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November 2009 (previous | next)
 

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Self-Parody of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: "Figurative Language at its Best" Does NOT "Declare War" on Copyright-Enforcing "Terror[ists]" by Objectifying Women.


In life, few outcomes are predictable--except those of attempts to defend the indefensible. Consequently, as I predicted, Mr. William Patry was enraged by the latest negative review
of his book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars ("Copyright Wars"). (Some other negative reviews can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

As discussed here, Nate Anderson of the not-exactly-pro-copyright website Ars Technica recently posted a fairly restrained, but devastating, review of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. His review even echoed some concerns expressed by reviewers whom Mr. Patry had just denounced as "haters":

There are, of course, the haters who pen diatribes that are not in any meaning of the word a "review." Two people in particular have write multiple such "reviews," apparently unable to ever purge themselves of the bile that poisons their lives as they attempt to poison others' lives. To them, I quote Max Reger's letter to a music reviewer of one of his compositions: "I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your review before me. Soon, it will be behind me."

In grade school, that was probably a devastating reply. But the Ars betrayal forced Mr. Potty to leave the safety of the smallest room in his house and write Chastity Belts and Copyright, which repeated the sort of tactics that led Ars and others to criticize Copyright Wars.

First, Mr. Patry explained that he was not going to criticize Nate Anderson or Ars Technica: "My purpose... is not to criticize Nate or Ars Technica...." Then, Mr. Patry criticized Nate Anderson and Ars Technica for their "USA Today-type superficial nuggets approach"; for their "below the belt shots"; for their "false characterization of [his] book"; for their disregard for the "heart of the book" and its "central thesis"; for not reading the book; for their attempt to "acknowledge... and deny... in the same breath" the book's disclaimer; for their failure to "discuss[] the issues;" and for their "easy review" and "lamentable lack of anything beyond bullet point reviewing." He then snarled:

So [Copyright Wars] is a series of bomb-throwing, and even worse it's a book about how bad bomb-throwing is. I must indeed be a hypocrite. There is apparently nothing more to the book, so it can be easily be dismissed as a screed... that falls prey to the very disease it is trying to extirpate. Another failed, lousy book, next story.

Sadly, those bitter words understate the defects in Copyright Wars. It is a "failed, lousy book" that should be "dismissed as a screed." But Copyright Wars became a parody of itself too often to be the work of a calculating "hypocrite." Mr. Patry heaped the harshest condemnations upon those who use analogies to murder and war while discussing copyrights--in a book about copyright discourse filled with analogies to murder, war, terrorism, and lawless slaughter. Copyright Wars thus looks more like the work of a "hater" of creators and creative industries unhinged by sanctimonious, childish rage. The rabid rhetoric and ugly metaphors of Copyright Wars can only be recanted: They cannot be defended.

Continue reading The Self-Parody of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: "Figurative Language at its Best" Does NOT "Declare War" on Copyright-Enforcing "Terror[ists]" by Objectifying Women. . . .

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 10:40 AM | Books & Book Reviews, Copyright, IP, Innovation, Internet

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Extra! Extra! Read all about it! The Post Closes All of its National News Bureaus!

When I testified at an FCC public interest hearing on media ownership policies earlier in the month, I was stunned to hear the argument (including from Commissioner Copps) that the newspaper business really is still quite profitable in terms of operating revenues, and that it is only debt service that is driving newspaper companies into bankruptcy. That's like saying the airline business would be great if they just didn't have to borrow so much to buy all those damn airplanes.

The days of Ben Franklin running a hand press in the print shop basement are long gone. Running a credible news organization today - locally, nationally, or internationally - requires scope, extensive physical and human assets, and advanced information and communications technologies, all of which cost money. Like other businesses, newspaper companies have tried to amass the scope and scale necessary for success by borrowing money and investing in their businesses. But borrowing is never free; running a profitable business requires revenues sufficient not only to pay operating expenses, but also to cover the cost of capital. It may be news to our friends at Free Press, but newspaper companies around the country are struggling to meet their obligations and remain solvent.

A story last week highlights the difficulties that many papers are having. The Washington Post announced that it is closing all of its national news bureaus. In effect, the Post will cease to be a national news organization and become a local Washington, D.C. paper. Now perhaps that was a better strategy from the outset, and perhaps it should never have aspired to be anything more than that and borrowed in an effort to expand as it did. But it cannot be welcome news, I would think, to those who care about journalism, that one of the most venerable American newspapers is cutting staff and closing bureaus. To carry forward my earlier analogy - it is like an airline shedding planes and terminating service on some routes: it may be good for the airline and its investors, but it doesn't help the flying public.

The analogy is flawed, though, because, unlike the airline business, newspapers are affirmatively prohibited from organizing in ways that might allow them to remain profitable without shedding assets. Combinations that might make economic sense - the common ownership of a newspaper and a local broadcast station in the same market - are specifically proscribed by outdated FCC rules. The time is past to ease those restrictions; we can only hope it is not too late to save print journalism.

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 9:40 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, The FCC

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Once Again, Power Laws Rule all Media & Digital Inequality is Unavoidable

Perfect media equality is impossible. There has never been anything close to "equal outcomes" when it comes to the distribution or relative success of old media: books, magazines, music, movies, book, theater tickets, etc. A small handful of titles have always dominated, usually according to a classic "power law" or "80-20″ distribution, with roughly 20% of the titles getting 80% of the traffic / revenue.
Facebook power law
But here's the really interesting thing: This trend is increasing, not decreasing, for newer and more "democratic" online media. As I pointed out in two previous essays ["YouTube, Power Laws & the Persistence of Media Inequality" & "Cuban on Fragmentation & Attention in the Blogosphere (or Why Power Laws Really Do Govern All Media)"], there is solid evidence that blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and other digital media outlets and platforms not only follow a classic power law distribution but that the distribution is even more heavily skewed toward the "fat head" of the distribution curve, not "the long tail" of it.

The latest evidence of the persistence of power laws across media comes from Facebook. Erick Schonfeld has a new essay up at TechCrunch ("It's Not Easy Being Popular. 77 Percent Of Facebook Fan Pages Have Under 1,000 Fans") highlighting some new findings from an upcoming report by Sysomos, a social media monitoring and analytics firm. Here's the summary from Schonfeld:

Continue reading Once Again, Power Laws Rule all Media & Digital Inequality is Unavoidable . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:03 AM | Economics, Free Speech, Internet, Mass Media

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The "Problem of Proportionality" in Debates about Online Privacy and Child Safety

The Internet is massive. That's the 'no-duh' statement of the year, right? But seriously, the sheer volume of transactions (both economic and non-economic) is simply staggering. Consider a few factoids to give you a flavor of just how much is going on out there:


  • In 2006, Internet users in the United States viewed an average of 120.5 Web pages each day.

  • There are over 1.4 million new blog posts every day.

  • Social networking giant Facebook reports that each month, its over 300 million users upload more than 2 billion photos, 14 million videos, and create over 3 million events. More than 2 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared each week. There are also roughly 45 million active user groups on the site.

  • YouTube reports that 20 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute.

  • Amazon reported that on December 15, 2008, 6.3 million items were ordered worldwide, a rate of 72.9 items per second.

  • Every six weeks, there are 10 million edits made to Wikipedia.


Now, let's think about how some of our lawmakers and media personalities talk about the Internet. If we were to judge the Internet based upon the daily headlines in various media outlets or from the titles of various Congressional or regulatory agency hearings, then we'd be led to believe that the Internet is a scary, dangerous place. That 's especially the case when it comes to concerns about online privacy and child safety. Everywhere you turn there's a bogeyman story about the supposed dangers of cyberspace.

But let's go back to the numbers. While I certainly understand the concerns many folks have about their personal privacy or their child's safety online, the fact is the vast majority of online transactions that take place online each and every second of the day are of an entirely harmless, even socially beneficial nature. I refer to this disconnect as the "problem of proportionality" in debates about online safety and privacy. People are not just making mountains out of molehills, in many cases they are just making the molehills up or blowing them massively out of proportion.

Continue reading The "Problem of Proportionality" in Debates about Online Privacy and Child Safety . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:45 PM | Free Speech, Generic Rant, Online Safety & Parental Controls, Privacy

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is There Really Any Shortage of Good Programming Options for Kids?

kids watching TVIn a recent PFF paper I argued that "We Are Living in the Golden Age of Children's Programming," and showed how, despite incessant complaints by many policymakers:

the overall market for family and children's programming options continues to expand quite rapidly. Thirty years ago, families had a limited number of children's television programming options at their disposal on broadcast TV. Today, by contrast, there exists a broad and growing diversity of children's television options from which families can choose.

I then documented there and in my book, Parental Controls & Online Child Protection:

  • the many excellent family- or child-oriented networks available on cable, telco, and satellite television today;

  • the growing universe of religious / spiritual television networks;

  • the many family or educational programs that traditional TV broadcasters offer; or

  • the massive market for interactive computer software or Internet websites for children.


And every time I turn around I find another great show, service, or site for families to choose from.

Continue reading Is There Really Any Shortage of Good Programming Options for Kids? . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:12 PM | Mass Media, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Cutting the Video Cord: Clicker.com

ClickerAround this time last year, a relative 20 years my senior was asking me what I was writing about and I mentioned how I'd been collecting anecdotes and stats for what was becoming our Cutting the Video Cord series here. That series has documented how the Internet and new digital media options are displacing traditional video distribution channels. We've been exploring what that means for consumers, regulators and the media itself.

I asked this relative of mine if they spent any time watching their favorite shows, or even movies, online or through alternative means than just their cable or satellite subscription. He said he didn't because of the lack of an easy way to find all their favorite shows quickly. Specifically, he lamented the lack of a good "TV Guide" for online video. I explained to him that, for most of us 40 and under, our "TV Guide" was called "a search engine"! It's pretty easy to just pop in any show name or topic into your preferred search engine and then click on "Video" to see what you get back. Nonetheless, I had to concede that random searching for video wouldn't necessarily be the way everyone would want to go about it. And it wouldn't necessarily organize the results in way viewers would find useful--grouping things thematically by genre or offering the sort of related programming you might be interested in seeing.

Well, good news, such a service now exists. Katherine Boehret of the Wall Street Journal brought "Clicker.com" to my attention in her column last night, a terrific new (and free) video search service:

Continue reading Cutting the Video Cord: Clicker.com . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:47 AM | Cutting the Video Cord, Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is Wikipedia Dying or Just Maturing?

Wikipedia editorsThere was a very interesting front-page article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Julia Angwin and Geoffrey Fowler wondering whether Wikipedia, the wildly popular online encyclopedia, was dying because of new posting guidelines which have apparently led to a drop off in the number of volunteers contributing to the site. In their article ("Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages"), Angwin and Fowler note that:

In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia suffered a net loss of more than 49,000 editors, compared to a net loss of 4,900 during the same period a year earlier, according to Spanish researcher Felipe Ortega, who analyzed Wikipedia's data on the editing histories of its more than three million active contributors in 10 languages. Eight years after Wikipedia began with a goal to provide everyone in the world free access to "the sum of all human knowledge," the declines in participation have raised questions about the encyclopedia's ability to continue expanding its breadth and improving its accuracy. Errors and deliberate insertions of false information by vandals have undermined its reliability.

The article suggests that new posting and editing guidelines may have something to do with the drop:
But as it matures, Wikipedia, one of the world's largest crowdsourcing initiatives, is becoming less freewheeling and more like the organizations it set out to replace. Today, its rules are spelled out across hundreds of Web pages. Increasingly, newcomers who try to edit are informed that they have unwittingly broken a rule -- and find their edits deleted, according to a study by researchers at Xerox Corp. "People generally have this idea that the wisdom of crowds is a pixie dust that you sprinkle on a system and magical things happen," says Aniket Kittur, an assistant professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied Wikipedia and other large online community projects. "Yet the more people you throw at a problem, the more difficulty you are going to have with coordinating those people. It's too many cooks in the kitchen."

Let's say it's true that the new guidelines have resulted in fewer people contributing. Is that that automatically a bad thing? I suppose it depends on other variables that are harder to measure. Namely, quality metrics. This is where every discussion about Wikipedia gets sticky.

Continue reading Is Wikipedia Dying or Just Maturing? . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:10 PM | Innovation, Open Source

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What's next from PTC, a call for banning books?

Because it's guaranteed to produce a wry chuckle, I occasionally check the PTC (Parent's Television Council) website to see what shows have recently most offended their delicate sensitivities. Apparently, the latest outrage has to do with some sexually suggestive song and dance routines broadcast on the ABC Television Network as part of the American Music Awards. Elvis' swinging hips, anyone? In any event, the PTC website screams: "PTC Slams ABC for Tasteless 'American Music Awards' Broadcast."

Now I didn't see the broadcast and I have no interest in opining on whether the show was, or was not, actionably indecent as a legal matter within the framework that has been constructed by the FCC over the past several decades. Frankly, the whole broadcast indecency regime is undiluted nonsense as far as I'm concerned and it should have been struck down as unconstitutional years ago.

The larger point that I want to touch upon is just how out of touch with reality PTC and its cohorts are. On this issue I do have some expertise, as I spend quite a bit of time working with teenagers at our local high school. I can assure the gentle reader that today's teenagers are exposed to considerably more graphic content than those of my generation were and - surprise of surprises - it's not by way of the family television set.

Indeed, to complain about content on television today is about as relevant to youth culture as complaining about obscenity in books. Why doesn't PTC go back to complaining about Ulysses and Candid, or Leaves of Grass and the Canterbury Tales for that matter? I'm sure there is much worse in Lady Chatterley's Lover than anything broadcast on the ABC Television Network. Putting aside the constitutional questions, wouldn't it seem rather silly and pointless today to ban these books purportedly to protect mores of our youth? The Naked and the Dead has some vulgar passages, but is anyone under the age of 18 reading it? I don't know that I've ever heard a kid say, "fug."

One is tempted to ask whether the PTC might not be able to find something important to do, but of course that misses the point. There probably is no surer way of raising money from the religious right than by wailing about the decline of decency and the erosion of moral standards - that same tired refrain that would-be censors have been echoing for centuries. What a racket.

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 11:25 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Monday, November 23, 2009

A "Public Option" for Media? The Free Press Plan to Put Journalists on the Public Dole

Free Press, the radical pro-regulatory media activist group, recently filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the agency's upcoming workshop on "How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" The Free Press comments provide an enlightening glimpse into the mind of how many on the Left now think about media policy in America. Their approach can be summarized as follows:


  1. Nothing the private sector can do will save journalism (unless it is entirely non-profit / non-commercial in nature);

  2. Even if there was something that private players could do to save journalism, Free Press would likely have federal authorities forbid it anyway (especially if it involved new business ownership patterns or combinations); and,

  3. The only thing that can really save journalism is a "public option" for the press in the form of massive state subsidization of media in this country.


To elaborate on the last point, here's how Free Press summarizes what they are looking for:
For U.S. public media to become a truly world-class system will require a substantial increase in funding. This could be accomplished by an increase in direct congressional appropriations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With increased funding -- to as little as $5 per person, increasing annual appropriations to some $1.5 billion -- the American public media system could dramatically increase its capacity, reach, diversity and relevance.

But they stress that a simple expansion of the PBS/NPR/CPB non-commercial model will not be enough since that system is "vulnerable to repeated threats of funding cuts" and too "reliant on corporate backing, via the underwriting process." They want to go well beyond non-commercial media, therefore, and have the state start building a massive public media infrastructure. Here's where their pitch for a public option for the press comes in:

Continue reading A "Public Option" for Media? The Free Press Plan to Put Journalists on the Public Dole . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:31 PM | Free Speech, Mass Media

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Apple & the iPhone App Store Approval Process

Arik Hesseldahl has an interesting piece in Business Week about Apple's control of the iPhone App approval process in which he asks: "Is a smartphone gatekeeper needed?" Plenty of people don't think so and have raised a stink about Apple trying to play that role for the iPhone. It certainly could be true, as some critics suggest, that Apple is being too heavy-handed on occasion when rejecting apps, but it's always easy for those of us on the outside of the process to think that. Hesseldahl notes that:

it's tempting to consider the implications of a less hands-on approach, as is the case with Macs, Microsoft (MSFT) Windows PCs, or other smartphones, including those running the Google (GOOG)-backed Android operating system. The software market for personal computing has existed in this way for nearly three decades, and while there have certainly been some problems along the way, I'd argue that overall we're better off without Microsoft or Apple or some other organization approving software applications before they're released to the market. PC users have learned to be careful about what they put on their computers through unhappy trial and error.

But he also notes that there is another side to the story:

Continue reading Apple & the iPhone App Store Approval Process . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:09 PM | Innovation

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Wireless Bandwidth Crunch: Where Will We Find More Spectrum?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 5:48 PM | Broadband, Spectrum

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Forward Progress at the FCC

posted by Barbara Esbin @ 11:44 AM | The FCC, Universal Service

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Mobile Blogging: WordPress on Android

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:44 AM | Innovation, Software

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How the iPhone "Disrupted" Microsoft's Windows Mobile

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:39 AM | Innovation

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is the FCC Becoming the Federal Cloud Commission?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 8:18 PM | Communications, Net Neutrality, The FCC

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Even Media Moguls Often Underestimate How Dynamic Markets Can Be

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:46 PM | Mass Media

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Son of COPA?: H.R. 4059, "The Online Age Verification and Child Safety Act"

posted by Adam Thierer @ 8:59 PM | Free Speech

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Reviving Open Access

posted by Barbara Esbin @ 5:36 PM | Cable, Net Neutrality, Neutrality, The FCC

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event: Dec. 1st Debate about Future of Broadcast TV Spectrum

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:17 AM | Events, Mass Media, Spectrum

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Apple Empowering Users to "Sell" Their Attention to Advertisers for "Free" Stuff

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:46 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Appleplectics, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism

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Privacy Hearing & Briefings This Week: More Non-sense about Non-harms of Online Advertising

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:43 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Privacy

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Where Will Local News Come From?

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 7:35 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh Farts! The Droid, the iPhone & the Lessig-Zittrain Thesis

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:15 PM | Commons, Innovation, Internet, What We're Reading, Wireless

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Perpetual Techno-Hysteria about Mergers

posted by Berin Szoka @ 5:54 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy

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Privacy Trade-Offs: PFF Comments on December 7 FTC Privacy Workshop

posted by Berin Szoka @ 5:53 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Free Speech, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism, Privacy, Security

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Odlyzko on Net Neutrality, Price Discrimination, PrivacyFail, Search & Cloud Neutrality

posted by Berin Szoka @ 5:46 PM | Add category, Broadband, Neutrality, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's Make a Deal: Broadcasters, Mobile Broadband, and a Market in Spectrum

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:24 PM | Media Regulation, Spectrum

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Privacy Solutions Part 8: The Best Anonymizer Available: Tor, the TorButton & TorBrowser

posted by Adam Marcus @ 4:15 PM | Cyber-Security, Privacy Solutions

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Europeans Obstruct Oracle/Sun Deal

posted by Berin Szoka @ 3:16 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Open Source, Software

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Against Browser Ballot Mandates: EC Now Designing Software?

posted by Adam Marcus @ 1:40 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Media Regulation, Neutrality, Software

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Privacy Solutions Part 7: How Anonymizers Can Empower Privacy-Sensitive Users

posted by Adam Marcus @ 11:34 AM | Privacy, Privacy Solutions

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A Quantum Gap in Jurisdiction

posted by Barbara Esbin @ 11:20 AM | Broadband, Communications, Net Neutrality, The FCC

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Paralysis by Analysis -- The FCC's Failure to Respond to the Death Throes of Journalism

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 10:22 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, The FCC

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"I Hate to Introduce Reality into an FCC Proceeding"

posted by Amy Smorodin @ 2:47 PM | Communications, Mass Media, Media Regulation, The FCC

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Google's Privacy Dashboard: Another Major Step Forward in User Empowerment & Transparency

posted by Berin Szoka @ 12:55 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Privacy, Privacy Solutions

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ars Technica Reviews Patry's "Screed," Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 7:09 PM | Books & Book Reviews, Copyright, Cyber-Security, Googlephobia, IP, Innovation, Internet, Trade

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A few words about Victoria Espinel, nominee for Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 10:15 AM | Copyright, E-commerce, Global Innovation, IP, Innovation, Trade

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Grokster and Indirect Liability for Copyright Infringement

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 1:05 PM | Copyright, IP, Internet

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  The Self-Parody of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: "Figurative Language at its Best" Does NOT "Declare War" on Copyright-Enforcing "Terror[ists]" by Objectifying Women.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! The Post Closes All of its National News Bureaus!
Once Again, Power Laws Rule all Media & Digital Inequality is Unavoidable
The "Problem of Proportionality" in Debates about Online Privacy and Child Safety
Is There Really Any Shortage of Good Programming Options for Kids?
Cutting the Video Cord: Clicker.com
Is Wikipedia Dying or Just Maturing?
What's next from PTC, a call for banning books?
A "Public Option" for Media? The Free Press Plan to Put Journalists on the Public Dole
Apple & the iPhone App Store Approval Process
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