November 27, 2010
Why Mark Twain's Autobiography Is Flying Off the Shelves
His new publisher, the University of California Press, professes itself surprised. But Mark Twain, who was an amused observer of the passing parade when alive, would probably not have been taken aback by the popularity of volume one of his autobiography (actually a collection of his writings), which is selling like the proverbial hotcake. The New York Times suggests some explanations. Let's face it--Mr. Twain has always been not just great fun, but a philosopher as well.
Russian Media Celeb Says Colleagues Are Bowing To Political Pressure
From the New York Times: Russian journalist Leonid G. Parfyonov criticizes the Russian media for following the government line at an event intended to honor the memory of a fallen colleague.
November 26, 2010
Chilean Information Privacy and the Internet
This paper attempts to uncover a puzzle: although the traditional levers for strong privacy protection are present in Chile – a history of dictatorship, an information technology revolution, and strong trade with the European Union – its data protection laws are in fact very weak. What explains this apparent disconnect? This paper challenges extant theories that claim that Chile's weak data protection regime is the result of weak democratic institutions, collective action problems, or the prioritization of credit data protections. Instead, it argues that Chile's stunted regime results from a political culture in which privacy protections, generally, are traded off for other, competing values, including free speech and the free-flow of information. These conclusions suggest that proponents of present and future efforts to harmonize data protection law on a global basis may need to more fully address divergent cultural conceptions of privacy world-wide. Such proponents might also more fully consider the loss of cultural pluralism that will necessarily ensue from any successful global data protection harmonization scheme.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
Defamation After "Gutnick"
The High Court of Australia’s landmark decision in Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick (2002) 210 CLR 575;  HCA 56 was the first decision by a final appellate court on the issue of jurisdiction over internet defamation. It raised a range of important issues, such as the meaning of ‘publication’ for the purposes of defamation, the place of publication, the ‘multiple publication’ rule and the application of basic principles of conflict of laws to internet defamation. Fundamentally, it turned upon whether existing legal principles, with or without some adaptation, could adequately accommodate the challenges posed by internet technologies. In the intervening years since Dow Jones v. Gutnick, claims involving internet defamation have proliferated, both in Australia and overseas. Considering judicial and legislative developments since Dow Jones v. Gutnick, this article argues that, whilst internet technologies have brought about a revolution in communications, their legal impact in the context of internet defamation has been more modest but nevertheless important. Focusing on the issue of publication, this article argues that the challenges posed by internet technologies have compelled courts and legislatures to reconsider and refine the approaches adopted towards key concepts and issues of defamation law.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
November 24, 2010
Cookie Monster On Late Night?
Clear the decks and vacuum up the crumbs: Cookie Monster is auditioning for a host gig on Saturday Night Live. And if he (it?) doesn't get an invite, it's time to call in Alicia Florrick, Nick Morelli, Pete Kaczmarek, and any other member of the PCBA (Popular Culture Bar Association) lawyer who thinks outside the box--er, trash can. It's monstrous to overlook such a talent! Me Want Cookie Monster As Host On SNL! Now!
Analyzing Copyright Law in the Modern World
This chapter of a book on modernism and copyright uses the work relationships of creative employees at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency to explore the roles of the law and legal norms in mediating creation, ownership, attribution, and public recognition as dominant features of twentieth century authorship. In both legal and literary studies, scholars have tended to focus on the relationship between copyright law and an individual, literary model of authorship. This scholarly focus on authors and owners has been incommensurate with the relatively small percentage of twentieth-century creative people whose efforts were rewarded through copyright ownership. Once we realize that much modern creativity is exercised in an employment setting where salaried creators sign away their rights in their work as a condition of hire - sign away, in effect, their very status as authors - we can see that the attribution of work, rather than ownership of the intellectual property represented in it, defines the modern connection between many creators and work of all kinds. The chapter argues that copyright is not the only place, perhaps not even the most important place, to study the role of law in shaping the nature of creative work in modernism. The project I undertake here is to show that modernism did not coincidentally grow at the same time as the corporatization of creativity. Rather, they unfolded in complex relation to each other. In the world of commercial cultural production, authorship has been an unstable blend of individual and collective creation and attribution. What authorship has meant was determined largely outside the purview of copyright law, and often outside any other formal law, bouncing endlessly back and forth between the individual and the corporation.
Download the chapter from SSRN at the link.
IP and the Rhetoric of Name-Calling
To describe an activity as “piracy” is to code it as violent, avaricious, and unjustified. The word’s etymology in the Hellenistic Greek peirân, “to assault,” emphasizes the physical force involved. Later usage added the connotation of theft. Today, the term is applied to two groups that could hardly be more dissimilar. One group takes hostages at sea and sometimes harms them; the other, on a home computer, downloads songs and software without paying for them.
This paper argues that the use of the word “piracy” by members of the content industry, such as recording companies, betrays an effort to naturalize a notion of intellectual property that has historically been rejected by courts in the English-speaking world. This notion holds that intellectual property is analogous to any material good and that, as a consequence, acquiring it without the permission of its creator is theft. We contend, in contrast, that this analogy between physical property and intellectual property is troubled for a number of reasons. Moreover, referring to violations of copyright law as “piracy” in public and legal discourse can, by rhetorically invoking the bloody anomie of maritime piracy, promote the unsupported notion that intellectual property protections are as natural as prohibitions of violent theft. This rhetorical legerdemain obscures intellectual property laws’ constructedness and papers over any gaps that exist between the letter of the law and the values of the citizens to whom it applies.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.
November 23, 2010
Viacom Bars Google TV Users From Access To Its Content
Viacom is now blocking Google TV users from watching full length episodes of its shows on the 'net, joining the other big networks. More here from The Hollywood Reporter. Interested viewers can still catch episodes on Viacom's websites; for example, South Park's episodes (as aired and uncensored) are available here.
November 22, 2010
SNL TSA Video Hits a Nerve
European Multiculturalism and Media Initiatives
Looking back on 20 years of European media policy, which reflects issues of ethnic minorities and immigrants there are significant developments in both policy and implementation. The recent European initiatives to increase cultural diversity in the media at a high institutional level stress that ethnic minorities and new immigrants should get access to both the screen and the newsroom. The increased policies and activity in this domain are a result of the perceived threat of the non-integration of the minority population in Europe. Signs of “lack of social cohesion” are interpreted from key events that have been heavily aired in the media: disturbances in French suburbs, the Danish cartoon crisis, and terrorist attacks in Europe. In particular, the public service broadcasters are now taking responsibility for social cohesion in terms of “cultural diversity.” This is not just a mission-oriented policy but increasingly a market issue, since public service needs to attract audiences from the increasingly relevant minority population. However, the new discourse of cultural diversity, which has emerged to replace multiculturalism in many ways, tends to depoliticize ethnic minority rights.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link.
The FCC and the First Amendment
This article describes the Federal Communications Commission’s new theory of the First Amendment, as articulated in the agency's decision sanctioning Comcast for blocking certain peer-to-peer file sharing traffic, later reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The article proposes a unified theory with which to analyze First Amendment challenges to proposed regulation of discriminatory denials of access to broadcast, cable, or Internet media. It builds on my previous research into the democracy-promoting implications of decentralized, collaborative Internet media as opposed to traditional media's top-down model.
My analysis begins with an account of the fall and rise of FCC regulation of the mass media and the Internet through four distinct eras in the FCC’s conception of its own authority and the constraints imposed upon it by the First Amendment. In the first era, the “statist regulatory period,” the FCC doled out telecommunications licenses to entities favored by the government and vigorously regulated broadcast content. In the second era, the “democracy-promotion period,” the FCC regulated the content of speech in an attempt to engender a more robust democratic culture in the aftermath of World War II. In the third era, the “deregulatory period,” the FCC tolerated blatant discrimination against minority political or ethnic viewpoints, as well as long-term campaigns to reduce competition in media content by merging corporate owners. In the fourth and most recent era, which began in 2005 with renewed citizen activism and congressional attention to bias within the mass media and Internet, the FCC announced new nondiscrimination principles focused on the Internet, but with clear implications for broadcast media.
The FCC handed a stunning victory to advocates of media accountability in 2005 and again in 2008 when it endorsed a different theory of the First Amendment. This new theory moves away from selective deregulation of corporate media (i.e. granting federal or state exclusive rights without any countervailing responsibilities to the public) by prioritizing the right of media consumers to access content and communications platforms on a more equal footing, rather than the right of large corporations to acquire and control ever-larger combinations of media infrastructure. The decision, if upheld, may herald a new era of attention to voters’ First Amendment interests in accessing and benefiting from regulated telecommunications facilities such as broadcast airwaves or cable networks. I attempt to theorize this new vision of the First Amendment using four strands of constitutional and legal theory: formalist attention to constitutional text and precedent, purposivist and originalist emphasis on the principles and contexts underlying constitutional text, economic approaches to efficient or cost-avoiding interpretations of legal language, and egalitarian advocacy of citizen-empowering constitutional narratives.
Except, perhaps, for formalist analysis, which applies ambiguously to FCC regulation of private telecommunications firms, the theories support the FCC’s new emphasis on free speech and access to knowledge. Formalism, whether at the level of text or precedent, provides little clear basis for a theory of the First Amendment that permits the federal government to regulate electronic speech in the interest of large corporations, but without any safeguards for the public interest in accessing scarce rights-of-way, or airwaves. Originalist analysis reveals that the purposes of the First Amendment were to prioritize the penetration of facts and debate relevant to controversial political issues throughout the body of the citizenry, rather than the illusory liberty interests of corporations or combinations of government infrastructure licensees. Economic analysis confirms that permitting federal or state infrastructure licensees to leverage their unique control over strategic communications bottlenecks into ownership of content providers threatens the total output, competitive pricing, and overall quality of content. Not only the theorists of antitrust and telecommunications economics, but also those scholars doing empirical work on the output of news and political content, confirm the materialization of these threats. Finally, substantive political theory underlines the link between media consolidation and deregulation and a resulting crisis in access by citizens and voters to essential information and diverse viewpoints.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
Business Models For Newspapers and the Internet
The new book The Changing Business of Journalism and Its Implications for Democracy, published by Oxford, suggests that newspapers in the UK and the US depend too much on ads for their revenue, a business model that may need to change if they expect to survive in the Internet age. According to an article in the Guardian,
In many countries where online activity is high, including Scandinavia and Germany, newspapers are still faring well, with titles typically generating 50% of revenues from advertising.
In the UK and the US, where advertising accounts for a larger proportion of revenues, the picture is far gloomier, but that could be explained by a cyclical advertising recession which has seen spend fall dramatically in recent years, the study suggests.
"Countries like the US, Germany and Finland all have about the same proportion of internet users", the books (sic) editors write.
Lawsuit Filed Against U Hawaii For Posting Of Student, Alumni Personal Info
A former University of Hawaii (Manoa) student is suing for invasion of privacy after one of the university's retired profs posted alumni info, including SSNs, online. Philippe Gross says someone used his personal information to make fraudulent charges and he has asked for an injunction and damages via the class action suit. More here from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Oregon Senator Moves To Block COICA
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is trying to block further movement on the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which he says gives the Attorney General too much authority to censor the Internet. More here from the San Francisco Chronicle. More here about COICA from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and about Sen. Wyden's position from Techdirt.