Gov. Terry McAuliffe used the Paramount Theater stage Thursday to sign into a law a bill designed to protect the intellectual property rights of student entrepreneurs.
McAuliffe signed the bill as the marquee moment of the Tom Tom Founders Festival’s Youth Summit, an all-day event for area high-schoolers.
House Bill 1230 requires the boards of visitors of state-funded colleges and universities to enact policies protecting the intellectual property rights of students not employed by the institution.
“The key really is all the people here,” McAuliffe told the crowd. “The young people. Innovators. Entrepreneurs. On some of our campuses there have been policies in place that have really made it unclear what your rights are.”
McAuliffe did not elaborate on which policies those were.
Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, was chief patron of the bill, after hearing from students concerned about their intellectual property rights.
“This was a concern expressed by students during meetings of the [Governor’s] Council on Youth Entrepreneurship,” Herring said. “We need to do all we can to meet that concern.”
The law is preventative, Herring said.
“It’s to protect against a possibility,” she said.
The Council on Youth Entrepreneurship was formed in August to study ways to bolster young business owners in Virginia.
Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy delivered the keynote address, encouraging students to have the courage to pursue their passions.
“Some people will try to tell you that your dreams are unrealistic … but you have to have the courage to say, ‘That is a lie,’” said Bellamy, who teaches at Albemarle High School. “It might not be able to happen right now, today, but it will happen. That is the courage that you have to have.”
Before the governor’s action, local high-schoolers promoted their business ideas in a pitch competition judged by the Community Investment Collaborative. The winner received $250 toward their idea, while the runner up was offered mentorships sponsored by the CIC.
First prize went to Sincerely Magazine, a literary magazine founded to help high-schoolers express themselves.
“With Sincerely, we hope to create a space where kids can feel accomplished for their work, and where people can see how important expression really is,” said literary editor and Albemarle High School junior Kayleigh McCoy.
Second prize went to ArtStep, a website designed to give art buyers a chance to pick up affordable paintings and sculptures, and give high-schoolers a welcoming venue to sell their work.
“Some of you in the audience are exactly why we started ArtStep,” said cofounder Junho Moon. “I hope you will join us in our journey.”
Another group of students presented plans for community service organizations, ranging from a project to encourage minority students to fight for placements in AP and honors classes to a charity to donate soccer equipment to economically disadvantaged teams and players.
Each of the community service projects received mentoring help and $250 from WAGI.Lab, an incubator specifically for youth social innovation.
Local high-schoolers also heard from a host of young business leaders and thinkers throughout the event.
Speakers included Nikhil Goyal, a 20-year-old nationally known education advocate and author, and Daniel Wilson and Alyssa Dizon, directors of HackCville, a student innovation incubator at the University of Virginia.
Goyal encouraged the audience to speak out about their experiences at school and advocate for reforms.
“Each one of you has a very powerful voice. You have been through the system and you know how to change it, you know how to tweak it,” he said. “Schools don’t have to be like this … and the only way this is going to happen is if we advocate and fight for a better system.”
The Tom Tom Founders Festival runs through Sunday. A full schedule of events and information can be found at tomtomfest.com.