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Telecommunications Law, Quora and Questions January 27, 2011

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Had a great time guest lecturing at Jack Lerner’s Media Law class at USC Gould School of Law. The subject was a bird’s eye view of telecommunications regulation. Here are the slides:

(I’m a little in love with Quora lately. Like my Powerpoint theme?)

Doing a rapid-fire survey of telecommunications regulation made a few themes pop out. First, it never seemed to bothered regulators to apply old statutes to new technologies. If the FCC says television is included in “radio,” then it is. For 60 years, the Telecommunications Act of 1934 Act governed many technologies not yet invented. Just as the Sony v. Betamax decision established important aspects of Fair Use with technology that nobody uses anymore.

Second, it’s amazing how many normative, American values are embedded in the whole regulatory scheme. There is such an emphasis on the free market, the two-party political system and at the same time norms of decency and obscenity.

Third, the students asked some great questions and made terrific comments. On the subject of COICA, one student asked, how does the U.S. Customs gain jurisdiction over foreign-hosted and registered websites to seize domain names under COICA? (At the “border crossing,” at least in theory.)

These are the right questions. If you want to see the questions that intrigue me lately, here they are.

TechZulu Law October 27, 2010

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October 7, 2010, Christina Gagnier and I premiered TechZulu Law, or TZLaw, a live weekly web news show devoted to a legal discussion of technology issues of the day. The show airs Thursdays, generally around 5 p.m. Pacific at techzulu.com/live/.

Here’s our first episode:

Episodes 1 and 2 recaps are here and here.

When you do live television, you really appreciate how hard it is to make all the technical and content elements come together at once. It happens all thanks to the awesome and amazing Efren Toscano, the man behind TechZulu. We tend to give pretty heavy coverage to Facebook and Google (because you could have a weekly one-hour show on their legal issues alone), whatever scandal TechCrunch and Michael Arrington have stirred up that week, and favor local LA startups like Namesake and Demand Media, because that is what we know. We also have some comic relief towards the end of the show.

Hope you like it.

Radio Free Internet: Social Networks, Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment June 20, 2010

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While I was at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in San Jose, California, this week, Peter B. Collins asked me to talk on his Internet radio program about the Social Network User’s Bill of Rights we were hammering out at the conference.

To listen to my guest spot on the Peter B. Collins radio show, click below.

***Peter B. Collins Show Episode 142***

Peter asked great, insightful questions from outside the social media bubble.

1. What are reasonable expectations of privacy for Google search queries?

2. Are Yelp‘s review ranking algorithms a breach of an implied agreement with businesses?

3. Is Facebook developing a cottage industry in providing user data at $500 per subpoena?

4. Where are the courts on compelled disclosure of IP addresses?

5. Is Facebook heading for a tragedy of the commons when used for self-promotion?

6. Have social media policies eroded traditional constitutional protections in executing search warrants?

Peter’s toughest questions were about the intersection of constitutional law and social media Terms of Service, particularly Fourth Amendment issues.

Peter also asked for a recap of the seven principles in “We, the Users: Facebook User’s Bill of Rights” I wrote with Professor Jack Lerner of USC Law School for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thanks, Peter!

Beautiful Pixel Art from the ACLU of Northern California’s dotrights.org project

Fashion is for Fashion, People: Fashion Camp at the Co-Loft June 13, 2010 June 17, 2010

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Here’s the slideshow of the presentation Christina Gagnier and I did at Fashion Camp LA.

I mentioned, and would like to know more about, Johanna Blakely’s “Ready to Share” project at USC Annenberg.

Hollywood, We Have the Technology May 26, 2010

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Here’s my LAist post on web original video and Digital Hollywood.

In its Darkest Hour, Seeing the Good in Facebook May 18, 2010

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I’ve been skeptical of Facebook from the moment it tricked me into joining.

Lately, I’ve been surfing the wave of Schadenfreude at its recent fall from grace. I even co-wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle that took some major digs at it.

However, I won’t be quitting. Something happened over the weekend that reminded me of the positive power of Facebook. A friend died. His name was David Lee.

Here is David, laughing and smiling just before he left for Costa Rica:

David Memorial from VidFu on Vimeo.

David was one of the best guys I have ever met. The video is from a business he was supposed to launch right after he came back from Costa Rica. He died in a car crash on that vacation.

It’s very much in character that Dave made this video. He told me, “There are a lot of people that talk about doing things, but I’m someone who does them.”

He was going to launch that business on time no matter what. I had told him it might be fun to get some comedy actress-writers I knew to be in the videos. But the actress-writers wanted to sit down and chat about it over coffee first. Their coffee date day was the day of the shoot. So he decided to star in it himself.

In business, David personified Guy Kawasaki’s principle of “Be a mensch.” His inner haggler sometimes battled with his innate generosity, but the generosity won out. Every long afternoon and late night we worked in K-town coffee shops, he picked up the check. When it was dark, he insisted on walking me to my car.

One night we had a heart-to-heart about why Koreans can be so dramatic. It’s like the Armenians, he said. Koreans endured a lot of suffering in their history.

I learned of David’s death from a Facebook event invitation. At first I mistook “Farewell to David Lee” for a going-away party. It dawned on me what might have happened. We were sending him off in farewell at the beach.

Like all of Dave’s friends, the friend who invited me was warm and outgoing. We had connected pretty quickly on Facebook.

When Dave’s friends started posting pictures and stories on his Facebook wall, I had some context to understand how loved he was. The range of emotions from his connections was comforting too. Everyone was dealing in their own way. It helped make it more real, going through it in real time, and not alone.

And this was possible because David and his friends had shared so much already. This is a case where in the moment you don’t care if the pictures are private or public. The point is to remember and share our life with David.

Now I get the half of the argument that is defending Facebook. If you post something you probably want to share it at some level. Even in the years I posted under an alias on an obscure Web community, I did.

As an Internet and media lawyer, I still think the Facebook privacy scam is evil. I think it sets a terrible example for business ethics. I still advocate for people to consider alternatives like Twitter, Flickr and Evite.

But as a user, I was really glad for Facebook this week. I’ll protest the privacy changes by abstaining on June 6, but I won’t quit.

If I had, I would have missed out on a little of David. I had too little time with him as it is.

#What the HashTag? Legal TweetChat for Web Journalists March 26, 2010

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Cory Doctorow predicted that printed newspapers will become like opera, the province of “rich weirdos.” Despite this, journalism is alive and well in the new media era, and living in Cyberspace.

To help such online journalists, I participated in a Legal Issues Panel on Episode 7 of WJChat through TweetChat with some of the legal leaders in new media journalism. The panel was assembled by Robert Hernandez (@webjournalist), who teaches a course in Online Journalism at USC’s Annenberg School.

My fellow panelists were Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (@EFF), David Ardia and Kimberly Isbell of Harvard’s Citizen Media Law Project (@CitMediaLaw) at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Jack Lerner (@JackLerner) of USC’s Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic.

Here is the transcript of WJChat Episode 7. A more coherent digest of the panel discussion is here.

If the formatting looks wonky, that’s because it is. My Columbia Law Review editors would have had a minor heart attack back in the day where we debated such fine points as whether to end possessive plurals with an ” s’ ” or an ” s’s. ” (For grammar geeks, it was decided that official Columbia Law Review style that year was to use the full ” s’s ” because the then-Editor-in-Chief thought the ” s’s ” conveyed plural better than a “lonely single apostrophe hanging out by itself.”)

As a matter of pure Blue Book style, I agree. But I don’t get a credit for my Note on the Columbia Law Review website, since I signed my copyright away. You can read it if you can afford a Westlaw or Lexis subscription.

Perhaps one day we’ll follow @BlueBook on Twitter. Properly, it would be @AUniformSystemofCitation, but that’s over the character length. In today’s Twitterverse, we wouldn’t use an extra character on subtleties such as an extra “s” or whether two spaces follow a period. Life is short, right? Maybe it’s not pretty, but we’d claim attribution for what we write.

That’s a fair trade-off, I think.

But back to the show.

The panel discussed ethical, legal and practical problems of online news gathering and reporting. We focused on issues unique to web journalism – shield laws, web commenting, quotations, expectations of privacy, Creative Commons licenses, retractions, and DMCA agents. At times, there was a division between normative law and empirical law — that is, the split in what we believe doctrines such as the Fair Use defense in copyright may or should allow, and practical rules of thumb easy enough for your average Joe or Jill citizen journalist to stay out of trouble.

Here are some useful resources for online journalists that came out of the discussion:

EFF’s Legal Guide for Bloggers
The Online Media Legal Network
PACER.gov and RecaptheLaw for federal cases
(To this, I add FindaCase.com.)
flickr.com for Creative Commons-licensed photos
archive.org for web history
http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/agent.pdf to register a DMCA agent
EFF’s guide to Section 230 Protection
EFF’s Bloggers as Journalists

My final tip? Be true to yourself, be accurate, and check your sources.

Haiti Earthquake, Social Networks and Perfect Information January 15, 2010

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We all interview each other

Cameraphone picture: We all interview each other (via flickr)

Here’s my post from LAist on the local fundraiser at TiGeorges’ Chicken in Echo Park to benefit the Haitian earthquake relief efforts. The restaurant raised $14,000 from about 300 people – a pretty generous average gift of $47 per person.

Several news crews were there doing video and stories. Gigi Graciette of Fox 11 interviewed me and others for a story on the text messaging campaign and the significance of social media in this disaster. My Blackberry makes an appearance in Gigi’s terrific piece for the local Fox 11 news (as do I):

Last night’s event felt very much like a turning point. Newsmakers swapped places with the news gatherers. The means of distribution became the story itself. Everyone was wandering around TiGeorges, wanting chicken, and taking pictures of the news crews, announcements and each other with their smart phones and cameras.

The time for relaying news of world-wide events approaches zero. The former subjects of news stories can now relay first-person accounts of news events. (Tweets from Haiti from @troylivesay @fredodupoux @carelpedre @RAMhaiti tell the tale).

So what does that mean and where are we heading?

Perhaps the over $10 million raised by the text-messaging campaign is proof of concept of the moral equivalent of the Nobel-prize winning Coase Theorum. (The Coase Theorum supposes that with zero transaction costs, private parties will reach the most economically efficient result.) Perfect information leads parties towards a perfectly efficient result in the market. Or something like that.

Markets are not just for money. There are markets for reputation (some say “whuffie”), trust, morality, and numerous other unquantifiable qualities.

In the marketplace of social responsibility, the cellular carriers’ micropayment systems and voluntary waiver of their own administrative costs largely eliminated transaction costs. Donors knew that 100% of their money (in Wyclef Jean’s Yele program, 91% in the Red Cross program) was going to relief efforts, not the carriers.

Donations were also anonymous, which eliminated the potential self-interest of donation as quasi-advertising. Social media users tend to be in the more affluent sectors of society, but this type of giving did not come with the expectation of have name recognition.

With perfect information, negligible transaction costs and no conflict of interest, people saw the news, heard the pleas, and decided to give a total of over $10,000,000 — $5 and $10 at a time. People want to help others in need, when the barriers to information are removed and donation is easy.

Perhaps the phenomenon could be taken as proof that the morally efficient result of a “Coasean,” connected world is compassion.

That should bump anyone’s faith in the basic goodness of humanity.

Nike+ Human Race for A Better LA December 9, 2009

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So December 1, 2009 has come and gone and I’m going to put some of these new FTC guides in action with this long-belated writeup of the Nike+ Human race last October 24.

Nike had some extra spots on the eve of its 5K/10K midnight running event on October 24, 2009 through downtown LA and invited a few bloggers. The event took place in some 30 cities worldwide. In Los Angeles, the event partnered with USC and USC football coach Pete Carroll’s charity, A Better LA.

I had been interested in running one of these “something-K” races in general, and in seeing how a coordinated multi-city event like this worked, so when a fellow LAist staffer said Nike’s coordinator had room for a few more bloggers, I jumped at the chance (and recruited a second into the mix).  And like magic, boxes of Nike shoes, performance wear and a funny “Nike+” race timer appeared at the designated drop point.  They also gave us passes to the pre-game tailgate for the USC-Oregan State game happening the next day.  And media parking passes, a hot commodity in downtown LA. So like good little bloggers, we put the stuff on that seemed to fit, and did the run.

Here are some sights and sounds from that night:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

While I do agree with those that thought the loud DJ music and bright strobe lights might be a bit unnecessary, when I asked the Nike rep who helped us register “why midnight?” she replied “because it’s fun!” And my other cavill was that the lyrics in the music at the pre-Oregon State tailgate party were less than family-friendly. Still, they were very nice and let our plus one in. Also they had some interesting folded and perforated burgers, beer and cupcakes at the tailgate (why cupcakes, always?).

Thanks again to Nike for inspiring 7,000 to 8,500 of us to get out of our cars and run for a while, to the local law enforcement for clearing our paths, for the scattered bands of musicians, singers and other entertainers who lightened our hearts in running the course, and to the local residents for putting up with us passing through their residences and workplaces.

Takeaways to ponder: why do we run?  What is your idea of a better LA?

More coverage by LAist and Caroline on Crack.

Thanks to Nike, USC and a Better LA.

More Voices on the FTC Guides November 13, 2009

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Another set of voices on the new FTC Guides, going into effect December 1, 2009, are from Bob Ambrogi’s and J. Craig Williams’ Lawyer2Lawyer podcast

One of them on the podcast said that, knowing bloggers, expect to have some humorous or playful disclosures. At BlogWorld 2009, people were very interested in the form these disclosures are to take. Will there be best practices?