Archive for the ‘Law’ Category.

Article on Broadband Breakfast

Thanks to Drew Clark of Broadband Breakfast and Professor Andrew Odlyzko, published this great article.

Sotomayor at the Federal Communications Bar Association

I had known that Sotomayor was to speak at the luncheon of the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA), but I thought that it would be platitudes and of no interest. I knew that she could not answer the difficult questions, such as how the fairness rules in Specht v. Netscape might be updated (the case that occurred because AOL bought Netscape and made Netscape suck by adding adware), or what she really thinks of Scalia. She could not discuss any matter that might come before the Supreme Court in the future, and would not even talk about role models or personal influences.

She had a lot to say and a room full of several hundred schmoozing lawyers fell silent as soon as she reached the podium. She talked about how people react now when she walks in the room — even her extended family. “I’m still Sonya,” she tells her family. She said that she used to sit in the back of the room and watch people react, but now she’s often in the front row or even the speaker.

Most of what she said was directed at the college students who have scholarships from the FCBA, and a few of her comments were directed to law students like me who have summer internship stipends thanks to the FCBA. The students were asked to write questions and all were good questions. One student asked how she stays connected to regular people. She said that she likes talking to young people. So at the FCBA, she sat with the high school students. When invited to a high school, she likes to do at least one activity with the middle school students.

Another asked if she had any regrets about law school. She said that she regrets not having pursued a judicial clerkship after graduating (but she was personally recruited by Morgenthau to join the Manhattan DA’s office).

The students each received a copy of her book (I had given my DC host a copy but did not have a copy myself). I would not usually write about what a woman was wearing, but in the book, Sotomayor talks about acquiring dress sense late in life. She wore a red jacket with zippers that was impressive but that also helped make her seem approachable. It was a brilliant choice.

Perhaps there’s one legal question she could have answered: has the Supreme Court ever considered naming sections with words? At the moment, it uses roman numerals and capital letters. Some justice’s opinions might be clearer with section titles, but Sotomayor’s do not need them.

When critics reviewed her book, they said that although her opinions are dry and dispassionate, her book is full of warmth. It’s true. If you have a chance to her you speak, you must go!

Energy Bar Association: East Coast Solar Infrastructure Development: Incentives and Barriers – What is Working and What is Not

Today, I attended the Energy Bar Association‘s “East Coast Solar Infrastructure Development: Incentives and Barriers – What is Working and What is Not: An examination of Incentives, Finance, Technologies and Interregional compatibility of RECs Driving Solar development in the Northeast” hosted by Day Pitney in three cities: New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. The event was led by Roni Epstein, Counsel, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, New York Power Authority.

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Money Does Not Equal Fairness or Justice

The national debt is about $14.5 trillion, and each person’s share is about $45,000. If someone proposed taxing each individual $45,000 to pay off the debt, nobody would think this a fair proposal. We expect those who have more to also pay more taxes. But in many other areas, everyone has to pay the same amount. The equal dollar in the legal system creates numerous injustices.

Finland fines people for speeding based on their income, so very rich people can pay over $100,000 for a single speeding incident. Some are worried that other EU nations will refuse to enforce Finnish fines, breaking the European Union. The idea is controversial and is unlikely to be applied here in the U.S., but it deserves consideration. If we cannot make fines fair based on income, perhaps we can base them on the price or class of car.

Even the tax system is not as fair as many believe.

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Financial Markets on CNBC Look Like Storm Stories

French banks are feeling the pain today. Some CNBC commentators say that France should have been downgraded before the USA. Marketwatch says that France might be the next downgrade.

Another commentator noted that France is a lynchpin of Euro rescue efforts. If France were downgraded, it might not be able to contribute to the European Financial Stability Fund, or EFSF. That might explain why S&P does not want to downgrade France: doing so might break the Euro. For the English commentator, the current markets are reminiscent of the breaking of the pound out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

The treaty of Maastricht, signed in 1992 called for governments to maintain an annual deficit of 3 percent or less and to have debt no higher than 60 percent. Although Japan leads the league in government debt as a percentage of GDP at 225 percent, EU members Italy and Belgium are at close to 100 percent. France is at 83 percent. These countries have violated the rules of the treaty for years, and as a a result, they cannot call on today’s problem nations to be forced to adhere to the terms of the treaty.

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Privacy in Context: A Speech at Fordham Law School

Professor Helen Nissenbaum has made a career out of putting philosophy to work. In a CV replete with honors (and also filled with impressive grants), she has turned a doctorate in Philosophy from Stanford University into a career researching the privacy implications of the internet. She is currently professor of “Media, Culture, and Communication & Computer Science” at NYU. I heard her speak at the Fordham University Law School, where her talk focused on her latest book, Privacy in Context; Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life.

Nissenbaum said that she thought this would be the easiest book she’s ever written, because it was simply synthesizing many papers, but that in fact it was the hardest, and it took two years. In the book (and in her current work) she is building an analytical framework that would identify the aspect of an online transaction or interaction that causes social anxiety.

The miracle of the internet is about the rapid dissemination of information. This has delivered powerful economic benefits, and it has delivered freedom.

The internet has also enabled massive data repositories that have caused concern. Nissenbaum mentioned Choicepoint and you can see the concerns of the Electronic Privacy Information Center here. Nissenbaum also mentioned the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program of the federal government. Of TIA, EPIC wrote, “TSA has failed to meet its legal obligations for openness and transparency under the Freedom of Information Act and has violated the spirit of the Privacy Act for the protection of privacy rights.”

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How The FCC Killed VoIP

Many people in the U.S. use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service today. But I contend that the FCC has killed the technology. How can I make this assertion? After all, there are over 20 million VoIP subscribers in the U.S.

However, the VoIP services that exist today are a shadow of what the technology makes possible. VoIP has been choked so that it no longer disrupts telephone service. VoIP has been fenced in by the FCC so that it offers no more than telephone, a move that was intended to protect cellular and wireline phone companies.

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Wikileaks Shows: They Should Have Feared The End of Journalism

Corporations and politicians have been assaulting journalists and journalism with the full force of their political and financial fury during the past two decades. For a time, a prostitute was invited to pose as a journalist in the sanctum sanctorum of U.S. journalism, the White House press room.

And so journalism declined.

The Federal Trade Commission, worried about the decline, considered trying to stop it by subsidizing newspapers, a move that many on both the left and right said confused “newspapers with journalism.”

In fact, there are journalists, but they no longer work for newspapers, and news is no longer broken by newspapers. News breaks on the internet.

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Columbia School of Journalism: Getting Media Right: A Call to Action

Getting Media Right: A Call to Action” was hosted by the Columbia School of Journalism on December 2, 2010. It opened with an introduction by Bill Moyers and a clip from his 2003 show on media consolidation.

Then FCC Commissioner Copps addressed the session (the video is archived at the link above). He opened by thanking the Columbia School of Journalism and the “pathbreaking research of the New America Foundation.”

Copps pointed out that Reagan’s FCC Commission chief had called the television “a toaster with pictures” by which he meant to say that it did not need to be regulated. Most of our current problems can be traced back to the Reagan administration. As Copps has noted in an article in The Nation, Reagan’s FCC “went on to dismantle nearly every public-interest obligation on the books and to enable a tsunami of media consolidation. The results have been disastrous — reporters fired, newsrooms shuttered and our civic dialogue dumbed down to fact-free opinions and ideological bloviation.”

Copps noted that the urge to be a monopoly appears again with every new technology. In order to prevent the re-monopolization of the information industies, Copps proposed:

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Susan Crawford Says That The US Could Become a Backwater In Broadband

Susan Crawford spoke today at NYU at Evan Korth’s Computers and Society class. I was thrilled to attend. She is an enthusiastic speaker, blogger, and activist. A professor at Cardozo Law School, she founded OneWebDay and was recently Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy. The video is available here.

She warned that key decisions being made about the internet now could harm the U.S. forever.

Crawford opened her speech by recommending the new movie “Inside Job,” which is about the banking industry and about how regulators failed to stop it from taking risks that caused the current recession.

“There is a constant flow of people, a revolving door back and forth between the industry and the regulators. The banking industry, therefore, places key people in DC, as fundraisers as well as regulators.”

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