October 7, 2008  ·  Lessig

Ikeda-san reports two bits of very good news from Japan:

On Sep. 18, the Council of Culture gave up the extension of copyright from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years. Two years ago, the Council proposed the extension to follow the “global standard”, but many people on the Web objected against the legislation.

Last week the Council of Information and Communication decided to scrap the B-CAS, the notorious conditional access system for free broadcasting. Due to this change, “Dubbing Ten”, which forbids copying the programs of digital broadcasting more than ten times, would be abolished, because it is enforced by the encryption of B-CAS.

Read more on his blog.

October 7, 2008  ·  Lessig


Barack Obama has reaffirmed the position he took in the primaries and asked the Debate Commission to support “open debates.” Here’s the letter.

Three key open questions:

1) Will the media pool choose to put their video of the debates in the public domain, so folks can freely blog key moments and share them without fear of being deemed a lawbreaker?

2) Will Tom Brokaw use some bottom-up debate questions collected and voted on on Google’s site, in addition or in place of the top-down ones the Commission collected?

3) Will the Commission adopt these principles for future debates, now that the candidates from both major parties embrace them?

And one final point: Now that both Senators have affirmed the “open debate” principles, its time for citizens to do the same. Please sign up below to support the call for “open debates.” Once again, the original letter to McCain and Obama is here.

Join The Open Debate Movement – Sign Up Here

October 7, 2008  ·  Lessig

It has surprised me that this, the tremor before this recent financial disaster, the Keating Five scandal, has not been at the center of this campaign before. But now, apparently in response to Palin’s suggestion that the fact Obama knows Ayers is relevant to whether he should be president, the Obama campaign has released this very strong 15 minute documentary about the Keating scandal.

For those not old enough to remember, here’s the outline: 5 Senators, all of whom had received campaign funding from Charles Keating, intervene with regulators to get them to overlook criminal behavior by Keating, leading to the collapse of Lincoln Savings, leading to a $3.4 billion bill for Americans. The only one of those 5 Senators to receive both personal and political benefits from Keating: McCain.

Fair? Totally relevant to the question whether the judgment of this candidate is the sort that’s needed at this time. Totally relevant to the basic question whether his philosophy — deregulate — is what this sector needs at this time.

Wise? Not sure. I’m not sure Americans distinguish between hard-hitting-and-fair criticism (which this is) and hard-hitting-and-unfair criticism (which Palin’s is). One might worry that they’re “burn[ing] down the house to roast the pig” but I assume they’ve reckoned that.

But ugly? You bet.

October 6, 2008  ·  Lessig

Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren tells the (incredible) story of a rule imposed on witnesses who wanted to testify in a credit card hearing that would permit the credit card companies to reveal their private financial data. “Only fair,” defenders of the rule stated, such as Congrssman Bachus (R-AL). But when Warren asked whether the credit card companies would have to provide support for the factual claims they made, the answer was silence. Only consumers have to waive their privacy to testify. Credit card companies get to say whatever they want, without having to establish any factual basis.

October 4, 2008  ·  Lessig

You wouldn’t think so reading stuff here (exclusively politics focused, sorry for that), but I’ve been following the recommendations on the wiki and elsewhere, and reading tons about corruption in many different contexts. The field of medicine, however, continues to be the most striking to me. Here’s the latest from the great Senator Grassley, as described in an article in the WSJ:

A prominent Emory University psychiatrist failed to tell the school about $500,000 he received from drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC while heading a government-funded research project studying Glaxo drugs, Sen. Charles Grassley alleged.

(Thanks, Birgit!)

UPDATE: The psychiatrist has stepped down.

(Thanks again, Birgit.)

October 3, 2008  ·  Lessig

A research assistant, Sina Kian, observes:

When Pres. Bush and Sec. Paulson proposed a bailout, it was three pages. When the House was done with it, it was over 100. When the Senate voted on it last night, it was over 400. I thought you’d be interested in reading about some of the earmarks that were slapped on. [McCain criticizing]

Particularly bizarre was the tax exemption for wooden arrows used by children. In any event, it’s sad to see a government so addicted to earmarks that it can’t even handle a crisis without involving them.