Covington Artificial Intelligence Update: USPTO Releases Report on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy

On October 6, 2020, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a report titled Public Views on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy. The report summarizes the nearly 200 comments received in response to patent-related questions regarding AI set forth in a request for comments (RFC) issued by the USPTO in August 2019 and non-patent IP questions set forth in an October 2019 RFC.

This post focuses on Part I of the report, which summarizes the comments received in response to the first RFC. Part II of the report pertains to the second RFC.

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FCC Announces Section 230 Rulemaking

FCC Chairman Pai announced today that the FCC will move forward with a rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).  To date, Section 230 generally has been interpreted to mean that social media companies, ISPs, and other “online intermediaries” have not been subject to liability for their users’ actions.

On July 27, the Trump Administration—acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration—submitted a Petition for Rulemaking on Section 230, and Chairman Pai announced on August 3 that the FCC would seek public comment on the petition.  That petition asked the FCC to adopt rules to “clarify” the circumstances under which the liability shield of Section 230 applies.  Citing the FCC General Counsel’s reported position that the Commission has the legal authority to interpret Section 230, Chairman Pai today stated that a forthcoming agency rulemaking will strive to “clarify its meaning.”

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FCC Reevaluating Certain TCPA Compliance Exemptions

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on a proposal to review and potentially revise a number of existing exemptions that the FCC has adopted with respect to certain Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requirements.  The FCC’s review could end up narrowing or eliminating some of these longstanding exemptions, imposing consent requirements or other obligations that today are not required for certain kinds of calls and texts.

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Order Responding to Net Neutrality Court Decision Circulated for Consideration at FCC’s October Meeting

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) circulated a new Net Neutrality Order for consideration at its October meeting.  This draft Order on Remand does not mark a change in the FCC’s Net Neutrality policy; rather, it responds to several issues raised by the D.C. Circuit in Mozilla v. FCC, which reviewed the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order.

The draft Order on Remand addresses the points raised by the D.C. Circuit in Mozilla but otherwise affirms the outcome of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.  That Order rolled back Obama-era Net Neutrality regulations and largely deregulated broadband Internet service provider practices.

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AI, IoT, and CAV Legislative Update: EU Spotlight (Third Quarter 2020)

In this edition of our regular roundup on legislative initiatives related to artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT), and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), we focus on key developments in the European Union (EU).

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FCC Formalizes Foreign Investment Reviews; More National Security Actions Likely to Follow

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) unanimously adopted an order formalizing the referral and review process associated with “Team Telecom”—the group of national security and law enforcement agencies responsible for assessing foreign investment in U.S. telecommunications, submarine cable licensees, and broadcast licensees. The order adopts rules and procedures that will govern what has long been an informal process at the agency, both in connection with the issuance of such licenses and with respect to transfers of control.

The FCC’s action is consistent with the agency’s increased focus on, and involvement in, questions around national security and foreign investment in the telecommunications and media sectors. This attention to national security at the FCC is likely to continue regardless of the outcome of the election in November, given that both Republicans and Democrats at the agency have supported the agency’s heightened role in national security matters under its jurisdiction.

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UK Information Commissioner’s Office Publishes Draft Accountability Framework Tool

On 10 September 2020, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) published its beta-phase “Accountability Framework” (“Framework”).  The Framework is designed to assist organisations, of any size and across all sectors, in complying with the accountability principle under the GDPR and in meeting the expectations of the ICO.

The Framework will help those within organisations who are responsible for implementing data protection compliance strategies.  The ICO envisages that organisations will use the Framework in conjunction with other relevant guidance and materials available from the ICO.  The ICO emphasises that each organisation must be mindful of its own circumstances when managing data protection risks, and that a “one size fits all” approach should not be adopted.

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Online Content Policy Modernization Act Duplicates Existing Senate Republican Proposal to Limit Section 230 Liability Protections

Another week, another proposal concerning Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.  This week, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the Online Content Policy Modernization Act, which primarily establishes an alternative dispute resolution program for copyright small claims.  Relevant to this blog, however, are the last three pages of the proposal, which limit civil liability protections of Section 230 and which are identical to the currently-pending Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act.  Senator Graham also sponsored that bill along with Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

The Online Content Modernization Act would “modify the scope of protection from civil liability for ‘good Samaritan’ blocking and screening of offensive material” under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.  The Republican bill is yet another in the growing list of proposals to amend Section 230’s scope this year, which also includes:  the identical Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, which we analyzed here; the bipartisan Senate Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act (“PACT ACT”), which we analyzed here; a different Senate Republican proposal and a Department of Justice report, both of which we analyzed here; and the Trump Administration’s executive order.

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FCC Releases Draft Order Formalizing “Team Telecom” Process

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission circulated a draft order that will formalize its coordination with what has been known as “Team Telecom”—the national security review process for foreign investments in U.S. telecommunications companies.  The draft order, which the FCC will consider for adoption at its September 30 Open Meeting, includes rules and procedures governing what has long been an informal process.

The FCC’s draft order adopts rules consistent with an April 4, 2020 Executive Order that rebranded the group of executive branch authorities long referred to as “Team Telecom” as the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector.  Despite the name change, Team Telecom will largely follow the existing review process; however, the new FCC rules do make a few key changes.  We highlight some of the basic changes below.

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FTC Provides Guidance on Use of AI and Algorithms

The FTC has recently provided new guidance on the use of AI and algorithms, including a blog post that focuses on the benefits and risks of AI.  Former FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, AI Initiative Co-Chair Lee Tiedrich, and Jadzia Pierce discuss the post, along with other AI-focused guidance from the FTC, in The Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Law.

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