In 2013, we can expect Congress and the Obama Administration to maintain a primary focus on economic and fiscal issues. As that agenda proceeds, however, issues outside solving the longterm U.S. debt problem will also move forward. We can expect much discussion on how to craft policies that promote and provide growth opportunities for U.S. business, both here and abroad. ABM member companies provide critical data, content and analytics to business and government, and our products and services will continue to be in high demand.
That is the good news. The not-so-good news is that as the markets continue to see the value of our content, we are prone to become targets for the “information must be free” proponents in regard to our intellectual property rights (IPR), and we will continue to face government actions to interfere with our ability to communicate with, and market to, our customers and prospects.
As we continue to grow and advance within the digital marketplace, safeguarding our digital assets, including content and customer information, is critical and will require a careful balance between needed protection and over-regulation. In regard to IPR, there are increasingly vocal calls for government to rewrite law, especially in the field of copyright.
In December 2012, the European Commission announced that it will undertake a comprehensive review of copyright laws in the EU over the course of next year, anticipating statutory changes sometime in 2014. The discussion paper issued by the Commission staff lays out the main issues. One that is new for us, and will be critical to our businesses, is a proposal to allow a new exception to copyright for user text and data mining. As currently outlined, it would mean that content providers would likely not be able to stop users from data mining, nor perhaps receive compensation for such activity.
Other IPR issues will arise in the U.S. Congress; there is already talk of reviving some type of rogue web sites legislation to assist U.S. content owners in taking down piracy sites outside the United States. Congress will also be looking at new exceptions for use of orphan works, i.e., content whose copyright owners cannot be found to contact for permissions.
Regarding mass digitization of works that are out of print or no longer available on the market, one critical question will be whether such mass digitization will be limited to non-commercial purposes. Another issue before Congress will be changing current law to expand the ability of libraries to obtain copyrighted material for purposes of archiving and research. While that is a longstanding activity already in the United States and elsewhere, the devilish details will determine whether archiving and research will be limited to nonprofit institutions, how digital archiving will work and how large an audience will be allowed access to those works for purposes of “research.” In short, we are about to enter a period where copyright law will be under even greater assault than we have seen over the past year.
On the privacy front, Congress will remain focused on comprehensive customer privacy legislation, data breach and cybersecurity issues, while federal regulatory agencies will continue to look at privacy safeguards in mobile applications, geo-location technologies and the collection, use and storage of customer information. Government agencies and regulators in the U.S. and Europe will also look at how privacy principles should be incorporated into mobile applications, including clear disclosures about personal information that may be collected and used for marketing purposes. In fact, the EU’s Data Protection Framework will see further movement, which has the potential to contain some onerous and overly prescriptive requirements that would impede the free flow of information. These requirements include the “right to be forgotten,” opt-in consent and certain binding corporate rules.
Mobile-marketing applications, especially those focused on transparency of data collected and geo-location activities, will continue to be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce. For its part, Congress will also continue legislative initiatives aimed at mandating customer notice and permission for monitoring software installed in mobile devices, and security procedures to protect data. Congress will also continue its investigation of “data brokers” — broadly defined as companies that collect information for the purpose of re-selling information about consumers — to ascertain the transparency of data collection practices.
As Congress and the EU begin their legislative processes in the New Year, other issues will undoubtedly be raised, and content owners must be prepared to explain and prove the value of their products and services and guard against new laws that will hinder our ability to gain adequate revenues to continue in business. ABM members have a unique opportunity to become more engaged on these issues and demonstrate the value and impacts b-to-b information and media companies have on a variety of markets and industries. There is little doubt that 2013 will continue to be a busy year for ABM members on a number of fronts, providing opportunities and challenges that we, as an association, are already engaged in and ready to provide an impact.
Cindy Braddon is vice president of government affairs at The McGraw-Hill Companies. Braddon also serves as chair of ABM’s Information Policy Committee. For more information on the council, click here.