August 2011

Gerald Faulhaber on the economics of net neutrality

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Gerald Faulhaber, Professor Emeritus at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Law School, discusses his new paper in Communications & Convergence Review entitled Economics of Net Neutrality: A Review. Faulhaber delves into the network neutrality debate noting that consumers do not want complete neutrality since they approve of blocking content such as child pornography or malware. He explains that there is little evidence that violations of net neutrality have actually occurred, so that consumers today are getting as much neutrality as they want. Faulhaber submits that implementing prophylactic regulations will only stifle innovation and encourage rent seeking.

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Adam Thierer on children’s privacy online

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Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in the Technology Policy Program, discusses his new paper, Kids, Privacy, Free Speech & the Internet: Finding the Right Balance. For kids, using the Internet has become second nature, but sites that track a child’s online activity can raise privacy concerns. A number of well-intentioned lawmakers are introducing regulatory measures that aim to expand the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Thierer discusses the unintended consequences that could result from regulations, like mandatory age verification and an Internet “eraser button.” He proposes an alternative to regulation, which includes education and empowerment, placing importance on personal and parental responsibility.

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Ryan Calo on personal robots

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Ryan Calo, a scholar at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, discusses his new article in the Maryland Law Review entitled “Open Robotics.” Robots are frequently used in war, manufacturing, warehouse management, and even in surgery. Now, personal robots are poised to be the new explosive technology, and Calo anticipates their social effect to be on par with that of the personal computer. He discusses why he believes personal robots are more likely to thrive if they are built on an open model–rather than closed or proprietary system–even though robots open to third-party tinkering may be subject to greater legal liability than closed, discrete-function robots. To protect open-model innovation, Calo recommends immunity for manufacturers of open robotic platforms for what end users do with these platforms, akin to the immunity enjoyed under federal law by firearms manufacturers and websites.

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David Brin on transparency and accountability

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David Brin, a physicist and Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction writer, wrote his prescient 1997 nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, which won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. He’s written a new essay revisiting the themes of that book and discusses how the ideas presented in The Transparent Society relate to his new essay and to the world today. The government continues to increase its ability to look in on its citizens, creating an Orwellian-like society that people may find alarming. According to Brin, reciprocal accountability, which is the ability for people to look back at the government and hold it accountable, is key to minimizing undesirable effects and behaviors. Brin goes on to discuss the benefits of a more pragmatic approach to transparency as opposed to immediate and radical transparency like WikiLeaks.

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Kembrew McLeod on copyright and hip-hop sampling

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Kembrew McLeod, independent filmmaker and Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, discusses his new documentary with Benjamin Franzen called Copyright Criminals. Digital music sampling is used throughout several genres of music but it is probably most prominent in hip-hop music. Hip-hop artists like Run-DMC began using snippets of other artists’ songs to create sounds of their own. This process, according to McLeod, helped facilitate creativity, but it also brought a flurry of lawsuits within the music industry. Now, as McLeod demonstrates in his documentary, artists are hesitant to use samples of music in their songs because they fear potential legal consequences, and as a result, a lot of musical creations that use sampling may never reach our ears.

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