Dec 21, 2020 - Technology

Spending bill boosts funding for tech's antitrust cops

Illustration of an app icon with the U.S. Capitol building, with an "x" button in the top left corner.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Additional funding for antitrust enforcers to police Big Tech and copyright measures opposed by some in the tech industry are both included in Congress' big spending package unveiled Monday.

Why it matters: Both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have been asking Congress for more money to conduct investigations and bring cases against phenomenally wealthy tech companies.

Driving the news:

  • The FTC is getting $351 million for salaries and expenses, a boost of $20 million from 2020, which will go toward the agency’s competition, privacy and consumer protection work.
  • The DOJ’s antitrust division is getting a boost of about $18 million, its biggest funding increase in years.
  • Litigation and retaining experts for antitrust cases is expensive, and while these budget boosts won't level the field with companies like Google and Facebook, the agencies will be at less of a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, the spending package also includes intellectual property measures that tech industry group the Internet Association lobbied against:

  • The creation of a small claims board within the Copyright Office to hear copyright infringement claims, which raises alarm bells for companies worried about increased litigation risks.
  • A proposal from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) that will make illegal streaming of copyright material a felony, a measure backed by content companies including Fox Corp.
  • The Trademark Modernization Act, which is meant to help fight trademark fraud by creating new procedures at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office to cancel registrations for trademarks that have not been used.
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