Posted by Tom Foremski - April 11, 2014
Victoria Espinel, the recently appointed head of BSA | The Software Alliance (formerly Business Software Alliance) visited San Francisco recently to gauge the mood of Silicon Valley towards software patents and intellectual property laws in the US and around the world.
Based in Washington, D.C, Espinel served in the Obama administration as the first US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, and worked in the Bush administration in senior positions in the Office of the US Trade Representative.
I was impressed with her knowledge and her drive. A lot of her work is in lobbying US and overseas governments about problems in legislation. In Europe, for example, there are proposed data laws that could make it impossible for teams to collaborate across borders. Other forms of legislation in the US, and elsewhere are also a big concern because they could restrict many of the advantages that Internet technologies bring to commerce.
BSA members are large computer and software companies such as Adobe, IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and Dell. There are several big names missing such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, who share similar views.
The organization used to be primarily concerned with software piracy and in making sure businesses were compliant with their software licenses. But with software moving online the organization has rebranded itself with a focus on intellectual property and on legislation related to the use of software.
- A key BSA focus is to make it more difficult to issue software patents. Broad definitions on software patents can be damaging to innovation because they can lead to unfair claims of infringement and large royalty payments, which acts as a tax on new inventions.
- The NSA revelations are another important issue and the BSA is lobbying for surveillance reforms to restore trust in the digital economy.
- It is also advocating for a trade agenda that will stop the spread of what it calls digital protectionism around the world. Here’s a BSA report: Powering the Digital Economy: A Trade Agenda to Drive Growth.
Silicon Valley doesn’t appreciate the huge amount of work the BSA, and other groups undertake, to make sure that US and foreign governments don’t inadvertently pass laws that might result in stifling the use of important digital technologies. Espinel has a lot of work ahead in making sure Silicon Valley companies can remain oblivious to the problems of bad laws impacting their businesses.
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