February 1, 2007  ·  Lessig

Over the next couple months, I’m going to try to put together short presentations outlining arguments for six Internet-related proposals that I believe Congress should enact over the next year. The trailer-description for each follows:

Copyright: Orphan Works: Orphan Works legislation is critical. Nonetheless, I strongly oppose the Copyright Office’s “Orphan Works Proposal.” I think it is extraordinarily unfair to current copyright owners, and insanely inefficient. My proposal applies an “Orphan Works Maintenance Requirement” to older works only; the requirement is a form of registration.

Copyright: Remix Culture: Congress should carve a robust exemption to the law for non-commercial remix. Commercial use of such remixes should be regulated by a baseline statutory license.

Network Neutrality: No surprise: I support Network Neutrality legislation. Unfortunately, too many of the reigning proposals are, imho, radically too difficult to enforce. I’ll propose a much simpler rule to enforce that would achieve the legitimate objectives of NN.

Spam: The email system is broken. A bazaar of private remedies to deal with spam now clog the system to defeat many of its original objectives. I’ll propose a modified version of an earlier idea to deal with this problem — a problem that costs the American public many times the total profits of the recording industry, but has gotten but a fraction of Congress’s attention.

Harmful to Minors Material: There’s a simple and minimally burdensome way Congress could protect kids online from material deemed “harmful to minors.” Not perfectly, but certainly better than the current regime. And without constitutional risk.

Deregulating Spectrum: Crude radio technology used to make regulating spectrum necessary. Smart radio technology makes it — in many cases at least — unnecessary. We should be pushing to deregulate where technology makes that possible.

I hope these presentations will be no more than 15 minutes long. The first presentation will be posted later today. Unfortunately, it is about 35 minutes long.

  • Janet Hawtin

    Would be great to see some policies and presentations which engage with the role of information and technology as social infrastructure. There are many facets of information and technology which are only effective if we have a systemic shared understanding of the whole. Defining information as piecemeal property is breaking the capacity for our governments and communities to view in a wholistic sense at a time when environmental, health, diplomatic and culturally we are operating from an increasingly globally controlled perspective. To increase global control with only tools that understand the right and power of an individual over a piece of the jigsaw is to manufacture a system which can not govern responsibly.
    In Australia today there was a news article announcing that an Australian group has found a treatment for bird flu.
    The response to that announcement from Indonesian and US parties who ‘own the strain of bird flu’ the vaccine is based on
    are threatening the Australian team because they do not have the right to cure the disease.
    I appreciate that there is work to be done on the existing copyright structures, but with few people able to see wholistically these issues it seems such a great shame to have CC and yourself working on the small remaining features of the existing system and not being the engineers of new opportunities. It is not supporters of the ‘old guard’ that people are donating for.
    There needs to be a body of coherent work that people can find when they look for alternatives. There needs to be attention and money spent on developing policies which reintegrate the idea that we can have commerce with commons. Policies and principles which are appropriate to a world which understands that if we all know what we each know we are so much wiser.
    I understand that you do not want people to fight over flavours of freedom. I understand that to be aiming to define freedoms is a difficult task which we all care about and that that brings pressure. I feel that many people are looking for new policy and that because distributed communities require different models that it is difficult to start to frame new legal space, but it would be great if this was included in the dialogue.
    It feels like law has forgotten that it is responsible for the common good. There are few in a better position to map the traditional contours of the common good? Janet

  • http://toddbradley.com Todd Bradley

    I think you mean “bazaar” not “bizarre”.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    HTM: Sigh. We’re in fact almost already there with your proposal – one small tweak to the regulations, and we’d be there completely (the HTM tag is called “2257 Record-Keeping Requirements Compliance Statement”). Sadly, nobody cares. It’s just not how the issue is being fought. The censors want a law structured to be as chilling as possible, and the civil-libertarian side talks *up* the broadness of censorware.

    By the way, you’d have to make it illegal for a proxy to strip out the HTM tag, or require all proxies to carry the HTM tag themselves.

  • Lessig

    thanks, Todd!

  • http://precursorblog.com Scott Cleland

    Professor Lessig,
    I look forward to seeing your new presentation on net neutrality. I have been stunned that there have not been more attempts by NN proponents like yourself to simply explain the problem and propose a simple solution that can generate consensus.

    Many of your colleagues say the AT&T condition captures the definition simply. I just reread the five paragraphs in the AT&T letter and it does not look simple to me. It looks a lot like the uber-regulatory approach of trying to define where and how you regulate different parts of the network at what price like former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt tried to do and failed.

    I look forward to seeing if you can bring some clarity of thought to the heretofore intellectually-challenged net neutrality movement.

  • http://www.mylyricscentral.com/ nicole

    This may sound like a huge thing to do but this Congress must do something some actions now. Not just huge I must say but kinda difficult task to do.

  • drew

    Seth,
    18 U.S.C 2257 says very little about the contents of a site, certainly not enough to keep minors from stumbling across the site. It’s intent is to protect minors from being exploited on legitimate adult sites, but in reality it does nothing more than promote widespread availability of personal records of the models and actors used in the productions on adult content. Because of 2257, any stalker with an ounce of skills could find the real name and address of his favorite model from a digital photo of that models drivers licesnse.

    There are other efforts designed to indicate the nature of content found on a site, including icra.org’s voluntary labeling system.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Drew, I mean 2257 is a US law mandating a label on sites which have sexual material to a standard that’s approximately Harmful-To-Minors. The goal of 2257 isn’t content regulation. But the *effect* is to have an *existing US law*, right now, not a proposal, which implements such *mandatory* site labeling. That mandatory site labeling has had no impact on the COPA/censorware debate.

    Other aspects of 2257, while perhaps real issues, are beyond the point I was trying to make.

  • Thomas

    When you do you net neutrality presentation, would you examine how net neutrality laws would affect a future where Google controls the world’s largest network of large datacenters, connected by an extensive private fiber network that the company would then leverage to cut peering deals with cable and phone companies to deliver the coming deluge of broadband-size video? Because that future is coming.

  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    I’d generally avoid having Congress legislating technical implementations. Specifying the <h2m> tag is just a bad idea; it doesn’t work for cases where no HTML is involved, it meddles with existing standards, and doesn’t allow for future standards. So I’m assuming you mean “web sites much use an approved standard (from a list regularly updated by an agency that can move reasonably fast) to tag this content. As a bonus, we already have exactly such a standard in the form of PICS. It works today and is more general and nuanced than a single <h2m> tag.

    More worrying to me is the potential to still unnecessarily inhibit free, legal speech. Ultimately someone producing more borderline material (art photographs of nudes, photographs as part of documentation on a breast examine, news photos of gruesome crimes) is faced with a hard decision that hurts them either way. If the site overblocks, their content will be less accessible to potential users. The problem is worse than simply cutting off children (which is still bad); many adults will be impacted when blocking this sort of content becomes the default (as it already is in libraries receiving federal funding). If the site underblocks, they put themselves at risk of whatever punishments there are for failure to block.