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Fighting for developers: GitHub policy 2020 in review

GitHub is committed to shaping public policies that support developers around the globe. Last year, we advised policymakers, supported legal action, and spoke directly to developers on policy in jurisdictions…

Fighting for developers: GitHub policy 2020 in review

GitHub is committed to shaping public policies that support developers around the globe. Last year, we advised policymakers, supported legal action, and spoke directly to developers on policy in jurisdictions around the world. As part of our commitment to developers, we’d like to share some highlights of what GitHub Policy did for you in 2020.

Platform responsibility

As the home for all developers, we work to maintain developer love and trust by providing a safe, healthy, and inclusive platform. This includes advocating to protect safe harbors for software collaboration, as well as collaboratively developing our site policies with our community, leading by example in our content moderation policies and practices, and shipping our annual transparency report. Our work was especially important last year around the reinstatement of youtube-dl.

In 2020, we worked to shape rules on platform responsibility around the world in ways that support developer collaboration. We engaged on proposed intermediary liability rules in India with Mozilla and Cloudflare, in the US with Engine (an advocacy group for small and medium tech companies), and in the EU with OpenForum Europe. We also engaged policymakers on multiple bills tackling copyright liability reform in the US. As EU countries are transposing the Copyright Directive in their national laws, we succeeded in getting the Netherlands to fix its version by moving the carveout for open source software development platforms to the binding part of its law. We also provided the developer platform perspective to a set of principles on transparency and accountability in content moderation.

Additionally, we recommitted to prioritizing developers’ privacy with the removal of all non-essential cookies and cookie banners from GitHub, and continued assuring the data protection for all of our developers and customers in light of the invalidation of the EU-US Privacy Shield.

Innovation policy

GitHub fights for public policies that enable developers to innovate—whether that is through copyright rules, patent regulations, or employment laws. The Oracle v. Google case before the Supreme Court, which is still awaiting a decision, will have significant impacts on developers, including the application of copyright to APIs. We also weighed in on needed reform to the way patents are challenged and assessed.

Open source

GitHub has focused on supporting open source policy around the world as well. We signed onto a call to save the Open Technology Fund, an organization that provides funding from the US government to support security researchers and internet freedom projects. We recently shipped updates to GitHub’s Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA) to help developers have greater certainty in their ability to contribute to open source. We’ve also been advising a study on the impact of open source, and plan to expand our efforts to foster multidisciplinary research on open source in the coming year.

Global collaboration

We’ve kept busy to ensure that developers from around the world can use GitHub. This imperative runs through all of our work, particularly on platform policy, trade, open source, and advising other teams at GitHub. We want policymakers to understand that open collaboration is a better solution than technological nationalism. Our most recent achievement here was recently announced: a new export license that allows GitHub to once again more fully serve developers in Iran!

In further support of global collaboration, we submitted a letter on net neutrality regulations in Mexico. We have also contributed to international efforts on technology policy, including participating in the UN Digital Goods Roundtable and contributing to the OECD AI Policy Observatory’s (OECD.AI) research.

Tech inclusion

2020 was a challenging year to say the least. This is particularly true for historically disadvantaged groups, including immigrants. In the US, GitHub joined several efforts to fight for immigrants in federal court, challenging Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rules that make it harder for disadvantaged immigrants to get visas (before the Fourth Circuit), standing up for international students subject to new rules during the pandemic (before the District of Massachusetts), and fighting restrictions to H-1B and other work visas (before the Northern District of California twice, the Ninth Circuit, and the DC Circuit). We also petitioned DHS to delay enacting other rules that will restrict H-1B visas, and now the Biden Administration and 117th Congress will have a chance to review the proposed changes. Not to mention, we rallied internally and with developers across the US with “get out the vote” efforts.

Developer-policymaker engagement

We desperately need public policy that is technically informed and reflects developers’ reality. In 2020, we briefed congressional staffers on GitHub and how 56 million developers use our platform. We also sought to educate developers about rules—related to encryption anticircumvention legislation at issue in youtube-dl—that are open for comment before the US Copyright Office so they can have their voices heard. Last but not least, we also joined an effort to oppose immunity for cyber surveillance companies that undermine software supply chain security in NSO v. WhatsApp.

Keeping up the fight

And that’s just the short of it! Our work is not done, and we’re incredibly excited to continue many of these efforts in 2021 as we fight for developers and better public policy around the world. Keep an eye out for upcoming developments on Twitter @GitHubPolicy, and see our latest posts on the GitHub Blog.

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