Changes are coming for US Copyright – Should Developers Even Care?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sebastian Holst, PreEmptive’s Chief Strategy Officer, to talk about his most recent trip to Capitol Hill where the topic of the day was copyright protection for small businesses – and for development shops in particular.

Q1: You’ve just returned from another one of your trips to Washington DC. What was the occasion?

I was part of a Congressional Briefing Panel along with Robert Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practice, U.S. Copyright Office and Keith Kupferschmid, President and Chief Executive Officer, Copyright Alliance. The Briefing was organized by ACT | The App Association in cooperation with The Intellectual Property Promotion and Piracy Prevention Caucus.

Briefings are like “mini-lectures” for Congressional leadership and their staff.

I know that’s a mouthful – basically Congressional Briefings are an effective way to communicate with policymakers. They’re like a mini-lecture on a specific topic – this one focused on two related topics; simplifying Copyright Office processes to hopefully increase registration and, the topic that was most interesting to me personally, discussing the implications for developers of a Bill recently introduced into both the House and the Senate,  The CASE Act of 2019. It would create a kind of “small claims court” for copyright infringement claims. 

Q2: Why would a Copyright Small Claims Court be important for developers?

Today, infringement claims are only heard in Federal Court. It’s a complex, expensive and lengthy process. The CASE Act promises “an alternative dispute resolution program for copyright small claims” that would not require a lawyer or a physical court appearance. …but today it’s just a Bill

Q3: You’ve been making trips like this since I’ve been at PreEmptive. How did you get involved? 

Well, even before I joined PreEmptive – who obviously have a stake in protecting developers’ Intellectual Property – I had been immersed in Digital Asset Management and related standards – even sitting on the W3C Advisory Committee when XML 1.0 was being hammered out in the late 90’s. I’ve been focusing on structured content – its uses and value – for decades.

But in terms of actual engagement – and even some influence – over US legislative and regulatory policy – all credit has to go to ACT. They were the organizers of this week’s briefing – but I’ve been working with them for over a decade now – and their work on behalf of their 5,000+ members – all US development shops – has been amazing to watch. If you represent a US company developing software, get in touch with ACT. They can offer a variety of ways that you can get involved – there’s no set amount of time commitment required and no fees. It’s always a win-win deal – participate when and where it makes sense. 

Q4: ACT sounds like a great resource. What are some other concrete examples of ACT events or activities?

Every person and company will be a little different I suppose. 

Working at PreEmptive is kind of a unique situation. Not only are we a development company ourselves, our thousands of clients and many many thousands of users are also all developers who – based on the simple fact that they use our app protection software – also care about these same issues. We are, like any company, always focused on our clients’ needs and wants – and so we track issues around risk management, IP protection, and compliance as part of our core business. Our users span industries and jurisdictions and so we have a unique view into the state of app protection in general and IP protection in particular.

As CSO – understanding these trends is actually in my job description and so, in this way, I’m able to serve as a very unofficial voice of a much larger development community.

The most interesting example of this was when I testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property – this was an on the record testimony in front of elected officials. The entire thing was, to be honest, just a very cool experience.

Swearing in and Congressional testimony on Copyright in the “age of apps.”

One activity available to every ACT member is the ACT Fly-In. I’ve attended probably ten of these – they consist of a day of training and then a series of briefings with Senate and House staff (and sometimes the Representatives or Senators themselves) on timely issues. It’s a crash course in US civics as well as important tech issues of the day.

ACT fly in

Q5: Any closing thoughts you’d like to share? 

Just stay tuned – we (PreEmptive) will be putting together updates and even training as The CASE Act comes up for a vote. No matter what the political climate, protecting Intellectual Property is always popular with all parties (a close second to children). This Bill has bipartisan support and will almost certainly be passed in the not too distant future. We plan to help with outreach to make it as easy as possible to layer US Copyright Protection practices on top of the actual app security technology and practices that we license. In the end, we see this as a part of our core mission – to help secure our clients’ work – and in particular – the VALUE our clients create.