Over the past week, critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement—a free trade agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated by the United States and 11 of its trading partners across the Asia-Pacific region—have made a large hue and cry regarding a draft chapter of the agreement leaked on WikiLeaks pertaining to the TPP’s intellectual property (IP) provisions. Critics have lodged a litany of complaints against the TPP in general and the IP sections of the agreement in particular, including that the TPP has been negotiated “in secret,” that America’s TPP negotiators are attempting to surreptitiously circumvent existing U.S. law in negotiating the agreement, that the “onerous” protections for innovative products such as novel biologics would compromise access to medicines in the developing world, and that the TPP is likely to lead to much greater surveillance by Internet service providers (ISPs) on citizens’ online surfing habits. Yet each of these criticisms is either downright unfounded or significantly overblown, and the reality is that the “leaked TPP IP chapter” is really much ado about nothing, despite its scandalous trumpeting by those who wish to sow fear, doubt, and uncertainty regarding the TPP.… Read the rest
Last Friday, Google published its new How Google Fights Piracy report with details of the improved methods Google is using to combat piracy across a variety of its services. While the report itself is an impressive overview of the many policies and protocols Google has put in place, as well as the results of such protocols, most notable are the three ways Google has reformed search over the last year: demoting sites with many DMCA takedown notices, removing piracy-related autocomplete terms, and improving ad formats.
The report notes that in 2013, Google received just over 224 million DMCA requests for Google search results and they removed over 222 million of them, with an average turnaround time of six hours or less. But in addition to removing these infringing pages from search results (whether through its content removal webform or the Trusted Copyright Removal Program that allows trusted content owners to submit bulk takedown requests), Google has improved and refined its search algorithm to rank sites in part by how many removal notices it has received. Consequently, sites with high numbers of removal notices are demoted to lower search results. This … Read the rest
GMOs, Neonicotinoids, and Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic: The Fish & Wildlife Service Brings a “Whole Foods” Approach to Wildlife While Shooting Itself in Our Foot
With little fanfare, last summer the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced it would formally ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, (a newer, safer generation of seed treatments to protect against pests) and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the fish and wildlife refuge system.
It is worth quoting at some length the announcement, which came via a memo from the Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System:
The Leadership Team agreed that by January 2016, the System will only use an agricultural practice where it specifically contributes to wildlife objectives. This conforms to 601 FW 3, the Service’s Biological Integrity, Diversity and Environmental Health policy (BIDEH). BIDEH directs us to maintain and restore the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuges and is based on the underlying principle of wildlife conservation that favors management that restores or mimics natural ecosystem processes or functions to achieve refuge purpose(s).
By January 2016, we will no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides in agricultural practices used in the System. Service policy 569 FW 1 Pest Management directs that we use long-standing integrated pest management principles to guide and … Read the rest
On July 17, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) released a proposed regulatory framework for virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, that would require businesses that hold, transmit, or convert virtual currencies to everyday currencies to apply for “BitLicenses.” (For background on the BitLicensing framework, read this previous post.)
The following is a truncated version of the comments we filed with NYSDFS today:
It is important to note that while ITIF applauds the desire to bring regulatory certainty, transparency, and clarity to virtual currency businesses, the State of New York is likely the wrong entity to address these important policy issues. One of the challenges of global systems, such as virtual currencies or the Internet, is that they are subject to multiple jurisdictions by sovereign countries. Subnational governments, like states, should not compound the problem of multiple and varied laws between countries by creating their own additional rules and regulations. A better approach would be for states to either defer to the federal government or work in partnership with all states to create a single, national approach to policy.
However, if NYSDFS continues to pursue these regulations, … Read the rest
We’ve posted recently about how our current immigration policy is hurting Silicon Valley. But when the United States lets in more immigrants, what happens? Often it’s not what you would expect.
A new NBER paper by economists at the University of California Davis and Colgate University studies the effect of skilled H1-B immigrants in STEM occupations on more than 200 cities across the country. In cities with more STEM immigrants, wages for college-educated workers went up 7-8 percentage points, wages for non-college-educated workers went up about half as much, and there was no significant effect on employment.
Why this counterintuitive result? Economics 101 says that when the supply of something grows, the price should decrease, not increase. As is too often true, however, Economics 101 in this case tells us very little about the real world. Figuring out cause and effect in many types of markets, particularly labor markets, is tough because economies are not as simple as the textbook models might have you believe.
What actually happens is that when immigrants enter an economy, they do more than just offer their labor at a (potentially) lower price. They increase … Read the rest