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December 2009 (previous | next)
 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

William Patry's "Moral Panic" about MPAA, Dan Glickman and ACTA

Recently, some routine events occurred. Stars shone at night. Snow fell in winter. And, in a new blog post, Dan Glickman's Moral Panic, Mr. William Patry warned that another vicious "moral panic" has been launched by another representative of the copyright owners whom Mr. Patry has denounced as Maoist, Stalinist, Fascist, Terrorist, murderous, war-mongering religious-zealot stranglers who will stoop not only to "castration" but even to "name calling."

But Mr. Patry's latest attempt to smear a creative industry backfires as badly the "siege-engine"/"screed"/worthless book that he called Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars ("Copyright Wars"). Consequently, Mr. Patry has again proven only that he is either the most incompetently diabolical "Master of Moral Panics" ever known or that he has become so unhinged by rage that he can no longer rationally comprehend or reply to even simple arguments made by copyright owners.

Continue reading William Patry's "Moral Panic" about MPAA, Dan Glickman and ACTA . . .

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 6:05 PM | Books & Book Reviews, Copyright, E-commerce, Googlephobia, IP, Innovation, Internet, What We're Reading

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What an Amazing Decade (of Technological Progress)!

My friend Larry Magid, a technology columnist for CBS News.com and others, has a wonderful new column out about "The Decade in Technology." You have to read it to appreciate just how far we have come in such a short time. Larry notes:

[T]he past 10 years were a momentous period for technology. Not only was there no iPhone a decade ago, there was hardly anything that could be considered a smartphone. The BlackBerry was introduced in 1999, when the well-heeled techno-savvy were carrying around flip phones. That year, 1999, was the height of the dot-com boom. But when you look back at it, the online world was nothing like it is today. There was no Facebook (founded in 2004) or Twitter (2007). Even MySpace wasn't founded until 2003. The term Web 2.0 hadn't been coined and most people who were online used the Web mostly to consume information. Those with the skills and resources to post to the Web were called "Webmasters." Today, everyone with a Facebook account is a master of his or her own Web.

I tried to document the incredible technological changes in my own life over the past decade in this essay I penned on Super Bowl Sunday last February: "10 Years Ago Today... (Thinking About Technological Progress)."

Larry also notes that giants came and went as technology continued to evolve in unexpected ways:

Ten years ago AOL was the most popular Internet service provider and was so successful that it was able to purchase media giant Time Warner in January 2000 for $182 billion in stock. But the marriage didn't make it through the decade. The two companies formally split up this month, with AOL, once again, being traded on the New York Stock Exchange as a separate company. AOL thrived in the '90s because people were using the service to go online via phone. Today most American homes have broadband.

That's something I wrote about at length in my recent paper on "A Brief History of Media Merger Hysteria." Anyway, read Larry's entire piece. It really drives home how lucky we are to be living in the midst of such at technological renaissance and information cornucopia.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:34 PM | Innovation

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2010: The Year of "Everything Neutrality"

As early as 1990, telecom industry observers speculated about the shift away from traditional circuit-switched telephony to "Voice Over IP" (VoIP). By the late 1990s, Internet industry observers began using the term "Everything Over IP" (VoIP) to describe the ongoing and seemingly inevitable shift towards Internet distribution of not just voice, but all forms of, audio, text and multi-media content. Today, term has become a victim of its own success: "Of course, 'everything' is delivered over IP. How else would you do it?"

While this capitalist success story is among the greatest technological triumphs of our time, a similar rhetorical pattern is, unfortunately, playing out in very different arena of Regulatory Creep. The crusade for "net neutrality" is metastasizing before our very eyes into a broader holy war for regulating "Everything" (EoIP) in the name of "protecting neutrality." The next target is clear: search engines Google--as an op-ed in today's New York Times makes crystal clear. Adam Thierer and I warned about this escalation of efforts to get government more involved in regulating Internet back in October in a PFF paper entitled Net Neutrality, Slippery Slopes & High-Tech Mutually Assured Destruction:

If Internet regulation follows the same course as other industries, the FCC and/or lawmakers will eventually indulge calls by all sides to bring more providers and technologies "into the regulatory fold." Clearly, this process has already begun. Even before rules are on the books, the companies that have made America the leader in the Digital Revolution are turning on each other in a dangerous game of brinksmanship, escalating demands for regulation and playing right into the hands of those who want to bring the entire high-tech sector under the thumb of government--under an Orwellian conception of "Internet Freedom" that makes corporations the real Big Brother, and government, our savior.

Today's editorial is only small dose of what's to come. The floodgates will really open and let forth a great gushing rage of demands for sweeping regulation of the entire Internet under the banner of neutrality when the deadlines pass in the FCC's "net neutrality" NPRM (comments due January 14, 2010; reply comments due March 5).

Continue reading 2010: The Year of "Everything Neutrality" . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:49 AM | Broadband, Neutrality

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Monday, December 28, 2009

U.S. Legislators CANNOT Trust Claims that 37% of the DMCA Takedown Notices That Google Receives Fail to State "Valid Copyright Claims."

The Internet can contribute significantly to the quality and quantity of debate about important questions of public policy. But--particularly when copyrights are at issue--it can also amplify and perpetuate the worst nonsense spouted by the least competent employees or agents of even generally well-intended entities.

An example of this problem arose from concerns recently expressed by Representative Robert Goodlatte, who has strongly supported both artists and technologists. Representative Goodlatte is one of the many legislators within the "reasoned center" of debate about copyrights and the Internet: He and many others seem to want real solutions that preserve both the generative power of the Internet and the generative power of copyright protection--without forcing copyright owners to sue consumers knowingly or deliberately used as "human shields" to protect the piracy-driven "business models" of miscreants like the distributors of the Morpheus file-sharing program.

Consequently, during a recent hearing on Internet piracy of sports programming, I was surprised to hear that Representative Goodlatte had asked Justin.tv, an online service provider ("OSP"), whether it should continue to honor takedown notices from copyright owners given that Google had told the government of New Zealand that a third-party study had "reported" that 37% of the DMCA "takedown notices" that Google receives state invalid copyright claims.

The problem here was not that Representative Goodlatte believed Google's claim that a third-party study had reported that 37% of the DMCA notices that Google receives are invalid--after all, Google itself had made that claim when addressing the government of New Zealand. Rather, the problem was that Google's claim was dead wrong--and then the Internet echo-chamber enabled a string of serious errors by non-A-team employees and agents to mislead not only the New Zealand government, but also journalists and a thoughtful U.S. legislator on the other side of the world.

Continue reading U.S. Legislators CANNOT Trust Claims that 37% of the DMCA Takedown Notices That Google Receives Fail to State "Valid Copyright Claims." . . .

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 12:21 PM | Copyright, IP, Innovation, Internet, Mass Media, Neutrality

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beware Of Space Junk: Global Warming Isn't the Only Major Environmental Problem

by James Dunstan & Berin Szoka* (PDF)
Originally published in Forbes.com on December 17, 2009

As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to consider drastic carbon emission restrictions that could require large-scale de-industrialization, experts gathered last week just outside Washington, D.C. to discuss another environmental problem: Space junk.[1] Unlike with climate change, there's no difference of scientific opinion about this problem--orbital debris counts increased 13% in 2009 alone, with the catalog of tracked objects swelling to 20,000, and estimates of over 300,000 objects in total; most too small to see and all racing around the Earth at over 17,500 miles per hour. Those are speeding bullets, some the size of school buses, and all capable of knocking out a satellite or manned vehicle.

At stake are much more than the $200 billion a year satellite and launch industries and jobs that depend on them. Satellites connect the remotest locations in the world; guide us down unfamiliar roads; allow Internet users to view their homes from space; discourage war by making it impossible to hide armies on another country's borders; are utterly indispensable to American troops in the field; and play a critical role in monitoring climate change and other environmental problems. Orbital debris could block all these benefits for centuries, and prevent us from developing clean energy sources like space solar power satellites, exploring our Solar System and some day making humanity a multi-planetary civilization capable of surviving true climatic catastrophes.

The engineering wizards who have fueled the Information Revolution through the use of satellites as communications and information-gathering tools also overlooked the pollution they were causing. They operated under the "Big Sky" theory: Space is so vast, you don't have to worry about cleaning up after yourself. They were wrong. Just last February, two satellites collided for the first time, creating over 1,500 new pieces of junk. Many experts believe we are nearing the "tipping point" where these collisions will cascade, making many orbits unusable.

But the problem can be solved. Thus far, governments have simply tried to mandate "mitigation" of debris-creation. But just as some warn about "runaway warming," we know that mitigation alone will not solve the debris problem. The answer lies in "remediation": removing just five large objects per year could prevent a chain reaction. If governments attempt to clean up this mess themselves, the cost could run into the trillions--rivaling even some proposed climate change solutions.

Instead, space-faring nations should create an Orbital Debris Removal and Recycling Fund (ODRRF).

Continue reading Beware Of Space Junk: Global Warming Isn't the Only Major Environmental Problem . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 4:35 PM | Innovation, Space

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Amazon's Supposed e-Book "Monopoly" Isn't "In-Scribd" in Stone

Business Insider reports that, sometime next year, Scribd will launch a "seamless" interface that allows users to access Scribd docs on their Kindles. That's a major step forward for the startup, which aims to be the "YouTube for print"--and which Adam and I use to make all our PFF papers available online in an embeddable Flash viewer that's much quicker to load than the full PDFs. But it also represents a serious potential long-term challenge to Amazon, since Scribd is "quietly developing a strong e-book storefront to match its hoard of user generated content," as Business Insider notes, and because:

If Scribd can put its books on the Kindle, this number should only grow, especially since it offers publishers a better business deal than Amazon. Amazon reportedly offers a 50/50 sales split. Scribd only keeps 20% and allows publishers to set their own price.

So much for "The coming Kindle monopoly" the cranks over at Oligopoly Watch warn us about!

kindle-vs-nookIt would be more accurate to say that Scribd will be "Kindling" e-book competition within the base of Kindle users, and of course, competing devices like Barnes & Noble's Nook offer cross-platform competition, just as satellite television competes with cable. In both cases, the platform operator has a strong incentive to compete for users by offering as much content (books/video programming) as possible at attractive prices.

On the one hand, one might say that inter-platform competition is stronger in the case of video delivery platforms, because users generally lease equipment on a month-to-month basis, while e-book users must buy their $250+ device up-front (making it therefore harder to switch from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, if one decides one doesn't like the offerings or prices for e-books on the Kindle). But on the other hand, if Scribd can compete head-to-head with Amazon in offering e-books on Amazon's Kindle (and perhaps on the Note, too, someday soon), users don't need to switch devices at all: They can just switch e-book providers. Furthermore since e-books are bought on an à la carte basis, users don't have to switch completely, they can just switch for any particular book--meaning that Amazon needs to compete for every additional purchase they can get, which means lower prices and more choices for consumers.

Continue reading Amazon's Supposed e-Book "Monopoly" Isn't "In-Scribd" in Stone . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 4:18 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, E-commerce

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Facebook Privacy Controls Change & EPIC's FTC Complaint

In case you live under a digital rock (whaddyamean, you don't check TechMeme hourly?), you have probably heard that EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission Thursday, alleging that Facebook's revised privacy settings (and their implementation) constitute "unfair and deceptive trade practices" punishable under the FTC's Section 5 statutory consumer protection authority. Specifically, EPIC demands, in addition to "whatever other relief the Commission finds necessary and appropriate," that the FTC "compel Facebook to restore its previous privacy settings allowing users to:"


  1. "choose whether to publicly disclose personal information, including name, current city, and friends" and

  2. "fully opt out of revealing information to third-party developers"


In addition, EPIC wants the FTC to "Compel Facebook to make its data collection practices clearer and more comprehensible and to give Facebook users meaningful control over personal information provided by Facebook to advertisers and developers."

I'll have more to say about this very complicated issue in the days to come, but I wanted to share, and elaborate on, two press hits I got on this issue today. First, in the PC World story, I noted that "we're already seeing the marketplace pressures that Facebook faces move us toward a better balance between the benefits of sharing and granular control" and expressed my concern "about the idea that the government would be in the driver's seat about these issues." In particular, Facebook has made it easier for users to turn off the setting that includes their friends among their "publicly available information" that can be accessed on their profile by non-friends (unless the user opts to make their profile inaccessible through Facebook search and outside search engines).

In other words, this is an evolving process and Facebook faces enormous pressure to strike the right balance between openness/sharing and closedness/privacy. While Facebook's critics assume that it is simply placing its owyou and I saw an article that is as oldyou you as it isn financial interests above the interests of its users, the reality is more complicated: Facebook's greatest asset lies not in the sheer number of its users and not just in the information they share, but in the total degree of engagement in the site. The more time users spend on the site, the better, because Facebook is rewarded by advertisers for attracting and keeping the attention of users.

Continue reading Facebook Privacy Controls Change & EPIC's FTC Complaint . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 4:18 PM | Privacy

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The Marquee "Old Media" Advertising Event Has Lost Some Luster

The proverbial "other shoe" is slipping. Many of us have been warning for years that the traditional advertising model for "old media" simply will not sustain it against the tide of new competition. We've already seen the damage done in the newspaper industry, as paper after paper has cut staff or ceased operations.

Indeed, just last week there was yet another story about the "Old Gray Lady" celebrating the Christmas season by laying off another dozen or so newsroom staff. And contrary to the claims of a few who would like to blink reality, these cuts were not occasioned by the debt load of the New York Times, but by a historic decline in advertising revenues -- the newspaper's advertising revenue fell by 30 percent through the first nine months of the year, which followed a decline of 12 percent in advertising revenue in 2008.

Broadcasters, too, are feeling the pinch. Notably, Pepsi has announced that it will not buy advertising time during the biggest broadcasting event of the year -- the 2010 Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is, if you will pardon me, the "Super Bowl" of television advertising each year. A 30-second spot last year cost $3 million on average, and Pepsi alone bought nearly $15 million of time during the broadcast. This year the company will focus its marketing efforts on new media, including a large dose of online advertising.

Can those who would continue to saddle old media with outdated and anticompetitive regulatory restrictions continue to ignore the symptoms of illness when they are so starkly manifest? It is long past time to liberate traditional media businesses from the rusty old regulations that shackle them, and allow these important cultural, educational, and social enterprises to compete with their new foes on a level field. That would entail, first and foremost, affording them full First Amendment rights and eliminating archaic ownership restrictions. The "other shoe" is slipping -- we had better do something before it drops.

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 12:08 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, The FCC

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The "Problem of Proportionality" in the Debate over Net Neutrality

Last week I commented on a severely one-sided FCC net neutrality hearing that featured a endless parade of horribles being prophesied by virtually every speaker. The litany of spooky stories became tedious and absurd. Everyone foretold of the impending doom that awaits unless government intervenes to save us from various corporate conspiracies to "silence" our voices. Unsurprisingly, evidence was in short supply. It was pure Chicken Little poppycock.

This got me thinking again about what I have referred to as the "problem of proportionality." I have discussed the problem of proportionality in the context of public policy debates about online safety and privacy, but it seems equally applicable to debates about net neutrality. Here's how I explained the "problem of proportionality" in an earlier essay:

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.

Again, much the same is true of net neutrality. Indeed, it is even more true since actual net neutrality "incidents" are so hard to come by.

Continue reading The "Problem of Proportionality" in the Debate over Net Neutrality . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:49 AM | Net Neutrality

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Mobile Micropayments: Forcing Me to Reconsider the Conventional Wisdom

I've always generally agreed with the conventional wisdom about micropayments as a method of funding online content or services: Namely, they won't work. Clay Shirky, Tim Lee, and many others have made the case that micropayments face numerous obstacles to widespread adoption. The primary issue seems to be the "mental transaction cost" problem: People don't want to be diverted--even for just a few seconds--from what they are doing to pay a fee, no matter how small. [That is why advertising continues to be the primary monetization engine of the Internet and digital services.]

android-market-12-15-09That being said, I keep finding examples of how micropayments do work in some contexts and it has kept me wondering if there's still a chance for micropayments to work in other contexts (like funding media content). For example, I mentioned here before how shocked I was when I went back and looked at my eBay transactions for the past couple of years and realized how many "small-dollar" purchases I had made via PayPal (mostly dumb stickers and other little trinkets). And the micropayment model also seems to be doing reasonably well in the online music world. In January 2009, Apple reported that the iTunes Music Store had sold over 6 billion tracks.

And then there are mobile application stores. Just recently I picked up a Droid and I've been taking advantage of the rapidly growing Android marketplace, which recently hit the 20,000 apps mark. Like Apple's 100,000-strong App Store, there's a nice mix of paid and free apps, and even though I'm downloading mostly freebies, I've started buying more paid apps. Many of them are "upsells" from free apps I downloaded. In most cases, they are just 99 cents. A few examples of paid apps I've downloaded or considered buying: Stocks Pro, Mortgage Calc Pro, Currency Guide, Photo Vault, Weather Bug Elite, and Find My Phone. And there are all sorts of games, clocks, calendars, ringtones, heath apps, sports stuff, utilities, and more that are 99 cents or $1.99. Some are more expensive, of course.

Continue reading Mobile Micropayments: Forcing Me to Reconsider the Conventional Wisdom . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:56 PM | Economics, Innovation, Mass Media

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: Losing a Fight with a Hand-Picked Strawman Is Not an "Extensive Examination" of "Economic Evidence."

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 12:23 PM | Books & Book Reviews, Copyright, IP, Internet

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Philly Muni Wi-Fi Fiasco Continues; Taxpayers to Pick Up Tab

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:26 PM | Municipal Ownership

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Congresswoman, CALM Thyself! LA Times Eschews Eshoo Nanny State Bill to Regulate Ad Volume

posted by Berin Szoka @ 12:25 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Free Speech, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism

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The First Amendment & Net Neutrality: Be Careful What You Wish For

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:41 AM | Free Speech, Net Neutrality

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Anti-Obesity Activists "Grease" Skids for Unconstitutional, Unnecessary Food Advertising Restrictions

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:39 AM | Advertising & Marketing, Free Speech

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EC Closes Browser Ballot Chapter in Endless Epic of Microsoft Persecution with Dangerous Precedent

posted by Berin Szoka @ 9:38 AM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Neutrality

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"The Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act" Passes in House

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:24 PM | Free Speech

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More Conspiratorial Nonsense about the Comcast-NBC Deal

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:15 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Regulatory Creep In Evidence

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 11:59 AM | Capitol Hill, Internet Governance, Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FCC Enters Parallel Universe on First Amendment & Net Neutrality Issues

posted by Adam Thierer @ 5:41 PM | Free Speech, Net Neutrality

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Cutting the Video Cord: Pro-Regulatory NYT Realizes "Cable Freedom Is a Click Away"

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:20 AM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Cable

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

review of Ken Auletta's Googled: The End of the World As We Know It

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:10 PM | Books & Book Reviews, Googlephobia

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Transcript of PFF Event on Broadcast Spectrum Reallocation

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:10 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, Spectrum, The FCC

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Cheer Up, Canada: Thomas the Tank Engine Is Not a Conservative

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 12:11 AM | Capitalism, Generic Rant, Media Regulation, Security

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Net Neutrality Regulation & the First Amendment

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:15 PM | Free Speech, Net Neutrality

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Jenkins on Broadcast Spectrum Reallocation Battle

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:11 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation, Spectrum

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Another Sign of the Changing Media Times

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 2:10 PM | Communications, Mass Media

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New York Times online debate about Comcast-NBC deal

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:10 AM | Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Online Advertising: The Great Debate, Part II (12/9, 10am Eastern)

posted by Berin Szoka @ 11:03 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Privacy

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Internuts Blame Copyright Enforcement for the Sins of BitTorrent Tracker-Site Operators.

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 5:48 PM | Copyright, E-commerce, IP, Internet, Software, The FTC

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Comments at FTC Workshop Panel on Privacy Polls & Surveys

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:11 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Privacy

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

And so the Comcast-NBC Merger Hysteria Begins: Help Me Document It!

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:28 PM | Mass Media, Media Regulation

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: EFF Condemns Patry For "Assembling the Rhetorical Siege Engines of the Copyright Wars...."

posted by Thomas Sydnor @ 5:17 PM | Books & Book Reviews, Copyright, Cyber-Security, Economics, Googlephobia, IP, Innovation, Internet, What We're Reading

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Privacy & Advertising Discussions in DC Dec. 7 & 9

posted by Berin Szoka @ 12:17 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Privacy

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Brief History of Media Merger Hysteria: From AOL-Time Warner to Comcast-NBC

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:46 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Media Regulation

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Private Enterprise, Moore's Law & Accessibility Innovation Are Empowering the Disabled

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:22 PM | Innovation, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism

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How the iPhone "Disrupted" Microsoft's Windows Mobile

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:20 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy

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Bob Barr Denounces Cyberbullying Criminalization

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:20 PM | Free Speech, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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

posted by Amy Smorodin @ 2:44 PM | Broadband, Communications, Mass Media, Spectrum, Wireless

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  William Patry's "Moral Panic" about MPAA, Dan Glickman and ACTA
What an Amazing Decade (of Technological Progress)!
2010: The Year of "Everything Neutrality"
U.S. Legislators CANNOT Trust Claims that 37% of the DMCA Takedown Notices That Google Receives Fail to State "Valid Copyright Claims."
Beware Of Space Junk: Global Warming Isn't the Only Major Environmental Problem
Amazon's Supposed e-Book "Monopoly" Isn't "In-Scribd" in Stone
Facebook Privacy Controls Change & EPIC's FTC Complaint
The Marquee "Old Media" Advertising Event Has Lost Some Luster
The "Problem of Proportionality" in the Debate over Net Neutrality
Mobile Micropayments: Forcing Me to Reconsider the Conventional Wisdom
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