May 22, 2020

Axios Login

Congrats, you did it — a three-day weekend!. That means you have a whole extra day to figure out what to do with yourself.

Meanwhile, today's Login won't take much of your Friday. It's 1,593 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: The next copyright wars

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new report from the U.S. Copyright Office is set to start another round in the long-running fight between tech platforms and the entertainment industry over copyright infringement, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Why it matters: Owners of music and movie libraries say piracy remains rampant online, and the entertainment lobby, which has long pushed tech platforms to do more to police infringing material, now sees an opening to win concessions.

"There's been a breach in the dam that was giving complete and absolute protection to Silicon Valley based on this sort of thinking that we can't touch them," Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) CEO Mitch Glazier told Axios.

Driving the news: The Copyright Office on Thursday released a report, five years in the making, assessing the effectiveness of the current process for getting online platforms to remove copyrighted material that users post without permission.

  • The report concludes that the balance between online companies and rights-holders is “askew,” and outlines areas for updates, including policies intended to deter repeat offenders.
  • Both the RIAA and the Motion Picture Association applauded the report.

Yes, but: The Re:Create Coalition, a copyright-focused advocacy group, said such changes would chill free expression and creativity, with executive director Joshua Lamel saying the report "only suggests changes that rightsholders asked for."

Where it stands: RIAA and other music industry groups, including the Music Artists Coalition and the National Music Publishers Association, have outlined three key concessions they want from tech platforms they say would address issues identified in the report:

  • Help cracking down on stream ripping. "Stream rippers" are tools that pull the audio from content like music videos on YouTube and make the songs available for internet users to download.
  • Better monitoring for infringements. Social media platforms like Twitter should provide tools to allow copyright holders to monitor for infringement and use an automated takedown system. YouTube already offers a similar service.
  • Reducing repeat notices. Rights-holders complain of playing whack-a-mole, in which their work reappears constantly despite successful takedown notices.

Between the lines: The Copyright Office report doesn’t make its own recommendations for legislative fixes.

  • But lawmakers are already gathering input on issues with the existing framework, and the Senate Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee will focus on the notice and takedown system at a June 2 hearing.

The other side: The Internet Association argues the current rules already "recognize that rightsholders are the best judge of potentially infringing content and set a baseline that many IA member companies go above and beyond to impede access to illegal content, and ensure creators are fairly compensated," per a statement from interim president Jon Berroya.

The catch: Changes made to protect copyright could lead to censorship or other abuse, some tech firms and public interest groups have argued.

  • YouTube said more than 10% of the copyright takedown requests it received via its web form last year were found to be a likely false claim of copyright ownership. Another 19% were either incomplete or misunderstood the removal process.
  • A Wall Street Journal report this month found that takedown notices were exploited to remove hundreds of unfavorable news articles or posts from Google search results.

Margaret has more here.

Go deeper: The future of owning content online

2. Momentum builds for permanent work-from-home

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that half the company's workers could be remote in 5–10 years. Meanwhile, Shopify, Coinbase, Square and Twitter are among the companies that have said in recent days that most employees can work from home permanently.

Why it matters: The shifts will change the way tech firms use real estate and crimp the economies that have grown around serving those companies. It also has the potential to distribute tech talent more evenly around the country.

"My prediction is that in 5–10 years we could have [roughly] 50% working remote," Zuckerberg told Axios. "That's not a target, just a prediction based on the demand we've seen so far."

  • He said on a publicly streamed company meeting Thursday that Facebook will immediately ramp up remote hiring and expects to adjust remote employees’ compensation to reflect their local cost of living.

The big picture: In addition to the companies like Twitter, Square and Shopify that plan to let most workers go remote, many others are preparing for a future where even those employees that do come back to the office aren't necessarily there regularly.

Flashback: I remember keenly when Marissa Mayer declared in February 2013 that no one at Yahoo could work remotely. In retrospect, that may have been the last stand of old-school Silicon Valley's cult of the office water cooler.

Yes, but: Just because lots of people don't want to rush back to the office right now doesn't mean everyone wants to telecommute permanently. Things could look a lot different when there is an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

The bottom line: Exactly what Silicon Valley will eventually look like after the coronavirus is unclear, but it seems very unlikely to resemble its previous self.

Go deeper: Many tech workers won't be going back to the office

3. Big Tech makes fresh accessibility strides

Microsoft chief accessibility officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie. Photo: Microsoft

Google pledged to make wheelchair accessibility more prominent within Maps, while Microsoft is publicly sharing the knowhow it has accumulated developing products like the Xbox adaptive controller, Seeing AI and other accessible technology.

Why it matters: The moves came as the industry commemorated Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thursday. The World Health Organization estimates that only one in 10 people with disabilities globally has the access they need to assistive technologies and products.


  • Google, in addition to more prominent labeling of wheelchair-accessible routes with Maps, announced Action Blocks, an Android application designed for those with various cognitive disabilities. Action Blocks allows users to combine multi-step actions into one customizable button, making it easier to manage complex tasks.
  • Microsoft is releasing publicly what it calls the Accessibility Evolution Model, its blueprint for building accessibility into its products, and adding some accessibility enhancements to Windows 10. The software maker also announced a partnership with the Special Olympics to hold a virtual video gaming event next week.
  • Apple used the day to highlight many of the accessibility apps within its ecosystems as well as to call out some of its own efforts.
  • Samsung also announced new accessibility features, tapping Bixby Vision, the visual component of its AI assistant, to help identify objects and read words to those with visual impairments.

My thought bubble: Improvements in tech to make them more accessible to all are worthwhile in themselves, but there are often side benefits too.

  • Captions for those with hearing impairments help train voice recognition systems and also make it easier for users to see videos without having to turn on their sound.
  • Cursor control for the iPad began as an accessibility feature but eventually turned into full trackpad support for all consumers.

Go deeper: Microsoft accessibility chief Jenny Lay-Flurrie Talks new accessibility evolution model (Forbes)

4. Ex-Googlers team to help fight COVID-19

A team of Google veterans and others is launching the nonprofit CVKey Project to help communities restart amid the pandemic. Its centerpiece, for now, is an app to let venues assess the health risk a particular person poses and whether to admit them.

Why it matters: There are a lot of ideas on how best to store data about COVID-19 risk and exposures, but privacy concerns abound as well.


  • CVKey’s app asks people about any symptoms, among other questions. Based on their responses, it generates a QR code indicating whether they’re safe to enter a particular place, based on that location’s policies rather than any top-down criteria from CVKey.
  • However, the health data behind the QR code stays on the device, CVKey says, to ensure privacy. The app doesn’t store data in the cloud, nor does it access location data.
  • CVKey is a mostly volunteer effort, led by Brian McClendon, who helped start Keyhole (the company that became Google Maps), and with a lot of ex-Googlers lending their skills.

What he's saying: "We don't want to sacrifice our civil liberties or compromise privacy in the rush to reopen," McClendon said in a statement.

  • After leaving Google, McClendon led Uber's mapping effort from 2015–2017 before moving back to his native Kansas, where he is active in politics and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Kansas secretary of state.

The big picture: Even assuming the privacy issues are taken care of, the criteria for determining whether someone is a risk or not remain in flux.

  • Health officials, for example, think — but don't know for sure — that those who have been sick with COVID-19 have some amount of immunity to reinfection.
  • And many people with the disease have few or no symptoms, meaning the app might grade them as low-risk even though they can still spread the disease.

What's next: McClendon said CVKey will adapt as knowledge about the coronavirus improves and also plans over time to add more apps and features, including exposure notification. The group is also soliciting additional volunteers.

Separately: Twilio is announcing today it is helping power the voice and text components of New York's contact-tracing efforts.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Cisco is giving all employees today off.

Trading Places

  • Neustar is adding MarketShare founder Wes Nichols to its board of directors.
  • It's Harvey Milk Day, commemorated each year on Milk's birthday. The slain civil rights advocate would have been 90 today.


6. After you Login
Photo: via Twitter

I was yesterday years old when I learned that Sonos' original logo reads the same whether it was being read right side up or upside down.