There have been a number of important inflection points in the growth and maturation of the global software industry — the extension of copyright law to cover machine-readable code, the birth of the PC, the commercialization of the Internet, and the advent of cloud computing, to name a few.
As we enter 2013, the industry finds itself at another sort of inflection point, which Robert Holleyman described during BSA’s recent Global Strategy Summit: “Companies like those in BSA are innovating rapidly, but they face daunting challenges around the world as courts, lawmakers, and regulators adopt policies that are closing off access to key markets, undermining the business of developing and commercializing intellectual property, and imperiling the growth and evolution of cloud computing.”
Addressing those problems and resuming a robust growth trajectory in 2013 will depend on policy developments in four key areas:
- IT-focused trade barriers. To break down the new wave of trade protectionism that is spreading through the world’s fastest-growing IT markets, policymakers need to advance a digital trade agenda that facilitates access to global markets for all the products and services that enable the information age. A key opportunity for such an agenda will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), where issues such as IP protection, cross-border data flows, and government procurement rules are all on the table.
- Rules of the road for the global cloud computing market. Poorly aligned policies are undermining the promise of the global cloud computing market. As the first regional trade agreement of the cloud era, the TPP presents a prime opportunity to address this problem. Its negotiating parties can send a strong signal to the world by ensuring their privacy and security rules work together, extending world-class IP protections, and creating a level playing field for IT products and services to compete fairly. But one trade agreement won’t establish the cohesive policy framework we need for cloud computing to flourish on an international scale; countries also need to act on their own. In the spring, BSA will release a new edition of its Global Cloud Computing Scorecard, which will identify the countries that are adopting key policies that best represent the cohesive framework we need.
- Regulatory frameworks in Europe on data protection, security, and copyright. The European Union is undertaking several important policy reviews, which, if done well, can strengthen its Digital Single Market and protect the privacy and security of its citizens. Most notably, it is revising its data protection framework, overhauling European rules for privacy and security. Done well, these new rules will facilitate the growth of the Digital Single Market and the uptake of international cloud computing services. The current text tabled by the European Commission is problematic in many respects. The next stage of the policymaking process, set to pick-up in earnest this month, presents an opportunity to develop thoughtful solutions. In parallel, the European Commission also will be presenting its Cybersecurity Strategy along with legislative initiatives to stimulate private-sector efforts to improve security and reduce vulnerabilities in products, applications, and Web services. In addition, the European Commission in 2013 will be assessing ways to modernize the EU copyright framework to provide “sustainable incentives for creativity, cultural diversity and innovation” while “combating illegal offers and piracy.” All these combined efforts will be critical to further develop and strengthen the EU Digital Single Market.
- US legislation and executive action to shore up the foundations of the digital economy. As a global leader of the digital economy, the United States has a number of policy challenges to confront in 2013. To start, lawmakers in Congress will have to restart the cybersecurity debate they came tantalizingly close to finishing in 2012. In the wake of the recent presidential election, it also is likely we will see robust debate on immigration reform — which needs to include reforms to increase the number of highly skilled, foreign-born technology workers in the United States while simultaneously increasing funding for future generations of high school and college students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition to this, the US will implement a new iteration of its Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement — which is an opportunity to continue setting a standard for the world to emulate.
The path is clear in 2013: We can accelerate the growth of the digital economy by protecting intellectual property rights, opening global markets, and aligning the international policy environment to foster the growth of innovations such as cloud computing.