May 1, 2006  ·  Tim Wu

One theme in the book is that an evolving balkanization of the internet is often driven by consumer preference. A good example is the suprising decline in the use of the English language on the Web.

From Ch. 3

The Economist confidently stated in in 1996 that “English may now be impregnable established as the world standard language: an intrinsic part of the global communications revolution.” A New York Times article written the same year, titled “World Wide Web: Three English Words,” asserted that “if you want to take full advantage of the Internet there is only one real way to do it: learn English.”

That turned out not to be true. English was dominant at first. But it faded fast. By the end of 2002, less than half of the web pages were still in English, and the flights from English just continued — babelization, if not balkanization.

Today, David Sifry and Ethan Zuckerman write on “the surprising possibility that Japanese may have unseated English as the dominant language of the blogosphere.” According to Sifry’s fascinating survey, ”

Something that may come as a surprise (at least to the English-speaking world) is that English isn’t the biggest language of the blogosphere. In fact, English isn’t even the primary language of one third of all posts that Technorati tracks anymore.

If you look at the survey, you’ll notice other oddities too. French accounts for but 2% of technocrati blogging, for example, despite being one of the world’s most widespread languages.

So much for those ten years I spent in French lessons (yet fortunate that I’ve had 3 months of Japanese, kamon).

May 1, 2006  ·  Tim Wu

Today I’m scheduled to meet with Dr. Xiong Chengyu, who is one of the personal advisors to Chinese President Hu Jintao for internet & media issues. He is in town to meet with the National Committee on United States-China Relations, among other things.

Here’s what I’m curious to hear about: What Dr. Xiong thinks China’s internet policy is; or what function, exactly the internet does or should play in Chinese society.

In the West, the typical role of a communications infrastructure is spoken of, at an ideal, something that leads to more self-expression, happier people, and more involvement in the nation’s governance. Failing that, it ought at least entertain people and make the country richer.

Observers, myself and our book included, make guesses as to what China’s government sees as the function of the internet in Chinese society. Not all have been, exactly, flattering.

But I am very curious to hear what is said directly, and I’ll let you know what I learn.

May 1, 2006  ·  Tim Wu

Jack at I were at the Markle Foundation in New York today to speak about the book, and as is so often the case, ICANN and domain name governance came up.

Carol Cosgrove-Sacks, until recently the United Nations’ Director of Trade, asked whether an Internet that increasingly reflects the will of individual nations, as our book suggests, won’t inevitably need a more globally responsive domain name system. In other words, she asked whether, in the long run, ICANN just cannot survive.

Esther Dyson, who happened to be at the event, gave a most interesting response. “Domain name governance” she said (and I paraphrase) “is like the One Ring. You can’t trust anyone with its power.”

While she didn’t say this, ICANN under this logic is basically like a hobbit — an organization too weak to be a threat to anyone.

“ICANN has two things going for it” said Dyson, “it lacks power, and it lacks legitimacy. If ICANN tried to do anything controversial, the U.S., Europe, Japan, and the world internet community would resist and put a stop to it.”

So is that a good enough answer? Is a decent result enough, or does the process matter?

The question is central to our book. In writing Chapter 3 of our book we interviewed, among others, Ira Magaziner — who shed very helpful light on the whole process that lead to ICANN. (Readers may be particularly interested in his discussion of the famous 1998 “show down” with the late Jon Postel.)

The view taken by Magaziner and others in the Administration parallel Dyson’s hobbit thesis. The idea was something like this: the U.S. government needs to step in to prevent regulation of the Internet. Call it “unregulation,” or regulation to stop regulation.

That seems like a paradox, yet for Americans, how you feel about “unregulation” is a key to future debates over the internet and internet policy (it is crucial to the network neutrality issue, as I’ll discuss later this week). In short, given the enormity of government power, our book says that sometimes people will want and need government to keep the internet free from, yes, government, and governments.

More on this as we go on.

May 1, 2006  ·  Tim Wu

Most happy to be here. Mostly, but not entirely, I’ll talk this week about Who Controls the Internet. If you’ve already read the book, I’d love to hear any comments or feedback. The book can be purchased here or at most online or physical bookstores.

Let me introduce the book first. The book is mostly a history of the last ten years of nation-states & the internet. It is an effort to tell the story of the struggle of governments to control the net, and to understand the role played by geography, culture, and physical force in shaping what the network is becoming.

The book chronicles a rise in the use of state power to try to control network conduct. That’s bookended by the Elred v. Reno case on one side, and ends with Yahoo & Google’ capitulation to Chinese demands over the last few years. Along the way, it chronicles slow changes in the architecture of the network driven by local culture and government obsessions, with chapters on Copyright, ICANN, eBay, China, Int’l Law and others.

We have worked hard to make this a story accessible to many readers. Of course many of the readers of this blog are experts in one or another of the topics in the book. But even then, what we’ve tried to do is putting the last 10 years together, and put them in some perspective.

August 17, 2005  ·  Hilary Rosen

The comments have been reallly interesting.

I love the Warhol Campbell Soup example. I wonder if Campbell’s would sue him today. doubt it. in fact that is what is always so fascinating. the amount of people who face legal consequences for things like samples or parodies is so miniscule compared to the amount of their use. Music sample lawsuits, for example are really only done by successful artists against successful artists because it just isn’t worth it to pursue. Every once in awhile “artistic integrity” comes into play, but rarely.

Public Enemy was genius. Did they lose their mojo because they stopped sampling?

I’m impressed with the balance and thoughts expressed in the comments.

One thing that Larry and I have always agreed on is that the licensing systems for all copyright owners are often antiquated and unresponsive to today’s needs. While most copyright owners with a significant investment in work have made great strides in addressing this issue, there are so many small owners who are either regularly unavailable or not willing to use collective licensing (when it is available) As I have learned over the years, it is particularly difficult in the academic and research settings where university or grant policies often require licenses that are impossible to get or even impossible to trace ownership. That is a very good and important set of examples.

One more bit of info before I head to the beach today – relevant to the Fox News example. I believe the following story is little known.

1988. It is 2:30 in the morning. I am sitting in the House Commerce Committee room with four or five congressional staffers and only three or four lobbyists/lawyers. The final mark-up for the DMCA is the next morning in the Full Commerce Committee. The Bill had already passed out of the Judiciary Committee but it had a sequential referral to Commerce which needed to approve it before we went to the floor for House Passage. And we were hung up. Hung up on the very issue you raised. What would happen when legitimate fair use needs arose and the required content wasn’t available in upprotected formats? While we knew it wasn’t a “dreamers” issue and that technology was moving rapidly enough that protected content could be a reality quite soon, it wasn’t yet at the time. And several of us, including most importantly by that time, the Committee Chairman who had heretofore been opposed to the Bill, wanted to get it done.

So, I pulled out a long used legislative tactic and suggested we put a “study” in the statute. That we empower the Copyright Office to do a regular study on the impact of the law on fair use and the accessibility of works. The tech lobbyist and committee staffer suggested the C.O. was too pro-copyright owners and suggested that the Commerce Department have a role in the study as well. We got a Bill passed the next day.

So, the example you raise, is just the sort of thing that the law envisions be monitored thoughtfully. One such study has already been done and found no adverse impact to date on Fair use. They will keep going.

August 15, 2005  ·  Hilary Rosen

a few thoughts vis a vis some of the comments.
I don’t believe we live in a world now in which it is either the corporate investment in artistic works that then get distributed versus the individual or communal creation that has no audience. i am convinced that there are many more grays than that and there are many more opportunities than that to be seen, heard, viewed, appreciated. i read some of the stuff over the last month from “Free Culture” and was intirigued with the notion of a campaign to encourage creators to see the benefits of multidistribution venues, but i was also surprised and disappointed at the cynicism about the potential success without the corporate investment.

sorry, i just don’t think that is the corporation’s fault.

moreover, what exactly are we talking about anyway when it comes to works at that are so stifled? I just haven’t seen an environ7ement that suffers from an excess of “ownership.” i would love some specific examples in the hopes that you will open my eyes.

August 14, 2005  ·  Hilary Rosen

Hi. Larry has graciously asked me to guest post for him for the next week. We actually didn’t talk on the phone. We did what I most often do with Larry which was e-mail. Given how long I have known him by now, it is surprising how infrequently I actually talk with a real person rather than just communicate with him on-line. I frankly don’t know how he answers so much mail. I am well known to my friends and colleagues for just letting messages sit in my box for weeks unanswered. Is this a yes or no? That’s a quickie. Or does it require more thought, more substance, more planning, more scheduling, more feeling, a phone call, etc. So Larry asked a quick question. I gave a quick answer. And here goes.

There is my life these days, a panoply of choices that feel luxurious. Plus lots of time with my kids, twin 6 year olds.

Often people want me to spend time to interpret my 17 years at the RIAA. Or at least the last 5 of them. For the most part, I have little interest in doing that – until the book comes out :) – so when I do engage in the discussion publicly it is with an eye only towards the future. I am still engaged in the convergence of entertainment and technology. I still think about how consumers and fans interact with their stuff and what else we want to play with more or more easily. I consult with some companies who are investing in this space or advancing their positions in the market and I regularly speak with and to groups from all walks of the media and tech areas.

And I of course still love music. Actually, I love music more than ever. Because now when I listen to it, I am not thinking about the artist’s relationship with their band, the record company or the sales figures or the marketing disputes or behind the scenes gossip that everyone shared. I just listen.

So given that most of my time in Washington these days as an analyst and commentator is spent on politics and what I see as the colassal moral, legal and political failings of the Bush Administration and their allies, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to focus on this week at the Lessig Blog.

I wrote these pieces on THEHUFFINGTONPOST.COM about the Grokster decision but I didn’t really engage with comments or feedback given the other things going on politically at the time. I offer them here again and welcome a few constructive suggestions from Lessig Blog readers as to what you would like to hear from me this week. They are brief and may be trite compared to the large subject matter but they reflect a general mindset that I have long held. They have since been used against my former colleagues unfairly in a Senate hearing by some in the p2p community and that was annoying. It is always easier to pick a few sentences out of context rather than consider a full view. (that is why I can’t wait to see what the White House papers from John Roberts will say; and what the special prosecutor’s report on the Valerie Plame leak will reveal!)

I can’t respond to everything but I will try and come back regularly to engage in some of the issues that interest you. And remember what happens when even my friends expect back a really long email. Thanks for having me here.


August 3, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales

The second thing that will be free is a complete curriculum (in all languages) from Kindergarten through the University level. There are several projects underway to make this a reality, including our own Wikibooks project, but of course this is a much bigger job than the encyclopedia, and it will take much longer.

In the long run, it will be very difficult for proprietary textbook publishers to compete with freely licensed alternatives. An open project with dozens of professors adapting and refining a textbook on a particular subject will be a very difficult thing for a proprietary publisher to compete with. The point is: there are a huge number of people who are qualified to write these books, and the tools are being created to leave them to do that.

I just wanted to add one little note to today’s post, based on an excellent philosophical question Diana Hsieh asked yesterday about my views on free knowledge. While I do, in fact, think that it is wonderful that each of the ten things I will list will be free, the point of naming the list “will be free” rather than “should be free” or “must be free” is that I am making concrete predictions rather than listing a pie in the sky list of things I wish to see.

If there are things that I wish were free, but which I don’t see any way to make free, I won’t list them.

Now, for that concrete prediction: a complete curriculum in English and a number of major languages will exist by 2040, and translation to minor languages will likely follow soon after.

Unlike the encyclopedia prediction, which I was able to make by doing conservative extrapolations from the proven growth of Wikipedia, I make this prediction completely by the “seat of my pants.”

August 2, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales

As I work through the list of ten things that will be free, the order that I go in has no special meaning. Even so, it should not be surprising that the first thing I’ll discuss is the encyclopedia, since I’m best known as “the Wikipedia guy”.

“Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” This is the Wikipedia mission statement.

The goal of Wikipedia (and the core goal of the Wikimedia Foundation) is to create and provide a freely licensed and high quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in his or her own language.

What does this mean, operationally? How can we define success?

“Freely licensed” is easy: free means that people can copy our work, redistribute it, modify it, and redistribute modified versions, commercially or non-commercially.

“High quality” means Britannica or better quality. Contrary to what some might suppose, Wikipedia is not intentionally or primarily an anarchy, despite our radical production methods. Wikipedia is a community, and a community, which is at the core, committed to _getting it right_. While many criticisms of Wikipedia’s current quality may be valid, others are clearly absurd (“public toilet” or “anti-elitist” in particular are not serious objections).

“Every single person on the planet” means exactly that — and so implies that we are involved in something that reaches beyond just wealthy western nations with broadband Internet access, but rather an effort that reaches languages used primarily by people who have no decent access to knowledge at all currently.

So, how are we doing? What are the odds of this goal being accomplished in the next 20 years?

First, it can be argued that although much work remains to be done in many areas, if you speak English, German, French, or Japanese, and have broadband Internet access, you have your encyclopedia. Each of those 4 languages has more than 100,000 articles and provides a reasonably comprehensive resource. Several other languages will pass the 100,000 threshold soon enough, and in 5 years time, all of these and many more will be larger than 250,000 articles.

Second, clearly there is a lot of work to be done in finding ways to actually distribute the work we have done already into areas where people can use it. Many people would be able to make positive use of English, French, or Spanish Wikipedia (for example) if only they had access to it.

Third, while it is important to provide our work in important global or “colonial” languages, we also think it is extremely important to provide our work in languages that people speak natively, at home. (Swahili, Hindi, etc.)

I will define a reasonable degree of success as follows, while recognizing that it does leave out a handful of people around the world who only speak rare languages: this problem will be solved when Wikipedia versions with at least 250,000 articles exists in every language which has at least 1,000,000 speakers and significant efforts exist for even very small languages. There are many local languages which are spoken by people who also speak a more common international language — both facts are relevant.

I predict this will be completed in 15 years. With a 250,000-article cutoff, English and German are both past the threshold. Japanese and French will be there in a year. Several other languages will be there in two years.

The encyclopedia will be free.

July 31, 2005  ·  Gavin Baker

Elizabeth may get a chance to sneak in one last post from Defcon — if she doesn’t get hacked — but I’ll go ahead and wind things down.

Thanks to Larry for having us, and thanks to you readers for coming to hear a bit about us. Your feedback is well appreciated.

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