• Law, Policy -- and IT?

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


Links of Interest

So many issues ...

June 19, 2016

I opened a new file this week and named it “Links of Interest.” It began as a summation of news reports on technology issues relevant to the course I am teaching, Internet Law and Policy, and for a new one I will develop at John Cabot University in Rome this summer. Although I have books as texts, more and more news reports speak to the issues that we raise in class. Technology and the market move so fast that by the time something comes out in a book current events have moved on to something else.  

I have compiled about twenty articles. Topics include Gawker and Privacy, Cyber Security, Technology and Nation-States, Copyright and Web Design. Rather than choosing only one of these topics to develop, I would do some quick takes on each. 

Hulk Hogan sleeping with his friend’s wife is not my cup of tea, but I am much intrigued by the judgment in that case, its aftermath, the revelations about who funded it and the news that is Gawker filing for bankruptcy. On the one hand, we have, in my opinion, needed a correction to the tremendous advantage that the press enjoys at the expense of people’s privacy.  Prurient topics don’t interest me much anyway, and it seems wrong to make a profit from exploiting this unsavory penchant. On the other hand, I get that “free press” might hang in the balance. The flavors of Internet money make it even more interesting of a development. 

On the cyber security front, both Russia and China made the news this week. Area 1, an internet security firm, monitors hacker traffic on compromised machines rather than immediately fixing it to get clues about hackers’ patterns and next steps. According to the article, China is still at it. Over in Russia, Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the legendary security firm Kaspersky Labs, has declared that we are in the “dark ages” of the internet Curious metaphor, by which I think he means that there are too many barbarians disrupting legitimate digital and networked commerce, communications and culture. I couldn’t agree more. 

Here I call upon reader’s expertise in teaching us more about the engineering and computer science perspectives. I get the value of encryption in this arena but am curious about “security by design” protocols. If informed readers can explain why and how IPv6 works, for example, as a more secure network, I would appreciate the lesson in comments. In the meantime, reports of new web design with the purpose of minimizing government surveillance also call out for technical analysis. CSSMIT, Tinker Tailor and others, please instruct us?  

On the copyright front, what do readers think about the Stairway to Heaven case? My younger son and I listened to the Spirit song and came to different off-the-cuff conclusions.  He favored fair use, I was for infringement. One of my students told me that all the plaintiff wants is credit and future royalties, which seems fair enough. My guess is that if the plaintiff prevails, lots of out of court settlements with Led Zeppelin and many others will follow.  Notwithstanding my amateur read in this case, I have long been for fair use ever since sampling became popular. The difference? Sampled songs are already famous. Spirit’s song was not. 

My personal favorite is a piece on technology and the nation-state. Quentin Hardy of the New York Times might do well to read Who Controls the Internet, the foundational text that popped John Barlow’s utopian concept. Conflicts between “the internet” and nation-states are not new. A glance at Elizabeth Eisenstein’s classic 1979 The Printing Press as an Agent of Change would, moreover, offer a more nuanced approach to understanding the impact of technology in historical context than Benedict Anderson’s reductionist perspective. The printing press did not create nation-states, although it did have a significant impact on their development.  If the “internet” is now pecking at the integrity of the nation-state, is it as much a symptom as it is a cause in our own era. Technology alone does nothing without the market.  Corporations are key to understanding contemporary change. Technology is the accelerant. Still, he raises a topic of great interest that could use lots more discussion from all of us.


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