Archive for April 25, 2024

Thursday, April 25, 2024

FTC Bans Noncompetes

FTC (tweet, Hacker News):

Today, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule to promote competition by banning noncompetes nationwide, protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to change jobs, increasing innovation, and fostering new business formation.


The FTC estimates that the final rule banning noncompetes will lead to new business formation growing by 2.7% per year, resulting in more than 8,500 additional new businesses created each year. The final rule is expected to result in higher earnings for workers, with estimated earnings increasing for the average worker by an additional $524 per year, and it is expected to lower health care costs by up to $194 billion over the next decade. In addition, the final rule is expected to help drive innovation, leading to an estimated average increase of 17,000 to 29,000 more patents each year for the next 10 years under the final rule.

As with network neutrality, this is probably something the courts or Congress should have handled, but it seems like a good protection for those of us living outside Silicon Valley.

John Gruber:

As I wrote a year ago, I used to think that noncompete agreements (“agreements”?) were mainly a thing in the tech industry. But their use became so rampant that even sandwich shop chains were requiring them.

Gergely Orosz:

Noncompetes are now banned: not just in California (like before), but nationwide. Very, very relevant for anyone at Amazon (which is the Big Tech that has enforced noncompetes even for low-level engineering positions).

Brian Hall:

Some people might know that Amazon sued me after I had left AWS and later went to Google Cloud. I cannot be happier to see the FTC ruling to ban non-competes in the US. “Noncompete clauses violate a 110-year-old law that prohibits unfair methods of competition, the FTC says.”

Mike Masnick:

The FTC has come out with a very good and important policy ruling, but I’m not sure it has the authority to do so. The legal challenge (that was filed basically seconds after the rule came out) could do way more damage not just to some fundamental parts of the administrative state, but to the very underlying policy that the FTC is trying to enact: protecting the rights of workers to switch jobs and not be effectively tied to an employer in modern-day indentured servitude with no realistic ability to leave.

All the way back in 2007, I wrote about how non-competes were the DRM of human capital. They were an artificial manner of restricting a basic freedom, and one that served no real purpose other than to make everything worse. As I discussed in that post, multiple studies done over the previous couple of decades had more or less shown that non-competes are a tremendous drag on innovation, to the point that some argue (strongly, with data) that Silicon Valley would not be Silicon Valley if not for the fact that California has deemed non-competes unenforceable.


The rule is 570 pages long, with much of it trying to make the argument for why the FTC actually has this authority. And all those arguments are going to be put to the test. Very shortly after the new rule dropped (long before anyone could have possibly read the 570 pages), a Texas-based tax services company, Ryan LLC, filed a lawsuit.


FCC Reinstates Network Neutrality

Jon Brodkin (Hacker News, Slashdot):

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3–2 to impose net neutrality rules today, restoring the common-carrier regulatory framework enforced during the Obama era and then abandoned while Trump was president.

The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking and throttling lawful content and ban paid prioritization.


The court battle against the FCC will center on whether the commission can define broadband as a telecommunications service, a necessary step for imposing Title II common-carrier regulations.


“Congress never passed a law saying the Internet should be heavily regulated like a utility, nor did it pass one giving the FCC the authority to make that determination. The executive branch pressured the agency into claiming a power that remained, and remains, with the legislative branch,” [Brendan] Carr said.

I don’t recall that argument going anywhere before. Congress seems unlikely to clarify its intent, so maybe this seesaws back and forth depending on who controls the FCC.


Update (2024-04-26): See also: Cecilia Kang (via Hacker News).

Update (2024-04-29): Nick Heer:

Bode has, for years, covered the effort to paint the reversal of net neutrality rules as inconsequential. Contrary to popular belief, the reclassification to a Title I service produced plenty of ill effects. Part of the problem was in mainstream coverage of what the rules meant and, similarly, in what their 2018 undoing would entail.

Alexa Copyright Violations

Lindsay Clark (via Hacker News):

According to Ghaderi’s account in the complaint, she returned to work after giving birth in January 2023, inheriting a large language model project. Part of her role was flagging violations of Amazon’s internal copyright policies and escalating these concerns to the in-house legal team. In March 2023, the filing claims, her team director, Andrey Styskin, challenged Ghaderi to understand why Amazon was not meeting its goals on Alexa search quality.

The filing alleges she met with a representative from the legal department to explain her concerns and the tension they posed with the “direction she had received from upper management, which advised her to violate the direction from legal.”

According to the complaint, Styskin rejected Ghaderi’s concerns, allegedly telling her to ignore copyright policies to improve the results. Referring to rival AI companies, the filing alleges he said: “Everyone else is doing it.”