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  • Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).

I Can't Keep Up! … But We Must
May 30, 2012 - 9:00am
Gone is the day when I have read everything the NYT has in the technology section and I am searching around for more, or, better yet, thinking about all of the issues out there that they have not covered. For some time now, and especially since Jill Abramson took over as executive editor, the Times has been doing an excellent job of covering Internet issues. The coverage reflects the important place that those issues have in society. The integration of Internet issues into our everyday life means that it is no longer necessary to explain that "Internet" refers not simply to a technology but a world-class historical phenomenon, meaning further that it touches every area of human experience.  
Before the holiday I was about to write on the Google privacy matter bubbling up with the Federal Trade Commission.  Then it was the cultural meaning of Facebook's public offering.  The holiday intervene.  But this morning I can not forgive myself to not write about this article:  
Those schooled in intellectual property law and policy will find no groundbreaking theories here.  In fact, my one academic quibble is to note that our founding father's included copyright and patents in the Constitution to strike the balance between innovation and incentive.  It is innovation alone that was at stake, but the carving out of a public domain as well.  (See G. Washington on this point, who insisted on the Article I, Section 8 language for this purpose to J. Madison.)  But that is a historian's quibble.  Forget about it!
This is what is worth of memory:  Both the evidence and the point that the author, Eduardo Porter, makes should be required understanding by every school child today: creativity and culture, innovation and technology suffer at the hands of intellectual property laws that have the heavy hand of incumbent content owners tipping the balance in their favor.  This issue is the civil rights issue of today; it matters to every school child, every college student, every drop out, every person in the United States and around the world.  Intellectual property law is no longer the backwater of a law school's curriculum for English and Engineering majors.  In an information economy, it is central to public policy issues ranging from poverty through education, commerce, and international relations.  So long as we nip only at its edges, for example by following the file-sharing cases updated here Media Decoder: Supreme Court Passes on File-Sharing Case, but Still No End Is in Sight but not with awareness of the impact that intellectual property law has on the development of culture writ large or implications on just about everything else economic, social and political, we will fail to appreciate critical workings of our contemporary world.  An absence of that understanding is impoverished thinking and renders so much critical commentary superficial.
Form a study group, create a sit-in, start a social movement for heaven's sake.  This is important to you.



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