Last week, the BSA, the trade group representing software vendors, announced the appointment of Victoria Espinel as its new President and Chief Executive.
Under recently departed predecessor Robert Holleyman, the organization grew over several decades, from a tiny office to a major lobbyist and frontline enforcement agency. Although much of its enforcement has historically been targeted at smaller business, the recent additions of Oracle in late 2012, and IBM in early 2013, almost completes the roster of “usual suspects” from the large enterprise space (SAP remains a notable absence at the time of writing).
Espinel takes charge having until recently served President Obama’s administration as the USA’s first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.
Espinel’s tenure in this role was not without controversy. Emails obtained by Wired magazine, in 2011, under Freedom of Information legislation, suggested significant government involvement in negotiations between Hollywood, the music industry and ISPs, during the formulation of “six strikes” rules targeting persistent copyright infringers. Subsequent attempts by the privacy advocate Christopher Sogohian to gain access to more of the correspondence have been unsuccessful.
In her “20 Recommendations to Congress”, in the same year, Espinel advocated a series of hardline measures including elevating copyright offences, via streaming or “similar new technology”, a felony offence in certain circumstances. The recommendations also advocated granting wiretap authority for criminal copyright and trademark investigations.
However, a softer stance was shown after widespread protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The “SOPA Strike” of January 18th 2012 saw temporary blackouts from a number of major websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit, and countless personal blogs. In a blog co-attributed to Espinel, the Obama administration commented that “ any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small” .
For the BSA, then, this is clearly a high-profile appointment, bringing to the head of the organization a major and well-connected figure, who has been been deeply involved at the highest levels of IP policy and enforcement. For an industry struggling with the ever-increasing complexity of enterprise software licensing, it’s an appointment that should be watched with close interest.