Law Professor Edward Lee’s Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

It’s a real treat to pick my Favorites of the Week on Techdirt. I’m a huge fan of this site! I teach intellectual property and Internet related courses at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. In researching my book The Fight for the Future: How People Defeated Hollywood and Saved the Internet–For Now, I read Techdirt’s daily coverage of SOPA and ACTA in 2011-2012. Techdirt’s coverage was amazing and filled the void left by the mainstream media, which basically ignored SOPA and ACTA for as long as it possibly could. If you are interested, my book on the SOPA/ACTA protests comes out mid-September under a Creative Commons license; more news on my Facebook page. I hope to give a book reading at SXSW, so please consider voting for my talk.

1. The Netflix model. My favorite post this week was, hands down, the post on actor Kevin Spacey’s speech about the Netflix distribution model for his show House of Cards, plus other shows including Orange Is the New Black and Arrested Development. With these shows, Netflix now provides its own original content (in addition to other content). The uniqueness of Netflix’s approach is to provide online all the episodes of the first season of House of Cards at once, so the viewer can watch it whenever she wants–without commercials (except for product placements). I don’t watch any series on TV except for Mad Men. But the buzz around House of Cards–which just got 9 Emmy nominations–coaxed me to give the show a try. I watched one episode a night for a two week period and was thoroughly impressed. I did enjoy the freedom to watch the show on my own time, but I enjoyed even more the great acting by Spacey, Sean Wright, and Kate Mara. To me, the most disruptive part about Netflix’s model is not the freedom for the viewer, but the break from Hollywood’s stranglehold on what programs to broadcast. We might get better shows to watch if new, nontraditional outfits like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and others start producing a lot of original content. Then, it’d be time to give up cable, for sure. That’ll be a new Big Bang Theory, and the start of something really revolutionary.

2. Social Media Contract. I enjoyed reading the post about Lodi School District’s new Social Media Contract for students who participate in extracurricular activities and athletics, in an attempt to stop cyberbullying. Apparently, the school district contract would have banned these students from saying a number of things on social media–a good deal of which looked like protected speech under the First Amendment. Good job by the Bear Creek High students who protested the new policy and successfully convinced the school district to retract it. That’s a victory for free speech. Students have rights, too.

3. SOPA and the Syrian Electronic Army hack of NYT. This post was a last minute addition to my list because I couldn’t resist discussing SOPA again. During the SOPA debate, many prominent Internet engineers criticized the DNS blocking provision of SOPA because the practice of DNS blocking would interfere with DNSSEC, the more secure protocol being developed with the U.S. government backing. Under DNSSEC, each domain name is supposed to match up and be authenticated with its IP address. As the important White Paper of May 2011 by five leading Internet engineers explained: “By mandating redirection, PROTECT IP would require and legitimize the very behavior DNSSEC is designed to detect and suppress. Replacing responses with pointers to other resources, as PROTECT IP would require, is fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end DNSSEC. Quite simply, a DNSSEC-enabled browser or other application cannot accept an unsigned response; doing so would defeat the purpose of secure DNS.” What I find interesting is that in Tim Lee’s Washington Post article, David Ulevitch, the CEO of OpenDNS, says that DNSSEC won’t be able to stop the DNS hacking by the Syrian Electronic Army. If that is the case, then the DNSSEC would seem to have an obstacle or gap in achieving its cybersecurity goal. I’m not a technology expert, so I welcome more knowledgeable people’s comments on this front.

4. Retiring Senators as Lobbyists. I must confess I wasn’t surprised by the post showing that 50% of retiring Senators are lobbyists. At least there is a one-year moratorium from lobbying Congress for retiring House members, and a two-year moratorium for retiring Senators. But, as the USA Today reported, there’s no bar on lobbying the White House right away, or just providing advice to corporations or interested parties. Is this really bad for democracy? I think it might be if the former Senators are exerting special privileges or connections from their days in the Senate that give them an undue advantage over other lobbyists. But if the retired Senators hold no special sway once they leave office, then they are no worse than other lobbyists–which probably is bad enough.

5. The Survey Bay: Who the “Pirates” Are. I am excited to explore the new database on the Pirate Bay users, as discussed by this post. Data and empirical research are all the rage in my field. My school, Chicago-Kent College of Law, launched a new Center for Empirical Studies of Intellectual Property, with a conference in October if you are interested. My next book, The New Free Speech, will be about Internet freedoms, so I am particularly interested in mining the comments on that topic in The Survey Bay.

Those were my Top Five Favorite Posts of the Week. There were so many other great posts I could have chosen, especially the hilarious saga of the Modern Family photo used without permission (or a clue) in the book jacket to the Bible Principals of Child Discipline. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me.

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