STLR Link Roundup – November 15, 2019

Twitter’s New Rules Ban Political Ads from Candidates but Not Ads About Causes

Twitter released revised rules regarding advertising political content today. The rules come in response to growing concerns about the ease with which politicians can weaponize social media platforms and pay to promote falsehoods. Moving forward, businesses and activists will be able to pay to promote messages around broadly defined political causes, but will not be permitted to advocate for or against particular candidates or legislative proposals. Twitter’s new policy bans outright advertisements from candidates, political parties, and appointed government officials, in addition to PACs, SuperPACs, and 501(c)(4)s. Vijaya Gadde, who oversees legal, policy and trust and safety at Twitter said, “We believe political messaging should earn their reach.” Other social media companies, such as Facebook and Google-owned Youtube, have announced no changes to their rules related to political advertising.

The USPTO Wants to Know if Artificial Intelligence can Own the Content it Creates

On October 30, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a notice in the Federal Register to gather information about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies on copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property issues. The notice outlines thirteen specific questions, and begins by asking whether work produced by AI without the involvement of a human should qualify as a work of authorship protectable under US copyright law. The questions probe issues along the lines of what degree of human involvement is sufficient for a work to qualify for copyright protection and whether companies that train AI should own the resulting work. This notice does not represent the first time that the USPTO has asked for public opinion on AI and the law. In August of this year, the USPTO sought comments on AI and patents. The comment period for the notice related to AI and copyright issues closes December 16, 2019.

French Activists Fight for Lift on DNA Spit-Kit Ban

French bioethics laws include a ban on direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, and earlier this year, legislators began conversations about potential revisions to the law. Ultimately, the law was not revised, and people living in France who take genetic ancestry tests still risk being subject to fines of 3,750 euros, or about $4,140; however, the ban has never been enforced. Activists for and against lifting the ban on DTC genetic testing are motivated by similar ideas. Both sides believe that French institutions are the best option to protect the genomes of French people from exploitation by foreign companies, but disagree about how to achieve that goal. Many Western governments have expressed concerns about test users probing their genetic data without the guidance of a professional. However, France takes it one step further by banning all DTC genetic tests, both for medical and genealogical purposes, and penalizing users.

Google Gets Supreme Court Hearing in Oracle Copyright Clash

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from Google where the Court will decide if Google improperly used copyrighted programming code owned by Oracle Corp. in the android operating system. The Supreme Court will review the decision of a federal appeals court that reversed a jury finding in favor of Google and concluded that Google violated Oracle’s copyright. Oracle claims at least $8.8 billion in damages. The code at issue relates to application program interfaces, which provide instructions for functions such as connecting to the internet or accessing certain types of files. The Trump administration supports Oracle and urged the Court to reject the appeal. Microsoft Corp., Mozilla Corp., and others urged the Court to give Google the hearing. The outcome of this case will significantly impact US legal protections for software code moving forward. 

Amazon to Fight Pentagon Giving JEDI Contract to Microsoft

Amazon plans to challenge the Pentagon’s decision to award a $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft, claiming a flaw in the tendering process. The contract will provide cloud computing services to the US military for the next 10 years. Reports that President Trump may have influenced the process to award the contract to Microsoft contribute to Amazon’s assertion of “unmistakable bias.” The Defense Department claims that all offerors were treated fairly. Amazon will file a protest at the US Court of Federal Claims.

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