Law in the Internet Society
To the extent "platforms" disempower technology users and the major corporate telecom/media/tech entities exert undue control over the public's access rights, it seems that their ability to do so is a function of a regulatory regime that facilitates such conduct (see, e.g. 1996 Telecom Act). In other words, the current state of affairs was not inevitable, but rather the result of the government's willingness to look the other way to obtain the political benefits accruing from kowtowing to large, rich and organized business interests (as Moglen said in class, Obama realized "what it took" to win an election and altered his votes accordingly). There are examples, however, of hostile government action toward the very corporations that, generally speaking, receive significant political favors (in terms of both legislation that is and is not passed). For instance, on the heels of the UK investigation into News Corp., the US has (allegedly) started to consider taking serious action against Murdoch's company as well; recently, a federal lawsuit was filed to prevent the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile (several states have also joined in the suit); Google seems to be under perpetual antitrust scrutiny from both the FTC and DOJ. It therefore appears that there are times when the political costs of favoring "platforms" and corporate interests are simply too great to justify what, based on our class discussions, looks like outright collusion between big-business and American politicians (at the expense of the public, of course). My question, then, is at what point does the political calculus shift in favor of more rugged (and balanced) regulation? More importantly, how do we get to that point more often? If platforms' sweeping power is an outgrowth of favorable legislation, selective political inaction and a general reluctance on the part of regulators to meaningfully regulate, then a more permanent shift in the political calculus could mean the undoing of platforms' current position in the market. What is the best way to achieve such a change?

-- MatthewLadner - 29 Sep 2011

I think one interesting issue here is - if the problem is unfree communications, increased government regulation is only one possible answer.

Given the nature of the relevant federal and state playing fields, this seems unlikely. It may be that given the way our democracy and economy are structured, the telecoms will win every time when it come to regulation, with only minor exceptions.

However, I think there are other possible pathways for change. There may be technical means of circumventing restrictions. These technical solutions may be amenable to pursuit by a relatively small number of dedicated people using technology to coordinate their efforts. Some examples might be the GNU/Linux operating system and the FreedomBox project Eben is working on.

Distributed technical self-help and mutual-aid may be a more promising solution to the problem of unfree communications than federal regulatory politics.

-- DevinMcDougall - 02 Oct 2011

I think this is a good example of what you're referring to as more "rugged (and balanced) regulation" by the government. The jailbreak stores were a barrier to Apple's way of securing more revenue, post-sale of the iphone, by forcing users to use (sometimes purchase) applications in the "App Store". Jailbreaking enabled iphone owners to hack the operating system and install a program that gave access to thousands of programs, all for free, many of which had their equivalents on the actual Apple App Store. The government sided with the users and decreed that jailbreaking your mobile phone to allow access to third party applications was not any form of infringement of Apple's rights.

It's funny to note that Apple's interaction with jailbreakers is actually further evidence that "free software" actually can be beneficial - that despite not paying for software, people will nevertheless be motivated to create new, interesting, innovative ways to handle tasks on mobile phones. The best example is Apples upcoming iOS 5 - the new operating system for Apple's mobile devices that will be released next week. Apple actually took many of the programs/alterations created by jailbreakers (such as the all new notification system) and implemented it into their new iOS.

In theory, Apple recognized the innovation in such a way of handling notifications on a mobile device so it added it to its operating system. Realistically, Apple's reasons are not likely as altruistic. It likely wanted to integrate the notification system, as well as many other programs into its own system as a way to persuade/induce people not to jailbreak their phones, thereby allowing apple to make more money off of App sales.

(I'm likely going to write about this in depth for my first paper - the interplay between Apple, the justice department, and jailbreaking, as it relates to the free software movement. Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated)

-- AustinKlar - 05 Oct 2011



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r5 - 07 Sep 2012 - 18:15:06 - IanSullivan
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