May 31, 2003  ·  Lessig

The Economist (that magazine that called for a 14 year copyright term) has a great piece about spectrum. The piece nicely carries this “Commons vs. Property” debate one step further. As Yochai Benkler is increasingly pushing the point, the problem with the “commons” metaphor is that it itself is a “property” metaphor — just a form of “property” where everyone has a right to access.

But that, Benkler argues, is misleading. The question we should be asking is not which form of property makes sense — private or commons — but instead a much more libertarian question: Do we need any “regulation of the spectrum” at all? Or put better: Given today’s technology, is there any reason to believe that the market operating on its own, without any substantial form of regulation, won’t figure out how best to develop devices that radiate? Can’t we depend upon the market to solve whatever coordination problems there are?

I’ve already tagged Benkler “perhaps the best communications theorist of our generation.” I shouldn’t have said “perhaps.”

May 31, 2003  ·  Lessig

There’s an important story about the Korean election that is not well understood by many, including me. I have read all sorts of accounts, but none really seems to capture it. David Moynihan tells an interesting part of the story in a comment to my post on “girrrl revolutions.” That suggested the idea of a community-telling.

So here’s the question: There was a surprising effect produced by the youth in the last Korean election — surprising because the pollsters missed it — and that surprise was in part facilitated by technology. But what’s the real story?

Advanced warning: I intend to be an editor of this community-telling, so off topic and unhelpful posts will be removed.

May 30, 2003  ·  Lessig

Andy Orlowski has an interesting dump on blogs in the Register. But he also makes an interesting mistake.

I’m not sure how one could ever say what the impact of “blogs” is universally. Yet by asking the question like that, you miss important differences in different countries. Joi’sEmergent Democracy” stuff might seem odd from the perspective of England or the United States (because we of course have such healthy democracies, and soon we’ll have three media companies to tell us so); but within the structures of Japan, this channel becomes very significant. Likewise with the equivalent effect (though not through blogs) that has yet to be understood in the Korean election.

The link to teenage girls is even more mysterious, and yet to be understood. The other extraordinarily significant movement in Japan — dojinshi comics — is also said to have been sparked by teenage girls. That movement now gathers over 400,000 people twice a year to trade in those comics. And Sifry’s estimated number of blogs: 400,000.

Just a coincidence? Who are we to say?

May 28, 2003  ·  Lessig

Tonight on PBS, there is a film by a friend’s father. It was his last film before he died. Charles Guggenheim was one of the greatest documentary film makers of the 20th century. If you get a chance, watch Berga: Soldiers of Another War. To find local listings, click here. And if you get a chance to see it, let Davis, Charles Guggenheim’s son, know what you think by emailing him here. (Note: you have to remove the ZIPPOSPAM from the email address).

May 28, 2003  ·  Lessig

John Edwards has joined the long list of opponents to Chairman Powell’s plans to relax media ownership rules. His letter to Powell is posted below. Notice, appropriately, the punchline is a question about the FCC’s mandate: We should ask, exactly who elected Chairman Powell, and upon whose mandate is he pushing this change?

May 28, 2003

The Honorable Michael K. Powell
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Powell:

I write to urge you not to increase the national
broadcast ownership cap and not to proceed with the
rulemaking scheduled for June 2.

Diversity in the media is enormously important to our
democracy. As consumers, Americans should have
choices in the music they can hear and the television
programs they can watch. As citizens, Americans
should have access to different ideas and points of
view. The government has a responsibility to foster
this diversity of expression. Unfortunately, the
FCC’s new rules are likely to undermine it.

The effects on rural America could be particularly
harmful. People in rural communities and small-town
America have distinctive interests, and local stations
offer programming that responds to these interests. In
recent years, local stations in rural North Carolina
have offered prime-time broadcasts of Atlantic Coast
Conference basketball games, Billy Graham crusades,
and muscular dystrophy telethons. All Americans can
appreciate the importance of offering local
programming tailored to local concerns. By
undercutting this diversity, the FCC’s new rules will
do a disservice to all Americans.

I have heard you suggest that with the growth of cable
and satellite television, broadcast diversity is no
longer important. That may be true in some affluent
communities, but many Americans do not have cable and
satellite television, especially in rural areas.
These Americans depend on broadcast news and
programming, and their programming should offer real
choices that are responsive to their interests.

I am especially troubled that your agency is
implementing these proposals without permitting
further public discussion. The FCC does not have a
mandate to make controversial decisions without giving
the public a full opportunity to comment. The fact
that two Commissioners have requested a delay should
signal to you that the prudent course, at the least,
is to postpone the vote and permit open public
discussion.

Thank you for you consideration of this request.

Yours sincerely,
John Edwards

cc: Commissioners Abernathy, Adelstein, Copps, and
Martin

May 28, 2003  ·  Lessig

In a paper on Innovation released by the Lieberman campaign today, Senator Lieberman writes,

“Ensure that the Internet continues to provide an open platform for innovation: The Internet is different from the phone network and radio and broadcast television in important ways. It is easier for individuals and small organizations to be producers as well as consumers of information. The Internet allows for “many to many” communication as opposed to the “one to many” communication of broadcast television. Innovation can occur at the edge of the network. A student, an independent software developer, or a small high-tech company can come up with an idea for a new application, protocol, or kind of content. If enough people find it useful or worthwhile, this idea can spread like wildfire. Even as the Internet evolves, it important to ensure that it continues to provide an open platform for rapid and decentralized innovation, and for the exchange of ideas.”

End to End has gone presidential.

UPDATE: the link, changed, has been fixed.