George Packer 1, Steven Johnson 0.
Johnson tries to take down Packer’s critique of the contemporary Silicon Valley plutocracy, but he misses the mark. Packer, a Palo Alto native, knows what he’s talking about when he compares the Valley today to the Valley he knew growing up there in the 1960s and 1970s. (Read Packer’s New Yorker piece — link below — then read his Blood of the Liberals.)
What might our innovation economy look like if it were suffused today with the political culture that gave us Pete McCoskey, rather than a culture that still evokes Ed Zschau?
- George Packer, Change the World
- Steven Johnson, Learning From Los Gatos (full marks, however, for the wink and nod to Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, even if Los Gatos has long been far from the soul of the Valley)
For the final post in my copyright series, I want to focus on another example in my series of discussions about formalism vs. policy in copyright. Today’s case is WNET v. Aereo, which allowed continued operation of a creative television streaming service. As I’ll discuss below, the case pretty clearly complies with the statutory scheme, much to the relief of those who believe content is overprotected and that new digital distribution methods should be allowed. This time, the policy opposition is best demonstrated by Judge Chin’s dissent in the case.
In the end, though, the case shows what all of the cases I’ve discussed show: copyright was not really developed with digital content storage and streaming in mind. While some rules fit nicely, others seem like creaky old constructs that can barely hold the weight of the future. The result is a set of highly formalistic rules that lead to services purposely designed inefficiently to either follow or avoid the letter of the law. This problem is not going to get any better with time, though my ownguess hope is that the pressure will cause providers to create some better solutions that leave everyone better off.
In case anyone’s interested, here’s a link to a guest blog post I did for Xconomy’s new Texas site, on ICANN’s new gTLD process. It’s just a general overview of current issues.
By the way, if anyone is as obsessed with Internet domain names as I am, ICANN has recently opened calls for public comment on the increasingly difficult challenges they are facing implementing aspects of the new gTLD process. Two notable calls for comments relate to reactions to the GAC advisory on new gTLDs, and the new draft gTLD registry agreement. Full details are here.
As noted in my last post, there have been several important copyright decisions in the last couple months. I want to focus on two of them here: Viacom v. YouTube and UMG v. Escape Media. Both relate to the DMCA safe harbors of online providers who receive copyrighted material from their users – Section 512 of the Copyright Act. Their opposing outcomes illustrate the key point I want to make: separating interpretation from policy is hard, and I tend to favor following the statute rather than rewriting it when I don’t like the policy outcome. This is not an earthshattering observation – Solum and Chiang make a similar argument in their article on patent claim interpretation. Nevertheless, I think it bears some discussion with respect to the safe harbors.