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On May 28, Google announced its first GNI Innovation Challenge in North America to support local news. The program, aimed at publishers in the United States and Canada, builds on other Innovation Challenges launched last year in other regions. The North American program seeks projects aimed at generating revenue or increasing audience engagement for local news. Applications will be evaluated by a panel, and the selected projects can get up to $300,000 to put toward project costs. The evaluation factors include knowledge sharing, impact on the news ecosystem, innovation, and feasibility. The application period opened on May 28 and applications are due by July 15. Read more about the Innovation Challenge here.
On May 13, the Supreme Court issued a decision holding that Apple users can sue the company for antitrust violations. The 5–4 decision allows a lower court case, alleging that Apple’s 30 percent commission on its iPhone App Store sales is an antitrust violation that inflates consumer prices, to proceed. The decision follows complaints from both users and app developers about Apple’s App Store commissions. In Europe, Spotify earlier filed an antitrust action against Apple for the same issue. The decision comes at a time when Apple is increasingly developing new services to compete with third-party apps, including Apple News+, Apple’s new subscription service which requires participating news publishers to share a substantial portion of revenue generated through the service with Apple. Read the Supreme Court’s full decision here.
Congress continued its hearings into consumer data privacy issues and the need for federal privacy legislation. On May 1, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing titled “Consumer Perspectives: Policy Principles for a Federal Data Privacy Framework.” The witnesses, including Helen Dixon (Irish Data Protection Commissioner), Neema Singh Guliani (ACLU), Jules Polonetsky (Future of Privacy Forum), and Jim Steyer (Common Sense Media), called for strong privacy protections that provide real and meaningful control to users. Commissioner Dixon indicated that Ireland has opened 12 significant investigations into U.S. tech companies following the enactment of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation last year. Meanwhile, on May 7, the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government held a hearing into the FTC’s budget request, during which Senators questioned the agency about potential federal privacy legislation as well as the FTC’s newly created high-tech task force. On the same day, Senate Banking Committee held a hearing titled “Privacy Rights and Data Collection in a Digital Economy,” during which Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) called for legislation to create real incentives for tech companies to change. On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Committee held an FTC oversight hearing on May 8, focusing on strengthening privacy and data security protections. FTC Chairman Joseph Simons noted that the agency would like to see federal legislation on consumer privacy, and that such legislation should provide the FTC with targeted rulemaking authority.
On May 7, the Alliance attended a meeting organized by Vishal Amin, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, on the impact of recent European Union intellectual property developments on U.S. businesses. The meeting, attended by multiple stakeholder representatives from both the copyright community and civil society organizations, focused on the recently adopted EU Copyright Directive, in addition to the impact of GDPR on the ability of U.S. businesses to enforce their copyrights effectively. The Alliance expressed strong support for the Publishers’ Right created by the Directive. The meeting was organized to establish a dialogue between the government and the various stakeholders in order to better inform the administration about the impact of the developments and to examine next steps. The Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called on the stakeholders to find common ground on what clarifications to the Copyright Directive would be helpful.
On April 30, the French National Assembly’s Cultural Affairs and Education Committee unanimously approved the French version of the Publishers’ Right, implementing the recently passed EU Copyright Directive in national law. The French law requires an online platform to acquire an authorization from the news publisher prior to using its content online. The law also sets out factors to consider when determining the appropriate compensation amount. The bill, with further amendments, was approved by the full National Assembly on May 9. It has now been placed on the Senate’s agenda for a second reading. The EU Copyright Directive was formally adopted by the EU member states on April 15. The member states have two years to implement the Directive at national level. Read the French law here (in French).