top ten things lawyers should know about the Internet: #1

April 16th, 2008 by kc

[Jump to a Top Ten item: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10]
[Originally written as a series of blog entries, this document was later converted to a booklet/pamphlet, seeĀ  “Top Ten Things Lawyers Should Know About the Internet“]

last year Kevin Werbach invited me to his Supernova 2007 conference to give a 15-minute vignette on the challenge of getting empirical data to inform telecom policy. They posted the video of my talk last year, and my favorite tech podcast ITConversations, posted the mp3 as an episode last week. i clearly needed more than 15 minutes.

in response to my “impassioned plea”, i was invited to attend a meeting in March 2008 hosted by Google and Stanford Law School — Legal Futures — a “conversation between some of the world’s leading thinkers about the future of privacy, intellectual property, competition, innovation, globalization, and other areas of the law undergoing rapid change due to technological advancement.” there i had 5 minutes to convey the most important data points I knew about the Internet to lawyers thinking about how to update legal frameworks to best accommodate information technologies in the 21st century. Google will be posting the talks from this meeting too, but since I probably left even more out at that meeting, I will post my top ten list of the most important things we need lawyers to understand about the per day for the next ten days.

#1: updating legal frameworks to accomodate technological advancement requires first updating other legal frameworks to accommodate empirically grounded research into what we have built, how it is used, and what it costs to sustain.

there is increasing recognition that various legal frameworks (from copyright to privacy to wiretapping to common carriage) need updating in light of technological developments of the last few decades. unfortunately, the light is too dim to really understand Internet behavior, usage patterns, architectural limitations, and economic constraints, because current legal frameworks for network provisioning also prevent sharing of data with researchers to scientifically investigate any of these questions. even for data that is legal to share, there are overwhelming counterincentives to sharing any data at all in the competitive environment we have chosen — although not achieved — for the network provisioning industry.

so while i support updating legal frameworks to be congruent with reality, i think we need to first confront that we have no basis for claiming what reality is yet.

no aphorism is more frequently repeated…than that we must ask Nature few questions, or ideally, one question at a time. The writer is convinced that this view is wholly mistaken. Nature, he suggests, will best respond to a logically and arefully thought out questionnaire; indeed if we ask her a single question, she will often refuse to answer until some other topic has been dicussed.
Sir Ronald A. Fisher, Perspectives in Medicine and Biology, 1973.


One Response to “top ten things lawyers should know about the Internet: #1”

  1. traffic Says:

    Don’t forget that internet research is not reliable too. Information stored here by other people are not exactly correct, and their opinions does not reflect the general population.

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