with a broader range of implementation support tools and materials. She briefly mentioned the need to ensure that HTML 5.0 supports accessibility.

CRPD Ratification in the 113th Congress

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a supporter of U.S. ratification of the CRPD, sponsored the briefing. Although disability advocates would like to see the Senate act to give its advice and consent to ratification of the treaty before the anniversary of the ADA on July 27, higher existing priorities and new priorities could get in the way, including yesterday’s disclosure of what Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker describes as “NSA’s sweeping collection of U.S. phone records” and today’s media reports of an alleged top-secret document describing massive and broad data collection of users internet data. Further, advocates will still need to address successfully the various concerns raised last year in order to garner the support of additional senators.

Last year, the Senate of the 112th Congress failed to grant its advice and consent to ratify the treaty by a vote of 61-38. A two-thirds vote of approval is required. During last year’s committee hearings and floor debate leading up to the vote, advocates and opponents of ratification both agreed and emphasized that information and communication technologies have the transformative power to improve the lives of people with disabilities. They disagreed over whether ratification would be beneficial overall, impose new financial burdens, pose a threat to state sovereignty, or inappropriately give the UN oversight of education and healthcare choices by U.S. citizens. For a discussion of the issues, see the Congressional Research Service report on “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate,” dated March 4, 2013.

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White House Task Force on High-Tech Patent Issues: Legislative Priorities and Executive Actions

The White House today released a report on the impact of patent trolls on innovation and announced five executive actions the USPTO and the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator will take to address perceived problems with computer and software-related patents. The White House also called upon Congress to pass seven legislative reforms.

Among the executive actions, the Administration will convene “high-profile” events nationwide to develop ideas to update patent policies and laws. Further, the USPTO will develop strategies to improve the clarity of software patent claims, including possibly requiring or encouraging a glossary of specialized software terms to be submitted with the patent application and/or designating a default glossary. The USPTO also will provide “new training” of its patent examiners to help them scrutinize and identify overly broad functional claims in software patent applications.

Among the recommended legislative reforms, the White House calls for Congress to expand an existing post-grant review program by an administrative board within the USPTO to allow special reviews of the validity of computer-enabled patents as an alternative to litigation. Specifically, the recommended reform would expand the scope of the transitional program for covered business method patents to include computer-enabled patents under Section 18 of the America Invents Act.

The White House also recommends legislative reforms to foster greater transparency of patent ownership information, incentivize the public disclosure of demand letters, deter litigation, protect consumers who use an off-the-shelf product from patent infringement lawsuits, and change the legal standard to obtain an injunction at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

Congress is already considering some of these issues. Further, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy currently are refining coordinated draft patent reform bills in advance of legislative hearings. With the strong leadership support in both the House and the Senate, this coordinated bipartisan and bicameral legislation will be seriously considered. However, it likely will face opposition and perhaps further modifications once introduced. You can find a list of current patent legislation at the end of this blog.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte told attendees at today’s Congressional briefing sponsored by the Software and Information Industry Association:

“While the AIA [America Invents Act] paved the way for higher quality patents on the front end, there were several issues that were left on the cutting room floor during the last Congress that could help go more directly to the immediate issues surrounding patent trolls and abusive patent litigation. But it is important to clarify for purposes of our discussion that the term patent troll should be treated as an adjective or descriptor for a type of behavior, and not as a noun defining a specific business model or entity.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy released this comment on the White House announcement to address patent trolls:

“I share the President’s objective of reducing the drain on our economy caused by patent trolling. The United States patent system is vital for our economic growth, job creation, and technological advance. Unfortunately, misuse of low-quality patents through patent trolling has tarnished the system’s image. I hear frequently from Vermont businesses about how patent trolls have impacted their operations and hurt our state economy. I look forward to working with the President as I continue my bipartisan and bicameral work to reduce trolling and protect American innovators and retailers.”

Unclear in today’s White House announcement is how the USPTO is going to fund the implementation of these new executive actions. At a meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee in May, USPTO Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino advised that the USPTO faces significant fiscal challenges from budget cuts, sequestration, and lower-than-expected fee revenue. As a result, the USPTO took actions in April to reduce spending by $176 million. The cuts include the reduction or elimination of “all lower priority activities,” the elimination of nearly all training, the suspension of hiring examiners and support personnel, and the significant scaling back of IT projects, including projects to develop improved tools for examiners to find prior art and review applications electronically. The USPTO said it will consider limited hiring of additional patent examiners if fee revenue improves toward the end of Q3.

Patent reform legislation in the 113th Congress:

For additional information, see the “Fact Sheet: White House Task Force on High-Tech Patent Issues”:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/04/fact-sheet-white-house-task-force-high-tech-patent-issues

See also the report on “Patent Assertion and U.S. Innovation” by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the National Economic Council, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/patent_report.pdf

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of June 3

June 4

Hearing:
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will meet to hear testimony on the security of veterans’ private data.
2:30 p.m., 334 Cannon Building

June 5

Hearing:
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will meet to hear testimony on federal information technology management.
10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building

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Highlights from Congressional Briefing on Patent Litigation Reform

The Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee yesterday held a panel discussion on “If Patent Litigation Is Strangling High Tech Innovation, When Will Congress Act?” The panelists debated whether Congress should be addressing the perceived problems of abusive patent litigation and explored why the various proposed legislative solutions in Congress should matter to you.

As part of his introductory remarks, moderator Eric Hinkes, a Legal Policy Fellow with the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, briefly highlighted a few bills, including Reps. Chaffetz’s and DeFazio’s Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act, Senator Schumer’s Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013, Senator Cornyn’s Patent Abuse and Reduction Act, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte’s Patent Discussion Draft. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy is expected to introduce legislation soon. He also highlighted the House Judiciary Committee hearings on abusive patent litigation in March and April. He thanked the four Co-Chairs of the Congressional Internet Caucus for their assistance and support of the event: Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator John Thune, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and Rep. Anna Eshoo.

George Mason University School of Law Professor Adam Mossoff cautioned against new legislation and questioned the fundamental premise of the panel’s title that “patent litigation is strangling high tech innovation.” He recommended giving more time for the implementation of the America Invents Act rather than “adding changes upon changes.” He warned that the loser pays model, such as proposed in the SHIELD Act, could have unintended consequences for small businesses and inventors wanting to bring lawsuit against a large competitor because there is always legal uncertainty.

Mossoff was skeptical of claims that patents are discouraging innovation and harming consumers. He stated, “We have amazing technological innovation in the high-tech and biotech industries [and] strong patenting in those industries to go along with that innovation.” He cited innovations such as tablets, smartphones, retinal scanners, and motion air swiping functionality. Referring loosely to the arguments made by some that the “internet is open” and “that we really don’t have property rights in the internet in a fundamental way,” he noted that “the packet switching technologies, which is the technological transfer of information on the internet, as well as the TCP/IP protocol, which is the core protocol of the entire communications on the internet — both of those technologies were patented, yet we have the development of the internet. We have the development of an open framework.”

Application Developers Alliance Vice President of Law, Policy, and Government Affairs Tim Sparapani urged Congress to act against the “scourge” of patent trolls and to pass legislation. He explicitly called for passage of Senator Schumer’s Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013 to allow for speedy reexamination of patent quality.

His organization has heard from app developers nationwide that patent demand letters are impacting their ability to innovate. He characterized the problem as a pre-litigation problem – “an extortion problem” – whereby small businesses and individual innovators are faced with a choice between litigating or paying patent holders for patented technology that “everyone thought was foundational.” Do you “bet the company” or not?

Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Vice President of Law and Policy Matt Schruers endorsed Senator Schumer’s Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013 and the proposal to expand the covered business program in Chairman Goodlatte’s Patent Discussion Draft.

He disagreed with the premise that the presence of both innovation and patents in today’s marketplace is a sign of a properly functioning patent system, as Mossoff asserted. Schruers noted that correlation isn’t causation. He further argued that $29 billion in litigation costs each year could be better spent on R&D for new products. He noted that lawsuits are diverting the efforts of software engineers, who find themselves spending time responding to pre-litigation and litigation questions rather than inventing and building new products. As a result, he stated, “We’ve come to the point where producing a product has become a liability.”

In later remarks, Mossoff said the $29 billion attributed to patent trolls comes from a study that has been “heavily criticized” by scholars Jay Kesan and David Schwartz who identified fundamental methodological flaws.

MOSAID Technologies Senior Vice President and Chief Intellectual Property Officer Scott Burt supported the proposal to direct a judicial conference in Chairman Goodlatte’s Patent Discussion Draft.

He observed that the cost of litigation is a cost of a system that allows for patent enforcement. He suggested one useful approach would be to allow judges to decide how to control costs, such as discovery costs and fee shifting, on a case-by-case basis because the judges best know how to handle the matter. He also discussed the beneficial role of the “technical meetings” between the parties before litigation even begins.

What’s Next?

In a recent press release, Senator Leahy stated, “Chairman Goodlatte and I are committed to working in a bicameral and bipartisan way to counter patent trolling. The Discussion Draft released today is an important starting point. I look forward to hearing constructive comments on it from all interested parties as I prepare legislation in the Senate.”

The event details and archived audio for “If Patent Litigation Is Strangling High Tech Innovation, When Will Congress Act?” are available at:
http://www.netcaucus.org/events/2013/patents_innovation/

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USACM Statement on House Ways and Means Subcommittee Hearing on U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council today submitted the following statement to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade for the hearing on the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

 

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council encourages the negotiators to consider the following three principles when negotiating provisions relevant to intellectual property protection and enforcement within this important proposed trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

Balance Intellectual Property Protection with Relevant Private and Public Interests
Adequate protection of intellectual property requires carefully balancing various interests. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council is committed to ensuring that intellectual property rights are protected. How those rights are enforced can have unintended negative consequences, including blocking legitimate uses of intellectual property. Policymakers must ensure that fair uses of intellectual property are preserved. Fair use rights ensure that researchers, students, people with disabilities, and others can effectively exchange knowledge and information for legitimate purposes.

Promote Innovation and Competitiveness
Whether it is within computing fields and industry or across society broadly, computing technology is driving innovation. New developments in computing have created new jobs, products, and services, and have spurred the increased speed, scope, and scale of innovation. Advances in computing have facilitated the collection, organization, and analysis of information in many different fields of research and development. Public policy should foster and encourage a wide variety of technological advancements, approaches, and systems to emerge within a competitive marketplace. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council encourages policymakers to adopt policies that narrowly address specific user behaviors, rather than broadly prohibiting technologies because of their potential for undesirable use.

Preserve Data Privacy of Individuals
As society embraces new technologies and increases interaction with the data and systems these technologies entail, the issues of security and privacy in computing become increasingly paramount. Striking a balance between individual privacy rights and valid government and commercial needs is a complex challenge facing technologists and policymakers, but one of vital importance. Computing techniques are available today that can meet many private sector and government needs, while fully embracing the data privacy principles of minimization, consent, openness, access, accuracy, security, and accountability.

Conclusion
The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council urges the U.S. government to negotiate intellectual property provisions that uphold relevant domestic laws and international law while concurrently fostering innovation of software and digital computing, preserving the rights of users of these technologies, and minimizing barriers that could impede the economic potential of digital trade, e-commerce, and internet-based services. We urge the negotiators to foster opportunities for stakeholder engagement and to make available the draft text of the agreement for public input.

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White House Open Data Executive Order Echoes USACM Recommendations

In early May the White House issued an Executive Order outlining a policy to make open and machine readable the ‘default’ for new and ‘modernized’ government information. This Open Data Policy would be implemented for federal agencies over the next few months, with quarterly progress reports following the initial rollout.

While the Administration rightly notes that the Open Data Policy is part of an ongoing Open Government Initiative (involving several other executive orders and policies dating to 2009), it also echoes recommendations made by many groups, including USACM. In 2009, as the Administration was dealing with the stimulus legislation, USACM issued recommendations on the government release of data:

  • Data published by the government should be in formats and approaches that promote analysis and reuse of that data.
  • Data republished by the government that has been received or stored in a machine-readable format (such as online regulatory filings) should preserve the machine-readability of that data.
  • Information should be posted so as to also be accessible to citizens with limitations and disabilities.
  • Citizens should be able to download complete datasets of regulatory, legislative or other information, or appropriately chosen subsets of that information, when it is published by government.
  • Citizens should be able to directly access government-published datasets using standard methods such as queries via an API (Application Programming Interface).
  • Government bodies publishing data online should always seek to publish using data formats that do not include executable content.
  • Published content should be digitally signed or include attestation of publication/creation date, authenticity, and integrity.

As the Office of Management and Budget, the Chief Technology Officer, and the Chief Information Officer help agencies implement the new default setting for government information, the additional details should demonstrate how closely this effort aligns with the USACM recommendations. Early signs are encouraging.

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Senate Hearing on Making Movies and Inflight Entertainment Accessible

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a legislative hearing last week on two bills that would address accessible entertainment in movie theaters and on airplanes. Witnesses included representatives from the FCC, the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Council for the Blind, the National Association for the Deaf, The Benetech Initiative, and the National Association of Theatre Owners. There were no witnesses from the airline industry or providers of inflight entertainment.

None of the witnesses disputed the need for improved accessible digital entertainment technologies, but they provided differing perspectives on whether the federal government should mandate new legal requirements, national standards, and implementation deadlines or defer to industry efforts.

Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), who was the original sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), introduced the two bills in March 2013. The bills would amend Title III of the ADA to require movie theaters and airlines to provide open captioning (visible to everyone), closed captioning (displayed and controlled on an individual basis), and video descriptions (narrative during pauses to describe the onscreen action for blind and visually impaired users).

The Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility (CINEMA) Act, S. 555, would require open captioning, closed captioning, and video descriptions at movie theaters with two or more screens.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, S. 556, would require open captioning, closed captioning, and video descriptions for inflight entertainment programming on airplanes. The bill would authorize the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, known as the U.S. Access Board, to establish standards for touchscreen devices.

The witnesses generally agreed that the transition to digital formats and the voluntary adoption of an industry standard has made it easier and far less costly for movie providers and theaters to provide captioning and video descriptions. Further, recent advances in digital and mobile technologies, such as those leveraging Wi-Fi and infrared, have allowed movie theaters to increase their capacity to provide these services. The President and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, John Fithian, said, “America’s cinema owners are installing captioning and description systems literally as fast as the manufacturers can produce them.” According to a May 2013 survey by the Association, 53% of movie theaters now have captioning and description systems. Fithian said the majority of those systems rely on technology that has only been available in the marketplace during the last year.

Not a topic of the hearing, major movie theater chains have been adding captioning services as the result of litigation under Title III of the ADA or the threat of litigation. For example, in 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the ADA requires movies theaters to provide closed captioning and descriptions, classified as “auxiliary aids and services” under Title III, unless these services would create a fundamental alteration or impose an undue burden. The Court also held that open captioning is not required as a matter of law, citing the DOJ’s commentary in the preamble to the federal regulations last revised in 1991. DOJ’s commentary states “[m]ovie theaters are not required by [28 C.F.R. ] § 36.303 to present open-captioned films.” The Court disagreed with the DOJ’s argument that new technologies superseded the commentary. Three months after the decision, the DOJ announced it was considering revising the regulations and sought public comment.

“If this court were to accept [the DOJ's interpretation], the DOJ’s detailed interpretive guidance could be circumvented whenever a new technology for providing open captioning becomes available. Entities such as Harkins should be able to rely on the plain import of the DOJ’s commentary until it is revised. Because the commentary to Title 28, part 36.303 states that open captions are not required by § 36.303, we conclude that open captioning is not mandated by the ADA as a matter of law.”
Arizona v. Harkins Amusement Enterprises, 603 F.3d 666 (9th Cir. 2010)

The Harkins case was significant because it was the first case by a Circuit Court of Appeals on whether movie theaters are required to provide captioning and video descriptions under the ADA. Since then, additional lawsuits in federal and state courts have further spurred industry to act either in response to a court order or in fear of one. AMC, Cinemark, Landmark, and Regal are among the major movie theater companies to announce a commitment to provide captioning at their movie theaters.

Eve Hill, the Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the Committee that the DOJ solicited public comments in July 2010 on potential revisions to the implementing regulations for closed captioning and video descriptions by movie theaters under Title III of the ADA. She said the DOJ currently is reviewing the 1,100+ public comments in preparation for the next stage of rulemaking.

Hill commended the movie theaters for their apparent commitment to making movies accessible. However, she expressed concern that not every theater has announced plans to provide captioning and many theaters limit captioned showings to certain days or times.

An open question is whether movie theaters should be allowed to choose between offering open captioning, closed captioning, or both. Senator Harkin’s proposed CINEMA Act would mandate “providing, or making available,” both open and closed captioning. In the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2010, the DOJ summarized feedback received in 2008 from the State Attorneys General, which supported allowing movie theaters to choose which type of captioning to provide and which type of technology to use to allow for flexibility, more choices, and advances in technologies.

The hearing details, archived video, and written testimonies from “The ADA and Entertainment Technologies: Improving Accessibility from the Movie Screen to Your Mobile Device” are available at:
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 20

May 21

Hearing:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity with witnesses from intelligence and critical infrastructure backgrounds.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

The Research and Technology Subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on biometric technologies.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a cybersecurity hearing focused on the communications supply chain.
2 p.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

May 22

Hearing:
The Energy Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on exascale computing.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

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USACM Comments on Proposed US-EU Trade Agreement

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council submitted its public comment to the U.S. Trade Representative outlining three important intellectual property principles for the U.S. government to consider in the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade negotiations with the European Union. The United States and the EU share the largest economic relationship in the world, according to the USTR.

The public comment urges the USTR to negotiate intellectual property provisions that uphold relevant domestic laws and international law while concurrently fostering innovation of software and digital computing, preserving the rights of users of these technologies, and minimizing barriers that could impede the economic potential of digital trade, e-commerce, and internet-based services.

As background, the United States-EU High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth recommended the creation of a transatlantic trade and investment agreement in its final report in February 2013. That report states that both parties are committed to “maintaining and promoting a high level of intellectual protection, including enforcement, and to cooperating extensively.”

The parties will be guided by the 10 trade principles for information and communication technology services, including Internet and other network-based applications, adopted by the United States and the EU in 2011. The policy principles promote transparency, open networks and applications, the free flow of cross-border information, efficient use of spectrum, the independence of regulatory authorities, competitive telecom services, nondiscriminatory and transparent rates for interconnection, and international cooperation to reduce the “digital divide.”

 

Interested in participating in policy discussions about the forthcoming TTIP trade negotiations? Here are a few opportunities to hear from and interact with key policymakers and other stakeholders.

  • The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the TTIP on Thursday, May 16, at 2 p.m.

  • The Washington International Trade Association will be holding a series of events featuring the key negotiators, expert trade negotiators, and stakeholders between May 15 and June 13.

  • The USTR will hold two hearings to further explore various negotiating priorities on May 29 and May 30 in Washington, D.C.

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This Week in Federal Policy

Topics to be addressed in Congressional hearings this week include: internet video, accessibility for people with disabilities, federal computing research, big data, patent reform, copyright reform, automated vehicle technologies, cybersecurity, e-verify, and drones.

On Wednesday, FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen will speak on “FTC’s Google Investigation: Implications for the States and Other Countries.”

On Thursday, the USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly meeting.

5/15/2013 Updated hearing times and witness lists.

Special Announcement
USACM member Pam Samuelson will be testifying on copyright principles on Thursday at 2 pm before the House Judiciary Committee in her role as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley Law School.
A live webcast will be available.

Tuesday, May 14

Senate Hearing on “State of Video”
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
May 14, 10:30 a.m.
Russell Senate Office Building – Room 253
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Senator John McCain (R-AZ); The Honorable Gordon H. Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Broadcasters; The Honorable Michael K. Powell, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Cable & Telecommunications Association; R. Stanton Dodge, Executive vice President and General Counsel, DISH Network; and John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney, Public Knowledge.

Senate Hearing on “The ADA and Entertainment Technologies: Improving Accessibility from the Movie Screen to Your Mobile Device”
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Full Committee Hearing
May 14, 2:30 p.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 430

Scheduled witnesses include: Eve Hill , Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division; Karen Peltz Strauss , Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC; John Fithian , President and CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners; Betsy Beaumon , Vice President and General Manager, Literacy Program, The Benetech Initiative; Brian Charlson , Chair, Information Access Committee, American Council of the Blind; and Andrew Phillips , Policy Counsel, Law & Advocacy Center, National Association of the Deaf.

House Field Hearing on “Data Centers and the Cloud: Is the Government Optimizing New Information Technologies to Save Taxpayers Money?”
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Subcommittee on Government Operations
May 14, 2:30 p.m.
George Mason University, Fairfax Campus

Scheduled witnesses include: David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Bernard Mazer, CIO, U.S. Department of Interior; and Teresa Carlson, Vice President, World Wide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services.

Wednesday, May 15

FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen on “FTC’s Google Investigation: Implications for the States and Other Countries”
Third Annual Conference on Competition Policy in Search and Social Media
May 15, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
George Mason University School of Law
You must preregister for this event.

House Hearing on “Patent Reform Implementation and New Challenges for Small Businesses”
House Small Business Committee
Full Committee Hearing
May 15, 1 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2360
Live webcast will be available.

The America Invents Act (AIA) signed into law on September 16, 2011, made significant changes to the procedures by which the United States awards patents. Given the changes, the hearing will address how the procedural changes affect the ability of small businesses to obtain patents. In addition, the hearing will examine how patent assertion entities (PAEs) affect small firms and whether additional changes are needed in patent procedures to ameliorate the adverse consequences of PAEs on small firms.

Senate Hearing on “The Road Ahead: Advanced Vehicle Technology and its Implications”
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
May 14, 2:30 p.m.
Russell Senate Office Building – Room 253
Live webcast will be available.

The hearing will explore the safety benefits, potential risks, and policy implications from the development and implementation of advanced vehicle technologies. These include advanced driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems, partially and fully self-driving vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, as well as communications and entertainment devices for drivers. Scheduled witnesses include: The Honorable David Strickland, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Dr. Peter Sweatman, Director, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute; Dr. John D. Lee, Emerson Electric Quality & Productivity Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Jeffrey J. Owens, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Delphi Automotive.

Thursday, May 16

House Hearing on ” Facilitating Cyber Threat Information Sharing and Partnering with the Private Sector to Protect Critical Infrastructure: An Assessment of DHS Capabilities”
House Homeland Security Committee
Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies
May 16, 9 a.m.
Cannon House Office Building – Room 311
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Roberta Stempfley, Acting Assistant Secretary of Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Larry Zelvin, Director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center,
Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and Charles Edwards, Acting Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Senate Hearing on “Silo Busting and Government Reorganization”
Senate Budget Committee
Full Committee Hearing
May 16, 10 a.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 608

Scheduled witnesses include: John P. Holdren, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology

Senate Roundtable on “The Impact of Mandatory E-Verify on America’s Small Businesses”
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee
Full Committee Panel Discussion
May 16, 10:30 a.m.
Russell Senate Office Building – Room 428A

Witness list to be announced.

House Hearing on “A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project”
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
May 16, 2 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Jon Baumgarten, retired Proskauer Rose attorney and former General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office; Laura Gasaway, Professor, University of North Carolina Law School and co-chair of the Section 108 Study Group; Daniel Gervais, Director, Vanderbilt Law School Intellectual Property Program; Pam Samuelson, Professor, University of California at Berkeley Law School; and Jule Sigall, Assistant General Counsel for Copyright, Microsoft and former Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs of the U.S. Copyright Office.

House Hearing on “U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations”
House Ways and Means Committee
Subcommittee on Trade
May 16, 2 p.m.
Longworth House Office Building – Room 1105
Live webcast will be available.

The focus of the hearing is on the benefits of expanding U.S.-EU trade, including through the negotiation of a trade and investment agreement. The hearing focus will include: (1) tariff barriers to trade; (2) regulatory barriers, including sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to U.S. agriculture exports; (3) opportunities for regulatory cooperation and coherence; (4) services and investment barriers; and (5) ways to strengthen cooperation between the United States and the EU with regard to third-country issues.

Note: Any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing. The deadline for written submissions is Thursday, May 30, 2013.

House Hearing on “Espionage Threats at Federal Laboratories”
House Science, Space and Technology Committee
Subcommittee on Oversight
May 16, 2 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2318
Live webcast will be available.

Scheduled witnesses include: Dr. Charles M. Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering; Dr. Larry M. Wortzel, Commissioner, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission; Hon. Michelle Van Cleave, Senior Fellow, Homeland Security Policy Institute, George Washington University; and David G. Major, Founder and President, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies.

USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting
May 16, 2013, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia
The meeting is open to the public.
The meeting will be available by WebEx.

Friday, May 17

House Hearing on “Eyes in the Sky: The Domestic Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems”
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
May 17, 9 a.m.
Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2141
Live webcast will be available.

Witness list to be announced.

Have a great week!

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of May 6

May 8

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on responses to cyberthreats.
9 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building

May 9

Hearing:
The Subcommittee on Government Operations of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on biometric identification.
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

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5th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference on May 9, 2013

The Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee brings you the 5th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference on Thursday, May 9, 2013. Key members of Congress and their staff, Administration officials, tech executives, and mobile-savvy technologists will discuss location-based services, privacy, the mobile broadband spectrum squeeze, and other emergent legal and legislative issues facing lawmakers in Congress.

Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) will deliver framing keynotes.

ACM is a member of the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (ICAC). The Advisory Committee supports and encourages the Congressional Internet Caucus in its mission to educate policymakers about important Internet-related policy issues.

5th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 2-5 pm, cocktail reception immediately following
Sewall-Belmont House and Museum
144 Constitution Ave N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
Near the Dirksen Senate Office Building

To register: http://www.netcaucus.org/conference/2013/sotmn/

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U.S. Election Assistance Commission Roundtable on Voting Accessibility on May 9, 2013

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission will hold a roundtable on “Transforming Election Administration, Voting System Accessibility, and the Certification Process” on Thursday, May 9 from noon to 5:30 pm EDT to explore current and future research in accessible voting technology. The roundtable will be available by live webcast.

ACM U.S. Public Policy Council member Dr. Juan E. Gilbert will be participating in the roundtable and will be presenting his research on an accessible voting system developed at Clemson University, known as the Prime III: A Universally Designed Voting Machine.

Dr. Gilbert, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science, is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Computing, an IDEaS Professor, and Chair of the Human-Centered Computing Division in the School of Computing at Clemson University where he leads the HCC Lab. His research team at Clemson University won the FCC Chairman’s 2012 Award for Advancement in Accessibility for the Prime III. Dr. Gilbert was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring by President Barack Obama in 2011.

Agenda: http://www.eac.gov/transforming_election_administration_
voting_system_accessibility_and_the_certification_process/

Live webcast: http://www.eac.gov

Twitter: @EACgov, #FOV13

Roundtable on Transforming Election Administration, Voting System Accessibility, and the Certification Process
U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 12 noon to 5:30 p.m.
1225 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 150
Washington, DC 20005

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HHS: Technology Accessibility and Inclusion Conference on May 7, 2013

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will hold its first “a11y@HHS: Technology Accessibility and Inclusion Conference,” on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at the FDA White Oak Campus. The conference is open to the public. A live webcast will be available. Advance registration is required.

The all-day conference will feature sessions on web and enterprise accessibility, procurement planning, compliance monitoring, best practices for workplace inclusion, and legal ramifications.

Invited speakers include:

  • Hon. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (via video)
  • Frank Baitman, HHS CIO
  • Craig Luigart, Chair, Federal CIO Council Accessibility Committee
  • Timothy Creagan, US Access Board
  • Helen Chamberlain, GSA Government wide 508 Program Manager
  • Deborah Kaplan, Social Security Administration
  • Dick Stapleton, Deputy Director, HHS Web Communications Division
  • Jaime Robinson and Mark Urban, HHS Section 508 Program Team Co-Chairs

Wondering about the conference name? a11y@HHS means “accessibility at HHS.” A11y is a common abbreviation for accessibility. The “11″ indicates eleven missing letters.

See you there!

a11y@HHS: Technology Accessibility and Inclusion Conference
Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 8 am – 4 pm
FDA White Oak Campus
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20903
http://a11yhhs.eventbrite.com/

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USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee Meeting – May 16, 2013

The USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, May 16, 2013 from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting is open to the public. The meeting will also be available by WebEx.

Below are a few of the agenda topics in bold, with my notes for additional context.

  • Patent quality

    The USPTO has established the Software Partnership initiative to get input from the software community on possible ways to enhance the quality of software-related patents.

  • Patent End-to-End (PE2E) system

    The PE2E system is intended for use by both patent applicants and examiners to allow patent applications to be submitted, handled, examined, and prosecuted electronically.

  • Legislative update

    • Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced on May 2 that he intends to introduce new legislation to address patent trolls and unwarranted lawsuits. His press release states, “Specifically, this has been an enormous problem among technology start-up companies: 62% of patents asserted by trolls from 1990-2010 were software patents; 75% were in computer and communications technology. And this is a particular problem for small businesses: 82% of companies targeted by trolls of annual revenues less than $100 million.”

    • H.R. 845, Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act of 2013. This bill, sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Pete DeFazio (D-OR), would enable the winner in patent litigation to recover litigation costs from the loser, known as the “loser pays” model. Although similar to their bill from the last Congress, which never made it out of Committee, the bill includes two major changes. First, it would apply to all types of patents, not just computer hardware and software patent litigation. Second, the loser-pays model would apply if the losing party is not able to meet at least one of three criteria: (1) original inventor, (2) exploitation of the patent, such as showing substantial investment through production or sale, and (3) university or technology transfer organization. So-called patent trolls likely would not meet any of the three criteria and thus would be subject to the loser-pays model.

    • S. 712, Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act of 2013. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Committee member Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced this bill to encourage the use of patented technology to address humanitarian needs by allowing acceleration certificates awarded under the Patents for Humanity Program to be transferrable.

    • The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held two hearings on patent litigation since the PPAC’s last quarterly meeting:

      • “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Impact on American Innovation and Jobs and Potential Solutions,” March 14, 2013, written testimony and video

      • “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Issues Impacting American Competitiveness and Job Creation at the International Trade Commission and Beyond,” April 16, 2013, written testimony and video

  • Finance/Budget Update/Sequestration

    The USPTO, a user fee-funded agency, faces possible funding challenges.

The meeting details and full agenda are available at:
http://www.uspto.gov/about/advisory/ppac/20130516-ppac-quarterly-meeting.jsp

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New GAO Report on Voting Accessibility

Almost all polling places had an accessible voting system during the 2008 elections, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). That’s the good news.

The bad news: At nearly half of the polling places with an accessible voting system, voters with disabilities still faced barriers to voting independently and privately. For example, some accessible voting systems were set up at voting stations inaccessible to wheelchairs; others lacked headsets for blind and visually impaired voters to hear the audio; and some accessible voting systems were on site but not placed into use.

The voting accessibility problems identified by the GAO seem more logistical than insurmountable and could be addressed through improved physical access. The next big question for accessible voting is whether the technology being put into service to make voting accessible to all eligible voters is actually effective at allowing citizens to cast their ballots privately and independently.

A few highlights from the GAO Report on “Challenges to Voting Accessibility”:

  • Accessibility improved since 2000.
  • The majority of potential impediments at polling places in 2008 occurred outside of or at the building entrance.
  • 43 states reported setting accessibility standards for voters with disabilities; compared to 23 states in 2000.
  • 31 states reported that ensuring polling place accessibility was very or moderately challenging.

Accessible voting systems

  • All but one polling place had an accessible voting system. The researchers did not assess legal compliance with accessible voting system requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
  • 46% of those accessible voting systems had potential impediments. The researchers looked at four factors:
    • 29% of accessible voting systems did not accommodate people using wheelchairs.
    • 23% did not provide the same level of privacy.
    • 6% lacked earphones for audio functions.
    • 5% were not set up or powered on.

Accommodations for voters with disabilities

  • 23 states reported requiring polling places to provide other accommodations for voters with disabilities, such as curbside voting, down from 28 in 2000.
  • Types of accommodations that states required local jurisdictions to provide [Note: This is given in figure 4, which is not accessible in the pdf version of the Report.]
    • Curbside voting (23 states)
    • Magnifying instruments (12 states)
    • Larger type ballots (11 states)
    • Ballot taken to residence / long-term care facilities (9 states)
    • Braille ballots (6 states)

The full text of the GAO Report on “Challenges to Voting Accessibility” is available at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-538SP

 

Interested in participating in policy discussions about accessible voting? Here are two opportunities:

  • National Council on Disability – Request for Written Testimony
    Deadline: May 7, 2013
    The National Council on Disability (NCD) is accepting additional written testimony, following its Congressional Policy Forum last Tuesday on “The Help America Vote Act Ten Years Later: Has the Law Accomplished Its Aim?” The feedback will be used to help inform NCD for its forthcoming policy report on voting access.
    http://www.ncd.gov/events/OtherEvents/04232013/
  • U.S. Election Assistance Commission Roundtable
    May 9, 2013, noon-5:30 pm EDT
    Next Thursday, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will hold a roundtable on “EAC Grant Funding: Accessibility Research, Election Administration and Voting Systems” to discuss the results of grant-funded work on accessible voting systems and the implications for future elections. A live webcast will be available.
    http://www.eac.gov/events/20130509.aspx
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USACM Encourages Flexibility In Proposed Cybersecurity Framework

As part of the President’s Executive Order on Cybersecurity, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is required to develop a Cybersecurity Framework (Framework). This Framework, per Section 7 of the Executive Order, would “include a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks.”

As part of its development process, NIST issued a Request for Information (RFI) related to the Cybersecurity Framework, and USACM submitted comments in response. This RFI is the first part of what will be a very public review and comment process. NIST will host a series of workshops this summer, beginning in late May at Carnegie Mellon University.

In its comments, USACM focused on two points: effective privacy controls and the fluidity of cybersecurity.

Applying the Fair Information Practice Principles through the Framework helps protect privacy, and supports the reliability and security of systems. Coupled with effective access controls and data minimization, such practices can help preserve legal limits on the access to the information that could be shared under the Executive Order. There can be adverse consequences to erring on the side of more information disclosure. Making sure only relevant cybersecurity threat information is shared, and only for cybersecurity purposes, can make data management easier and reduce the risk of unintended and/or inappropriate information disclosure.

While having a single Framework to serve as a source of guidance for cybersecurity has its benefits, there is a risk of becoming too static in preparing for threats. New challenges to cybersecurity systems can arise quickly, and different kinds of systems have different challenges to respond to. The Framework will be more effective if the standards it includes are either sector-specific, or sufficiently narrow that it will be possible to demonstrate that the standard improves security for the affected system.

These arguments, along with responses to some of the specific questions in the RFI, are detailed in USACM’s comments. Besides the workshops, there will be additional opportunities for input into the Framework, which should be released in draft form late this year.

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Congressional Forum on Voting Accessibility

National Council on Disability’s Congressional Policy Forum on Voting Access
“The Help America Vote Act Ten Years Later: Has the Law Accomplished Its Aim?”
Tuesday, April 23, 2 – 4:30 p.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 608
(Senate Budget Committee Hearing Room)

This Congressional Policy Forum will help inform the National Council on Disability (NCD) on issues related to voting access for people with disabilities in anticipation of a forthcoming NCD report. The main focus will be on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the challenges, successes, and barriers to its implementation today. The event will feature testimony from Congressional members, representatives from federal agencies and the Obama Administration, and the disability communities.

Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), the author of the HAVA, is scheduled to testify and to receive questions. “Through his tireless leadership securing passage of HAVA, Senator Dodd fought for a simple yet profound truth: in the United States of America, every voter – including voters with disabilities — should have an equal opportunity to vote privately and independently, and that vote should be counted,” stated today’s NCD Press Release.

NCD will accept written public comments until May 7.

Posted in E-voting, Web Accessibility | Comments closed

Senate Hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Opportunities and Challenges
Senate Finance Committee
Full Committee Hearing
April 24, 10 a.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building – Room 215
Live webcast will be available.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed multilateral regional trade agreement currently being negotiated by 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam. If the parties agree to include Japan, the TPP countries will constitute 40% of global GDP and roughly 33% of international trade, according to a joint statement of the TPP Ministers released on Saturday, April 20. The TPP will address a broad range of goods, services, investments, and industry sectors. The U.S. Trade Representative is the chief negotiator for the United States and provides ongoing updates.

Among the scheduled witnesses, the President and CEO of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, David Hirschmann, is scheduled to testify. GIPC advocates for stronger intellectual property rights and enforcement.

Additional scheduled witnesses include: The Honorable Karan Bhatia, Vice President and Senior Counsel of Global Government Affairs and Policy at GE Company; Bob Hanson, President of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation; and Tom Suber, President of the U. S. Dairy Export Council.

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Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 22

April 24 – Edited to Add Do Not Track hearing

April 24

Hearing:

The Subcommittee on Research of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on computing and ‘big data.’
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the status of voluntary efforts to establish Do Not Track standards for online activity.
2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building

April 25

Markup:

The Senate Judiciary Committee will review legislation on updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Building (held over from last Thursday, April 18

Hearing:

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on geolocation privacy and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building

The Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on critical infrastructure protection, privacy and civil liberties.
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Building

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National Council on Disability – Public Forum on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Public Forum on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Tuesday, April 23, 9:30 – 10 a.m.
Access Board Conference Room
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
78 Federal Register 20957

Tomorrow, the National Council on Disability will accept public comments in person on how the Council should engage on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). See the announcement in the Federal Register for additional opportunities for public comments on all topics in person or by phone during their quarterly meeting this afternoon and tomorrow.

Below are a few articles of the Convention relevant to the policy areas of the ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, as well as some existing U.S. federal laws that implement these articles. These highlights are not intended to be comprehensive.

• Accessibility of Information and Communication Technologies

Article 9 calls upon countries to “promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet” and to “promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early state so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.”

Article 21 requires countries to take appropriate measures to ensure access to information “on an equal basis with others.” This includes, in part, providing accessible information and technologies without additional costs.

The U.S. government complies with these requirements mainly through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

• Accessible Voting Technologies

Article 29 guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to participate in political and public life, including voting. A reservation to the treaty says that U.S. implementation of the treaty is subject to the U.S. federal system. This treaty reservation supports states and local governments within the United States retaining the right over issues covered by the treaty and conferred to states, such as voting.

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

• Intellectual Property

Article 30 requires countries to take “all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.”

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through exceptions to the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The U.S. also would rely on international treaties, such as those adopted under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), when interpreting obligations under this article and compliance under international law.

• Privacy

Article 22 requires that countries shall not subject persons with disabilities “to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence or other types of communication.” This language is a variation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the U.S. is already a Party and thus bound by its legal obligations. ICCPR Article 17 reads, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” CRPD Article 22 also requires countries to “protect the privacy of personal, health and rehabilitation information of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

The U.S. government complies with these requirements, in part, through the privacy of health records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A reservation to the treaty related to federalism allows states to enact greater privacy protections.

Full-text of the CRPD is available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml

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Cyber Week Recap

Plenty of techies, carrying an array of digital devices and looking for power outlets, swarmed Capitol Hill last week for the so-called “cyber week” in the U.S. House of Representatives. To give you some idea of the number of tech lobbyists on scene, Wednesday’s huddle began with the announcement that one major tech company alone assembled an estimated 200 people to work the cybersecurity bill. This posting gives you a few highlights from last week.

Cyber week was a busy week with controversial floor votes in both chambers, 36 scheduled Senate committee hearings, 60+ scheduled House committee hearings, and numerous other lobbyists and advocates on the Hill, including bankers, golfers, restaurateurs, and representatives from various interest groups vying to protect or increase some part of the federal budget. Add to that a lockdown of parts of two Senate office buildings on Wednesday, various caucus events; a Congressional briefing on people with disabilities; and the addition of the newest Congressional member, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Similar to last year, cyber week focused largely on the passage of four bills by the House related to, in part, fostering cloud computing research, strengthening computer science education, promoting greater participation by women and minorities in the computing field, and improving cybersecurity practices within government and in collaboration with private industry.

The increasing pervasiveness and importance of technology and cyberspace in federal policy was evident in additional cyber themes that resonated during the week throughout Capitol Hill. Those themes included: intellectual property theft, computer and software patent litigation, accessible cloud and mobile technologies, internet governance, internet taxation, and immigration reforms to foster a high-skill tech workforce in cloud, mobile, and high-performance computing.

House Floor Votes

The week included the easy passage of three cyber bills and the contentious passage of a fourth cyber bill in the House.

• Federal Efforts to Foster Research, Education, and Workforce Diversity

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, in a joint letter with CRA, IEEE-CS, and SIAM to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee last month, endorsed the following two cyber bills, which were overwhelmingly approved last week by the House.

The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013, H.R. 756 (passed 402-16) would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) cybersecurity research grant program for basic research aimed at enhancing computer and network hardware and software, human-computer interactions, usability, identity management, and the detection, investigation, and prosecution of cyber-crimes, including those involving intellectual property theft, organized crime, and crimes against children. It would continue a Scholarship for Service program to provide scholarships to university and college students who pursue a degree in a cybersecurity field contingent upon the student working for the federal government after graduation. It also would require the 15 member agencies of the NITRD program to develop and update a cybersecurity strategic research and development plan.

The Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2013, H.R. 967 (passed 406-11) would require the NITRD program to provide for expanded research on cyber-physical systems, human-computer interactions, visualization, and big data. It would require the establishment of a task force to explore how to expand collaborative intra-agency research and development activities on cyber-physical systems. It also would require the 15 member agencies of the NITRD program to develop and update a 5-year strategic plan, which would include, in part, how NITRD will strengthen education and training programs “to ensure an adequate, well-trained workforce” and increased student diversity in postsecondary degree programs.

• Federal Efforts to Strengthen Information Security at Federal Agencies

The Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2013, H.R. 1163 (passed 416-0) would require federal agencies to have agency-wide information security plans with policies, procedures, and practices approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

• Public-Private Information Sharing Efforts to Combat Intellectual Property Theft

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council released a statement earlier this month expressing concern with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 624 (passed 288-127), which would make it easier to share information between the government and companies. My colleague David has been tracking CISPA and will be providing updates.

Notably, similar to last year, the need for sharing information to combat intellectual property theft was a a dominant theme of various floor speeches leading up to the floor vote.

House Select Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) focused on the need to protect against intellectual property theft as an important reason for the bill just before the members voted against the motion to recommit and then passed the bill. He stated that cyber theft of intellectual property is a “serious issue” that America is not prepared to deal with and that it poses a major threat to American companies, middle-class jobs, and the economy. He cited a few examples and emphasized how such theft is occurring every day. National Intelligence Director James Clapper had told the Committee the previous week that intellectual property theft in cyberspace occurs daily.

Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus Co-Chair Jim Langevin’s (D-RI) floor statement also framed the bill in terms of intellectual property theft. He stated, “Obviously, the challenges we presently face in cyberspace are growing exponentially every day. It seems like there’s not a week that goes by that you don’t hear of a new major attack on our critical infrastructure or particularly our banking system or major corporations with intellectual property theft, and obviously we have got to take action and do so now.” He further stated that adversaries are “actively engaged in cyber attacks or theft of intellectual property or identity theft and the list goes on and on.”

Congressional Hearings

• Intellectual Property

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing last Tuesday on “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Issues Impacting American Competitiveness and Job Creation at the International Trade Commission and Beyond.”

The Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for 3M, Kevin Rhodes, testified that “3M understands from firsthand experience the costs involved in defending itself in an ITC investigation alleging infringement by software and components of products with hundreds of other components, like 3M’s RFID readers, tags and software used for electronic toll collection and parking management.”

Professor Colleen V. Chien of Santa Clara University School of Law in her written testimony stated that “enforcement is now the new normal.” She stated that large companies have followed the lead of patent assertion entities and “are monetizing and asserting their patents at a greater rate as well, e.g. through the smartphone wars.” She recommended that Congress should mandate the public disclosure of data on patent litigations, reexaminations, and ITC actions to third party providers who would “consolidate and make information available to the public in an accessible form at no or low cost and allow public interest groups to monitor implementation.” She stated, “Google Patents and Patent Bulk downloads would be a natural choice for a partner.”

• Internet Governance

In a show of bipartisan cooperation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 1580 on internet governance, as sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) with 32 cosponsors (26R and 6D).

The bill omitted the controversial “to promote a global Internet free from government control” phrasing from the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology that concerned some members. The concern was, in part, that the language could be interpreted to preclude the FCC’s authority to regulate internet-related issues and the ability of the government to address various policy issues, including cybersecurity and online IP infringement. Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) also expressed concern during the Subcommittee markup that the prior language could hinder diplomatic efforts because of the contract relationship between the Department of Commerce (NTIA) and ICAAN.

Compare the Subcommittee’s text for Section 2:

“It is the policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet.”

With the final adopted text for Section 2:

“It is the policy of the United States to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet.”

H.R. 1580 now advances to the full House. No Roll Call vote is scheduled.

• Internet Taxation

Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced a bill on internet taxation last Tuesday. The purpose of the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, S.743, is “to restore States’ sovereign rights to enforce State and local sales and use tax laws, and for other purposes.” The bill has bipartisan support from 28 cosponsors. The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote to proceed with the bill later today.

• High-End Computing Research

On Tuesday, the same day that the House overwhelmingly approved the two bills to foster computing research and development (above H.R. 756 and H.R. 967), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced S.733, “A bill to amend the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy, and for other purposes.” The bill currently has 8 cosponsors (2R and 6D), twice as many as a similar bill in the 112th Congress that died in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The text of S. 733 is not available yet, but it is expected to be similar to previous bills that called for supporting high performance computing and research on “exascale” performance, which would enable significantly more powerful computers than today’s fastest supercomputers.

Posted in Education and Workforce, Intellectual Property, Privacy and Security | Comments closed

USACM Comments on Ways to Improve Quality of Software-Related Patents

The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council submitted comments to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office yesterday in response to its request for recommendations on how the USPTO and the software community might “enhance the quality of software-related patents.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the computing community to help the USPTO further understand topics that are particularly relevant to software patent applications and examinations under the American Invents Act,” said Paul Hyland, USACM Intellectual Property Chair.

USACM would like to see the USPTO continue to host events like the two Software Partnership roundtables in February. Those discussions provided an effective forum for stakeholders to exchange ideas, experiences, and insights into the range of issues, concerns, challenges, and opportunities.

In its comments, USACM encourages further exploration of the following topics in future discussions by the Software Partnership:

  • How to find and assess relevant prior art beyond U.S. patents and U.S. patent publications;
  • Additional approaches to improve reviews of the technical merits asserted in software patent applications;
  • Opportunities, challenges, and constraints of potential automated approaches to patent examination and validation; and
  • The supplemental training needs of examiners in software-related topics.

USACM looks forward to future discussions with the USPTO and other stakeholders on how to improve the quality of software patents. As we have seen, low quality software patents can lead to lengthy and costly litigation and pose threats to a vibrant, competitive marketplace. Improved quality of software patents is key to ensuring that the patent ecosystem provides the appropriate protections for inventors, creates incentives for technological advancements and breakthroughs, and continues to expand choices for consumers.

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed

Software Developers – Apply to Join the White House “Hackathon” on June 1

The White House is accepting applications from software developers and hands-on technology experts to participate in a day of national service at the White House on June 1 in support of enhancing the “We the People” petition system. The goal of the day will be to create production ready applications for integration with other systems and data visualization tools. The event will coincide with the National Day of Civic Hacking, a public-private initiative taking place June 1-2 in cities throughout the country. The deadline to apply to participate in the White House Hackathon is Friday, April 19.

The event will leverage and expand upon the projects, code improvements, and ideas developed during the first White House Hackathon in February 2013. Those projects included a petition mapper to show geographically where petitioners are located across the country, a graphical thermometer to show users how close the petition is to the threshold for a White House response, and a wordcloud package for R, the open source language and environment for statistical computing and graphics, to generate word clouds from petition text.

“By building and releasing applications that leverage the API, and by making it possible for other platforms to connect with We the People, you’ll be making it easier for others to take part in that conversation,” said Peter Walsh, Deputy Director of Online Platform for the Office of Digital Strategy, in his blog post.

Interested in joining the White House Hackathon on the National Day of Civic Hacking? Apply today using this online application form.

Source code for “We the People” on GitHub and Drupal.org

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House Intelligence Committee Tries Again With CISPA

On April 10 the House Intelligence Committee will review H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. The Committee approved an almost identical bill last year, and USACM released a statement expressing serious concerns with the bill.

While press reports indicate that several amendments will be up for consideration during tomorrow’s hearing, the text of those amendments has not been made available. As USACM’s concerns from last year have not changed, yesterday we sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee expressing our concerns with some of the language in the bill. We recommend that the bill provide more explicit guidance on minimizing the risk of disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) or other sensitive business and/or personal information. Our other recommendations provide specific guidance for applying USACM privacy principles to the legislation.

Specific recommendations include indicating that:

  • Shared data is to be used only for cybersecurity purposes specified in this act
  • Shared data is to be kept for at most a limited time (e.g., 6 months) and deleted by all receiving parties thereafter
  • Each receiving party must institute a process for periodic review of data received, and deleting data no longer necessary to support the purposes of this act
  • When erroneous data is discovered, it should be deleted immediately, and any parties sharing that erroneous data must be notified of the errors within a short time (e.g., 10 days)
  • All data shared under this act will include indications of its origin, the dates when it was shared with each party, and the date on which it will be deleted
  • All data shared under this act will be de-identified whenever possible
  • Use of received data for any criminal prosecution requires a supporting subpoena or warrant
  • All data shared under this act will be protected against unauthorized or accidental disclosure, modification, or other access

Following the markup, the bill is expected to go to the full House later this month. Once the text of the amendments is made public we can assess how much this year’s CISPA has changed from last year’s bill.

Posted in Privacy and Security | Comments closed

President Establishes Voting Commission; Focus Will Include Voting Technology

As Renee mentioned, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The Commission was a promise made in the President’s State of the Union address this year, and responds to concerns over long waiting times for voters in the 2012 elections.

The Commission is charged with identifying best practices and making recommendations for more efficient election administration. It is tasked with examining several kinds of obstacles in casting ballots, not just long waiting times at the polling place. Such obstacles, as mentioned in the Executive Order, can include ballot access for military and overseas voters, as well as the problems faced by voters with disabilities and/or limited English proficiency. The Executive Order asks the Commission to consider several elements as appropriate in their deliberations. These include two broad categories of interest to USACM – electronic voting (whether it be vote casting, registering to vote, or otherwise administering an election), and accessible technologies.

The Commission is intended to last a brief time. It must report to the President within six months of its first public meeting, and will disband 30 days after issuing that report. There will be no more than nine members, with two of them serving as Co-Chairs. The President has indicated the two Co-Chairs will be Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg, attorneys with experience serving as counsel to recent Presidential campaigns.

Posted in E-voting, Web Accessibility | Comments closed

Accessible Voting Technology Research Workshop, April 1-2

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will be holding a two-day workshop on April 1-2 to explore current and future research in accessible voting technology. The two-day workshop will be available by live webcast.

The Workshop comes just days after President Obama’s Executive Order creating a new Election Administration Commission to focus on improving the management and administration of federal elections. Part of the Commission’s mission will be to identify best practices and to make recommendations on ways to improve “voting accessibility for individuals with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and other special needs.”

ACM U.S. Public Policy Council member Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science, will be participating in the panel on “Accessibility Research and Elections: Where Are We Now?” from 10:30 am-noon Eastern Time on Monday, April 1.

Dr. Gilbert is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Computing, an IDEaS Professor, and Chair of the Human-Centered Computing Division in the School of Computing at Clemson University where he leads the HCC Lab. His research team at Clemson University won the FCC Chairman’s 2012 Award for Advancement in Accessibility for their accessible voting system, known as the Prime III: A Universally Designed Voting Machine. Dr. Gilbert was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring by President Barack Obama in 2011.

Additional panels at the Accessible Voting Technology Research Workshop will include:

  • Accessibility Experiences and Challenges During Elections
  • Technology Transfer and Voting System Manufacturers’ Accessibility Experiences and Challenges
  • Designing for People with Cognitive Disabilities and Low Literacy
  • Ballot Design and the Emergence of Mobile Devices
  • Accessible Voting Interfaces and Technologies
  • Usability and Accessibility Testing

Agenda: http://www.nist.gov/itl/iad/avt-research-workshop-agenda__.cfm
Live webcast: http://www.nist.gov/itl/iad/avt-research-workshop.cfm
Twitter discussion: #AVTvote

Posted in E-voting, Web Accessibility | Comments closed

Nominations for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Nominations for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation are due Monday, April 1, 2013. The award is the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement for American scientists, engineers, and innovators. It is bestowed by the U.S President.

Nominations may be submitted to honor an individual, a group of up to four individuals, a company, or a division of a company for their outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental, and social wellbeing. The purpose of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation is to recognize those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness, standard of living, and quality of life through technological innovation, and to recognize those who have made substantial contributions to strengthening the nation’s technological workforce.

Past individual recipients include: Steven Sasson for his invention of the digital camera, Ralph H. Baer for his work that led to the commercialization of interactive video games, David Cutler for his design of operating systems and computer architectures, Glen Culler for his work on digital speech processing and interactive graphical mathematics, Raymond Kurzweil for his work on voice recognition, Bill Gates for his contributions to universal computing and the personal computing industry, Grace Murray Hopper for her development of computer programming languages, Steven P. Jobs and Stephen Wozniak for their work to extend the power of the personal computer, and Vint Cerf and Robert E. Kahn for their pioneering work on the TCP/IP internet protocols.

Past companies bestowed with this honor include: AT&T, IBM, Motorola, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, and Xerox.

Which innovator or company do you think has demonstrated extensive pioneering achievements in technology?

The nomination form, evaluation criteria, and guidelines are available from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website: http://www.uspto.gov/about/nmti/guidelines.jsp

Posted in Innovation | Comments closed

Reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act this Congress?

During last Wednesday’s hearing on “Investigating and Prosecuting 21st Century Cyber Threats,” the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations explored whether Congress should change what constitutes a cybercrime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Overall, lawmakers expressed concern about potentially weakening the CFAA’s criminal provisions but recognized that the CFAA might need amending to address emergent trends in cybercrimes.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) attended the hearing and succinctly summarized the challenge faced by lawmakers in context of the evolving cyber landscape. He stated, “Our challenge is to create a legal structure that protects the invaluable government and private information that hackers seek to exploit while allowing the freedom of thought and expression that made this country great.”

Subcommittee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) expressed concern with weakening the criminal provisions for computer crimes because cyber theft of intellectual property, particularly by foreign governments, poses a serious threat to the American economy. He noted that the CFAA has been amended eight times since its enactment in 1986 to keep pace with the evolution of computer crimes. He stated “it may be time for Congress to augment and approve the CFAA and other criminal statutes to enable law enforcement to combat international criminal enterprises.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Scott (D-VA3) referred to the CFAA as “a law whose breath of scope and sometimes questionable application has already generated concern by citizens and narrowing by the courts.” He entered into the record a letter signed by roughly twenty internet companies and advocacy groups expressing concern with the scope of the CFAA. Rep. Scott did not mention Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) not-yet-introduced bill to amend the CFAA to exclude terms of service violations. Although supportive of considering possible reforms, he stated, “While it’s the job of Congress to evaluate and update our laws in response to changing circumstances, we have to be careful that any changes we make will actually improve the law and not just ratchet up penalties in an exercise of sound-bite politics.”

CFAA legal expert and GWU law professor Orin Kerr told the Subcommittee that additional legislative reforms to the CFAA are needed to provide greater legal certainty and clarification of what conduct falls within the scope of federal criminal law. He observed that the CFAA “will only become more important over time” because of the increased use of computers by the American public. He asserted that the CFAA should apply only to hackers, as commonly understood to be individuals who circumvent technological access barriers. Kerr encouraged Congress to consider eliminating the phrase “exceeds authorized access” as a triggering threshold in the statute and to define clearly the remaining threshold of “access without authorization.”

Kerr cautioned against using the CFAA to address a broader scope of cyber conduct because the broader approach “inevitably ends up covering a great deal of innocent activity.” He stated the CFAA should not apply to those who happen to commit another crime that involved a computer or who happen to violate written terms of service. He concluded by recommending Lawrence Lessig’s lecture on “Aaron’s Laws – Law and Justice in the Digital Age,” available on YouTube.

Business Software Alliance President and CEO Robert Holleyman asked the Subcommittee to consider federal policies to improve our ability to deter criminal behavior through appropriate punishment for serious cybercrimes, to strengthen law enforcement tools and resources, and to promote the real-time sharing of cyber threat information. In pursuing improved deterrence and prosecutions, he warned against being “overzealous in prosecuting people for innocent mistakes or minor infractions.”

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan told the Subcommittee that Congress needs to clarify what constitutes “exceeds authorized access” under the CFAA yet, in doing so, needs to ensure that law enforcement will still have the necessary tools to investigate and prosecute insiders whose thefts of trade secrets, intellectual property, and sensitive data pose significant risks to national security, economic interests, and individual privacy. She noted that cyber criminals have “shifted from targeting credit cards and other personal data to the intellectual capital of large corporations,” with the threat coming from both outside hackers and insiders. She noted the role of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Properties Section, its Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Units, and its National Security Division to aggressively address these threats.

Harvard University law professor James A. Baker, in his testimony before the same Subcommittee in 2011 on the outlook for cybersecurity, also shared the concern that we shouldn’t weaken the CFAA. He spoke in support of strengthening the CFAA. He stated, “Unnecessarily restricting the scope of the CFAA on the basis of one or two cases will needlessly tie the hands of prosecutors to the advantage of those who use computers to undertake fraudulent activities and abuse their otherwise authorized access to computers to harm others.”

Overall, the stage is set for legislative proposals to reform the CFAA for the ninth time. Given Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month about wanting to ensure that prosecutors use enforcement tools in “appropriate ways” and to seek jail time only where “absolutely needed” for CFAA-related crimes, there could be less pressure for Congress to amend the CFAA to exclude explicitly terms of service violations, a reform proposed by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Al Franken (D–MN) during the last Congress. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who supported the Grassley-Franken proposal last year, asked Holder at this month’s hearing whether the Department of Justice could review its prosecution guidelines for CFAA cases and “consider revising those guidelines to prohibit prosecutions based solely upon conduct involving a violation of terms of use agreement.”

Posted in Intellectual Property | Comments closed