The Industrialization of Digitization

            Information is a verb, not a noun, something that happens in the field of intersection between minds.[1]  Information is an action which occupies time rather than as a state of being which occupies physical space.  It is experienced rather than possessed.  What about our system of copyright makes accommodation for expressions that do not at some point in time become fixed or for cultural expressions that lack a specific author or inventor?[2]  Will copyrights fade in importance as we create new definitions of “ownership” and “information”?[3]  How are we to keep ubiquitous electronic information from being freely exchanged and combinable?[4]  What is the governance and what are technological artifices that need to be designed for the special protection of indigenous knowledge which now, more than ever before, seeks human rights recognition in opposition to or in contravention of the universal march toward open access?[5]

Digital Technology

Digital Technology is clearly one of the most significant developments of the last 30 years. The rapid ascension of the Internet has transformed society around the world, and has had a profound impact on our lives, culture, language, commerce, science and government.  It has changed how we talk, how we view the world, even how we think and what we consider “real.” German ornithologists have found some birds that are singing the songs of cell phone ringtones. As they are drawn to the increasing amounts of food and green space in modern cities, the birds simply adapt to their environment. In the “evolutionary playground” we find birds imitating human sounds, now imitating digital sounds. As we think about the ways that we humans adapt to our changing environment and the more subtle impacts of technology, I like to remember those birds chirping a Nokia corporate jingle, or better still, Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis.  To what extent are we transformed by digital technology, in what subtle ways do we adapt to our world and redefine our natural condition. It’s easy to identify carpal tunnel syndrome, or the impact of video games on a youthful sense of reality, but we almost remember the less evident side-effects. The birds . . .

The Internet is a disruptive technology: rapidly developed, widely embraced, and having a profound impact on countless aspects of life:

Disruptive technologies are those innovations that have a dramatic impact on how the whole of society works, plays, and learns. The discovery and exploration of electricity in 1873 is an example. Still, it was nearly forty-six years before electricity saw mass use in the United States (with “mass use” commonly defined as 25 percent of the population using an innovation). The gas automobile, equally as disruptive, took fifty-five years to reach mass use. Mobile phones burst on the technology scene more recently but have quickly become a staple of American life. Even with high costs and poor service as initial barriers to entry, mobile phones took only thirteen years to become a mass-use innovation.  The modern Web, however, wins the rate-of-adoption race by achieving mass use in only four years.  . . . this rate of adoption still tells us something about the usefulness and accessibility of the Web, about how quickly we manage to adopt change in today’s world, and about how ready we are for the convergence of our media experiences.[6]


            One result of researching the Internet (and digital technology more generally), intensively and over the course of the past year, is my realization that it’s all about “control.”  Who controls What, and How and Why do they control it?  The struggle for mastery is sometimes between governments and private entities, but lately it seems the tension is most pronounced between commercial forces working in cooperation with, or at least supported by government (via favorable regulatory legislation, for example) and citizen groups and non-profits that value things other than the usual commercial imperatives.[7]

One other theme that is inescapable is the “language of liberty” that permeates these technology discussions. One cannot help but note that in the discourse around all things Internet, the competing sides both use language that resonates with expressions of fundamental democratic ideals. Access should be free; networks and code should be open; there is a need for an intellectual commons; technology companies are providing services that will lead to democratic societies; and the Internet has the potential to fulfill our nation’s constitution in the form of a digital democracy.  Granted this language is hyperbolic, yet it also offers reasons to be hopeful. It is hyperbolic in that many of the promises are yet to be realized; hopeful in that these democratic ideals are alive and well and motivating many concerned citizens to become involved in shaping their digital destiny.  In fact, it is difficult to describe many of the virtues of the Internet and other digital technologies without resorting to such language. It is almost as if this technology is inherently democratic and fosters idealism. It is a decentralized structure of servers and routers and pipelines that is truly more than the sum of its parts. It was created in large part by people cooperating, taking chances, and experimenting outside of corporate settings, and many of the individuals who were drawn to the technology in its infancy were activists and progressives.[8]

Digital Democracy

            The promise of the Internet to change democratic politics was one of the most-widely heralded forecasts in the early days of the Internet age. Digital Democracy is essentially about using the Internet to educate and inform people, to grow an informed citizenry that can then become more engaged in local and national politics. But more than that, it is about realizing the potential of the technology to develop new manners of political involvement.[9]  The topic remains in the forefront of both civic-spirited online initiatives and the more mainstream media.[10]  In short, the idea was that the voice of the people could be expressed widely and conveniently, and that the processes of popular decision-making could therefore expand to include the many, with the Internet helping close the gap between citizens and their representatives.  Unfortunately, political theorists and proponents of digital democracy became disillusioned when faced with some of the same problems that plague civic participation in the real world—uninformed people tended to congregate around their existing biases and didn’t really want to engage in civil discussions with people who didn’t share their beliefs.  The Internet revealed some other basic truths: people prefer porn and commerce to politics and populism!


Access & Digital Divide

            The Digital Divide is the gap that separates the technological haves from the have-nots. It has typically been construed as the disparate educational, commercial, and communication-based experiences/opportunities available to those with Internet access and computers versus those without. But that is not the only relevant aspect; as broadband technology becomes more the norm, the digital divide grows to include online inequities between those Internet users who can afford access to premium services and those who cannot. It is already happening: sponsored content becomes favored over unfettered speech, and products of conglomerate culture, rather than the cross-fertilization of ideas, holds sway.”  So access to technology such as computers is one way of thinking about it—but the next user phase, Internet use, is increasingly important and can be thought of as the Internet Divide.[11]

Policy & the Future of the Internet – Freedom to Connect, Social Software, and Open Access
            There is a battle taking place now for control of internet governance, and the winning approach will determine to what extent information is free in the future.  When John Perry Barlow wrote Selling Wine Without Bottles[12] 10 years ago, contemplating the “nature of information” was a way to ask questions about the evolving meaning and value and control of information; might it reveal how it could remain free in the digital age?  Today, however, the question of how to ensure free information on the Internet is best answered by asking a different question: who is responsible for the governing standards and functions of the network itself? When Barlow asked how IP law might evolve to deal with digital information, he recognized, presciently, that “the “terrain” itself—the architecture of the net—may come to serve many of the purposes which could only be maintained in the past by legal imposition.[13]  IP law, the architecture of the net, and the future of free information all merge in internet governance.

The complete history and various complexities of internet governance far exceed the scope of this discussion.  But some basic facts are helpful:  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (ICANN) was created in 1998 to manage the assignment of domain names and IP addresses.[14]  In most of its official statements and proposals regarding internet governance, the European Union has consistently criticized ICANN as a unilateral body controlling matters of global import without a foundation in global forums and not subject to outside review.  The criticism of ICANN is pervasive, not so much for what it does but for its awkward position as a U.S. created and pseudo-private entity. American administrative law experts have criticized ICANN for similar reasons.[15]

Commercial interests also seek to control the internet in ways that discourage democratizing the web.  A recent article in the Nation presents the current state of commercial strategies for re-defining the way we all will access and use the Internet. It is an alarming picture for anyone who values the potential of the Internet as a tool for something other than commercial transactions and one-way information exchange.

 The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online . . . Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency.[16]


Under this scheme, entities with the most money would get preferred treatment, and those without such financial leverage would have a much more difficult time participating. Furthermore, the cost to use the Internet would increase substantially under a corporate “pay-to-play” scenario.

To make this pay-to-play vision a reality, phone and cable lobbyists are now engaged in a political campaign to further weaken the nation's communications policy laws. They want the federal government to permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as private networks, free of policy safeguards or governmental oversight. Indeed, both the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are considering proposals that will have far-reaching impact on the Internet's future. Ten years after passage of the ill-advised Telecommunications Act of 1996, telephone and cable companies are using the same political snake oil to convince compromised or clueless lawmakers to subvert the Internet into a turbo-charged digital retail machine.[17]


Network Neutrality

To combat efforts by large corporations to essentially take control of the flow of information on the Internet, public-interest groups and some new media companies are advocating federal policies that require “network neutrality.”

Without proactive intervention, the values and issues that we care about--civil rights, economic justice, the environment and fair elections--will be further threatened by this push for corporate control. Imagine how the next presidential election would unfold if major political advertisers could make strategic payments to Comcast so that ads from Democratic and Republican candidates were more visible and user-friendly than ads of third-party candidates with less funds. Consider what would happen if an online advertisement promoting nuclear power prominently popped up on a cable broadband page, while a competing message from an environmental group was relegated to the margins. It is possible that all forms of civic and noncommercial online programming would be pushed to the end of a commercial digital queue.

But such ‘neutrality safeguards’ are inadequate to address more fundamental changes the Bells and cable monopolies are seeking in their quest to monetize the Internet. If we permit the Internet to become a medium designed primarily to serve the interests of marketing and personal consumption, rather than global civic-related communications, we will face the political consequences for decades to come. Unless we push back, the "brandwashing" of America will permeate not only our information infrastructure but global society and culture as well.[18]

Net Neutrality is about the impact of communication and information technology on politics and civic engagement, society and innovation.  Is the Internet properly viewed as a “common carrier?” Who is responsible for ensuring that the infrastructure is properly developed and maintained?  Perhaps the market is the best solution: profit-driven initiatives may be an answer for ensuring that adequate resources are directed towards infrastructure maintenance, research and development.  Net Neutrality also conceives that internet service providers should not be allowed to discriminate between data from one source versus data from another.[19]
            The “Freedom to Connect” movement emphasizes the idea that the “need to communicate is primary, like the need to breathe, eat, sleep, reproduce, socialize and learn.”[20]    The Freedom to Connect, they argue, “belongs with Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Assembly. Each of these freedoms is related to the others and depends on the others, but stands distinct. Freedom to Connect, too, depends on the other four but carries its own meaning. Unlike the others, it does not yet have a body of law and practice surrounding it. There is no Digital Bill of Rights. Freedom to Connect is the place to start.”[21] 

            FTC includes such concepts as Network Neutrality and the “Infrastructure of Democracy.” The movement places primary importance on the openness of the Internet, being both the main reason for its success so far, as well as the most critical value as we move forward. It emphasizes the role of the individual in this policy debate. Essentially, it strives to incorporate the social software techniques of user participation in tackling the larger policy questions.  The Center for Democracy and Technology, for example, calls for the internet to be “open, innovative, and free.”[22]  The Center argues that government agencies should use the internet to provide more information from the public.[23] Thus, the organization calls on lawmakers to prevent efforts to limit the information available to the public and to ensure that such information can be equally accessed by users of all major platforms.[24]

            The “Technology Liberation Front” blog[25] includes a fairly comprehensive list of high tech public policy issues: First Amendment & free speech concerns; regulation of e-commerce markets and online services; privacy regulation; SPAM; spectrum management policy and wireless issues; broadcast television and radio regulation; media ownership / concentration concerns; traditional telecom regulatory policy; broadband Internet deployment policy; cable regulation; VoIP issues; network regulation and open access mandates; Internet taxation; online gambling; cyber-surveillance issues; and the role of the Federal Communications Commission and other regulatory agencies in the Information Age.[26]  Add to that the obvious issues of copyright law and internet governance.

In Code, Lawrence Lessig dismisses the argument that the Internet is uncontrollable (or that those trying to control it must be stopped from doing so). Such a completely hands-off approach, he argues, is not only incorrect but undesirable. His argument is basically that cyberspace is based on code and it is the control of that code—the design of the Internet’s “architecture”—that we need to focus on.  Controlling individuals is far more difficult and less likely to succeed; control the code—create the right architecture—and the behavior will follow.   The code is where the law is implemented, where the Internet’s promise may be realized or foreclosed. Someone is always making decisions about implementing code, and that will continue to be the case. To assume that all code will be developed in concert with any single set of ideals or values is to deny the variety of values among a diverse population. Lessig acknowledges that commerce influences cyberspace and that this leads to regulations of all sorts.  What freedoms do we want to guarantee in cyberspace?  “In this realm, code is the most significant form of law, and it is up to lawyers, politicians and citizens to decide what values code embodies.”[27]

Information Commons
            Lawrence Lessig and many others argue for the need to preserve an information commons.  The concept of the information commons emphasizes some of those principles that also apply to the natural commons: preservation, thoughtful progress, etc.  In light of the growing trend to propertize information and to extend the definitions of what can be owned and protected, there is an increasing need to architect cyberspace in ways that preserve an information commons.[28]  The idea of an online commons is especially timely now.  There is a very real sense that the Internet as we know it is under attack, and that pending legislation and commercial activities will unalterably change the Internet for the worst unless citizens act forcefully and quickly to preserve the public interest.[29]

Official Organization and a Democratic Internet

Numerous “official” organizations are focused on the issues of internet governance. The UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society is one.[30]  Since 2003, a “working group on internet governance” (WGIG) has been creating a sluice-full of proposals.[31]  In The Democratic Republic of Cyberspace, Bill Thompson points out some flaws in the approach being taken by WGIG. He worries that “the future development of the network [will be] open to capture by two very powerful interests – private corporations and national governments – to the exclusion of civil society.”[32]  Invoking some of Lawrence Lessig’s ideas about software, he notes that “Lessig’s dictum that ‘code is law’ cuts both ways, and a clear but largely unexplored implication is that our political decisions must be implemented in software if they are to have any effect.”[33]  He continues that “we should aim to govern the internet in accordance with its own principles: those of distributed responsibility, disintermediation and peer review.”[34]  Similar concerns have been raised by the EU.  Thompson describes the elements necessary to achieve this approach to governance. They are some of the same elements that comprise what is referred to as Social Architecture on the Internet, and EU proposals also emphasize these ideas.

The Social Architecture movement overlaps somewhat with what has been touted as “Web 2.0.”[35]  Common themes include the idea that the Internet embodies some of the best democratic principles: equal representation, equal access, and participation by all members of a community; that recent technological developments can ensure that ideas are expressed without fear of reprisal or censorship; and that tools of internet commerce can be employed in the political arena as well, such as the peer review process that facilitates transactions, on Ebay, for example. There is a widespread understanding of the unique requirement within internet governance that certain democratic exchanges are fundamental to the character of the Internet itself and must also be part of its governance. Principles and tools from social architecture can help to achieve this end. If such elements become part of internet governance, information will be more free than not.

Web 2.0 has influenced the way IT companies view the digital divide.  Investor Group Against Digital Divide (IGADD) was founded by Craig Warren Smith as a way to bridge the free-market approach to the digital divide with government calls for subsidies to close the gap.[36]  Mr. Smith met with Tim O’Reilly of Web 2.0 as well as industry executives like Bill Gates, and researchers in the U.S. and Indonesia in order to develop a plan to close the digital divide, beginning in Indonesia.[37]  The nongovernmental organization solicits the support of academics, investors, corporations and volunteers to provide greater broadband access, and while the organization encourages the democratizing potential of increased internet access, it also hopes to provide the private sector with larger markets.  Thus, it remains to be seen whether IT companies, working with nongovernmental organizations, can close the digital divide in a way that encourages a digital democracy.

Where is the Internet Headed?

            Of course, one of the hallmarks of the digital era is rapid change, and perhaps the evolution of the web has lead to some solutions:  tools that have developed in the last few years point the way to more successful endeavors in digital democracy.  Wikis, for example, build communities of regular users over time, lending stability and credence to the interactive features. People build reputations, sustain conversations over time, and collaborate, which leads to accuracy and cumulative knowledge.[38]  Furthermore, the nature of the often chaotic, honest, populist experience of interactive internet chat rooms or bulletin boards lends itself not so much to disciplined, tolerant, evolutionary exchange of ideas; on the other hand, they do lend well to activities like motivating gatherings and polling opinions.  Weblogs and social software are making it easier than ever for people to connect and organize themselves without the blessing of some centralized authority figure. However, thus far, digital democracy is much like non-digital democracy: a world full of contrary views that are expressed in noisy, divergent ways, where it is difficult to make important decisions in a timely manner.[39]  Moreover the advent of the internet creates new problems beyond the issue of governance, such as the structures of e-commerce,[40] crime,[41] and networking site fatigue.[42]  Twitter and Tweets?[43]

Digitalization and the Environment
            Among the many problems associated with the rapid and widespread ascent of digitalization in our era, the issue of environmental damage is profound.  A recent article entitled “Where Computers Go to Die -- and Kill”[44] by Elizabeth Grossman provides a detailed accounting of the complex and urgent issues attached to the information revolution and discarded hardware. In short, “more than 50 percent of our recycled computers are shipped overseas, where their toxic components are polluting poor communities. Meanwhile, U.S. laws are messy, and industry and Congress are resisting efforts to stem ‘the effluent of the affluent.’”[45]  Grossman describes the intricacies and impacts of what one interviewee called the “persistent failure by the U.S. federal government to stop the dumping of millions of used computers, TVs, cellphones and other electronics in the world's developing regions, including those in China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and Africa.”[46]

Significant complaints aside, the Internet most assuredly can help in the move towards a more environmentally sustainable world.  It can improve our capability to understand the science of environmental degradation and communicate that knowledge to public and private decision makers.  The Internet can also improve environmental policy by increasing international equity and participation in the policy development processes. Finally, it can help decrease resource waste and associated pollution by improving the efficiency of economic activity. The exploitation of these fundamental opportunities is not predestined, however, and will require an ongoing elaboration of the Internet's role in global environmental sustainability.[47]


What are the humanitarian costs of the global evolution into a worldwide information economy?  Just as “environmentalism was a belated response to the industrial revolution, the Yale Access to Knowledge (A2K) Initiative aims to build an intellectual framework that will protect access to knowledge both as the basis for sustainable human development and to safeguard human rights.”[48]

Here is how they frame the debate.


Multinational corporations, elite policymakers, and other proponents of expansive intellectual property regimes argue that increasing intellectual property rights and corporate control over knowledge best serve society’s interests. Yet ample evidence suggests that the reverse is true: increasingly, widespread access to knowledge and preservation of a healthy knowledge commons are the real basis of sustainable human development. Despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that maximizing intellectual property monopolies, disabling communication infrastructures, and restricting the development of essential technology with digital rights management schemes are harmful and misguided, these outmoded approaches continue to dictate global legal norms and shape national legal infrastructures. Not surprisingly, incumbent property owners desire to maintain their preeminence and resist sharing the intellectual property which they view as the source of their power.  The goal of the A2K Initiative is to counterbalance the distorting force of these tendencies by supporting the adoption and development of effective access to knowledge policies.[49]



                [1]  John Perry Barlow, Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net, (describing the shift from physical property rights to what might be called electronic intellectual property rights), available at (last viewed June 24, 2009).  A decade ago, in Selling Wine Without Bottles, Barlow considered issues related to the free exchange of ideas in the digital age. For Barlow, “free information” is synonymous with the democratizing potential of the internet and with freedom of expression. Barlow contends that information is by definition something that gains value through circulation, and digital technology presents an opportunity for unleashing or increasing the power of information because the means for sharing, copying, and receiving information are available to more people than ever before. It seems almost quaint to make an argument for what many of us have come to take for granted. But threats to the free exchange of information via digital means are increasing in number, sophistication, and power. Without a forceful response from the rest of us, digital information may swiftly become very expensive, highly mediated, and available only under very specific terms (think Google helping China censor the internet in that country, think a “pay-to-play” format for all internet activities, think the relegation of political minorities to the outskirts of the internet.)  The term “free information” is taken from the quote “information wants to be free” by Stewart Brand.  Stewart Brand, The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M.I.T. 202 (1987).

                [2] I would be way out of my league to attempt, in this course or any other for that matter, to explain how contemporary copyright dilemmas and challenges are treated within our present and prospective legal systems.  And I shall not do so now.  Please tune in to Professor Lawrence Lessig for his great wisdom.  Lawrence Lessig, Free Cultures (2004); Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas (2001); and Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999); http://www.lessig.orgSee also The Center for Internet and Society,; Madhavi Sunder, IP3, 59 Stan. L. Rev. 257 (2006); Laurence R. Helfer and Graeme W. Austin, Human Rights and Intellectual Property: Analysis and Sources, in Paul L. C. Torremans (Ed.) Intellectual Property and Human Rights (forthcoming).  I am chiefly concerned at this point in the semester to highlight some of the sociological and, hence, cultural manifestations of this relatively new, though highly accelerated, technology.  Barlow argues that ethics are more important than rules, so that information economics in the absence of objects will be based more upon relationships than on possession.  See also Jeremy Rifkin, The Age of Access:  The New Culture of Hypercapitalism Where All of Life is a  Paid-for Experience (2001).

                For legal and regulatory aspects of digital technology, see Berkman Center for Internet and Society,; Information Law Institute,; Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility,; Electronic Frontier Foundation,; and OpenNet Initiative (ONI),

                For Internet Governance and Infrastructure, see World Summit on the Information Society,; The Growth and Development of Cyberspace Law in the United States: Highlights of the Past Decade,; The Internet Engineering Task Force,; The Internet Society (ISOC),; The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI),; The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN),

                Regarding Copyright/Copyfight, see Creative Commons,; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Digital Copyright Reference Sources on the Web, digitalcopyright/reference.html; Corante,; Freedom to Tinker,; Public Knowledge,; Free Culture Movement,; Copyright Criminals,

                For Politics and Digital Democracy, see Center for Digital Democracy,;,; The Center for Responsive Politics,; Center for Digital Government, digitalstates.php; The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT),; Media Channel,; The Progress and Freedom Foundation,; International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA),

                Looking for Culture Jamming websites, see Adbusters,; The Billboard Liberation Front,; The Yes Men,; RTMark,;,; Advertisers Anonymous,; Google Bombing, Sarah Milstein & Rael Dornfest, Google: The Missing Manual 286 (2004); Audio Collages of Political Speeches,; Podcasting, and

                For links to Alternative Media, see, e.g., Alternative Press Center,; CommonDreams,; Alternet,; Independent Media Center,; MediaChannel,; Znet,; [InvisibleAmerica] [etc.]

                Respecting the Digital Divide, see, e.g., Community Technology Centers Network,; The Digital Divide Network,; SeniorNet,; The Web Accessibility Initiative,

                For some Global Projects, see, e.g., Global Voices Online,; CIVICUS,;,

                Descriptions for the majority of these websites can be found in Appendix: Websites for Technology & the Internet.

                [3] “…more than ever before, our copyright policy is our information policy.  As technology has transformed the nature of copyright so that it now applies to everybody’s everyday behavior, it has become more important, not less, that our copyright rules embody a deal that the public would assent to.”  Jessica Litman, Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual Property on the Internet (2001).  From the standpoint of society the major goal of copyright is to smooth diversity’s path by giving creators special rights to exploit their work.  If copyright becomes meaningless, will it still be possible to make work for small, specialized audiences, or will an awful shrinking homogeneity set upon our futures?  See Generally John Perry Barlow, Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net, (describing the shift from physical property rights to what might be called electronic intellectual property rights), Charles Mann, Who Will Own Your Next Good Idea, Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 1998; Esther Dyson, Intellectual Value, Wired, Jul. 1995; Kevin Kelly, What Will Happen to Books?,  N.Y. Times Mag., May 14, 2006, at Section 6, Page 43; Randall Stross, Will Books Be Napsterized?, NY Times, October 4, 2009;Tim Arango, Rights Clash on YouTube, and Videos Disappear, NY Times, March 23, 2009, Sec. B, p. 1.  Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace 333 (1999).

                [4] For information on cryptography, see Douglas Robert Stinson, Cryptography: Theory and Practice (2006).  There was a parallel economy developing, getting ideas into the marketplace faster than competitors who base their protection on the fear of litigation.  See, e.g., Yijun Tian, Re-thinking Intellectual Property: The Political Economy of Copyright Protection in the Digital Era (2008); Get Bit Torren,  Many countries are moving down the path towards liberating, rather than restricting, access and use of digital information.  Among the more liberal international copyright initiatives, France has advanced plans to legalize P2P (, Australia is considering legislation that expands “fair use” of copyrighted material ( and the widespread adoption of Creative Commons licenses ( for public-sector information (, the United Kingdom is holding hearings on the detrimental impacts of DRM on public libraries (, 2006/02/03 09:57:30), and even South Korea has implemented policy that allows individuals to download for personal use ( kt2006011616503411990.htm).  Yale University recently described “Access to Knowledge” as “an umbrella term that encompasses the humanitarian, creative, entrepreneurial and scholarly elements of the copyfight.  Access to Knowledge (A2K) is also the name of a proposed treaty at the UN copyright agency, WIPO, which sets out the information rights every nation should guarantee to its archivists, educators and disabled people.  It would be the first treaty to establish minimum user rights for copyrighted works, including limits on DRM.”  The “Yale Access to Knowledge (A2K) Initiative aims to build an intellectual framework that will protect access to knowledge both as the basis for sustainable human development and to safeguard human rights.”

                See also Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism, Harper’s Mag., February 2007.

                [6]  Mark David Milliron & Cindy L. Miles, Education in a Digital Democracy:  Leading the Charge for Learning About, With, and Beyond Technology, Educause Rev., Nov./Dec. 2000, at 50-52, available at

                [7]  See, e.g., Electronic Frontier Foundation,; Jeffrey Chester, Will Google’s Greed Ruin the Internet?, October 6, 2007,; Christopher Caldwell, Intimate Shopping: Should Everyone Know What You Bought Today?, NY Times Mag 13, December 23, 2007; Nicolas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, The Atlantic 56, July/August 2008; Christine Rosen, The Myth of Multitasking, The New Atlantis, Spring 2008.

                [8]  See John Markoff, What the Dormouse Said:  How the '60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2005); Keenan Mayo and Peter Newcomb, An Oral History of the Internet: How the Web Was Won, Vanity Fair, July, 2008 at p. 96.  But see Save the Internet: Fighting for Internet Freedom,; Kim Dixon, Lawmaker Plans Bill on Net Neutrality,, available at

                [9]  But see Benjamin R. Barber, The Uncertainty of Digital Politics: Democracy’s Uneasy Relationship With Information Technology, Harv. Int’l. Rev. 42 (Spring 2001).

                [10]  A recent book by Barry Hague titled Digital Democracy: Discourse and Decision Making in the Information Age addresses these questions:  “Is direct democracy in the age of remote communication possible?  Examining the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their consequences for political institutions, Digital Democracy offers a critical assessment of the concept of an emergent electronic democracy.” Barry N. Hague & Brian D. Loader, Digital Democracy:  Discourse and Decision Making in the Information Age (1999).

                [11] Solid majorities in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe are internet savvy, but in Pakistan and Indonesia, fewer than 10% say they go online as do only 15% of Russians and 14% of Indians. About a third in Poland, Turkey and China say they access the internet. Unsurprisingly, in all societies, education level and income are the predominant determinants of those who use technology, with those who have higher education levels and larger incomes more likely both to use computers and to access the internet.

                [12] See John Perry Barlow, Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net, (describing the shift from physical property rights to what might be called electronic intellectual property rights).

                [13] Id.

                [14]  ICANN recently announced that it will allow Internet addresses to be displayed with non-Latin characters.  See

                [15] See; Erich Luening, Ralph Nader Renews Criticism of ICANN,; ICANN: The Debate Over Governing the Internet, 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0002 (2001) available at; U.S. Lawyers Criticize ICANN, (Feb. 2001), available at

                [16] Jeff Chester, The End of the Internet?, Nation, Feb. 1, 2006.

                [17] Id.

                [18] Id.

                [19] For example, without Net Neutrality, Yahoo data could be delivered faster than Google data because Yahoo pays a premium to the service provider. In this scenario, the absence of enforced NN leads to a world where the best service goes to the one who can afford to pay the premium. Similarly, data could be relegated to a lower level of service based on political motivations. If a search engine such as Google received funds from the Democrats, a Google search for “presidential debate” might return a list of sites that have a bias (explicit or covert) in favor of the Democratic party or candidates. A recent example of network discrimination occurred when certain broadband providers blocked Vonage voice data transmissions, because Vonage was competing with the phone company that controlled the phone lines there.  One major advocacy group is the Annenberg Center for Network Neutrality, who recently released a set of principles that they believe must guide future development of the public Internet markets for broadband access.  To read the detailed descriptions, go to also Common Cause, Keep the Internet Free and Open! Network Neutrality Fact Sheet, (last visited Apr. 23, 2008); Common Cause, Think the Internet Will Always be Open?(link is broken); Consumers Union, Importance of the Internet: Public Support for Net Neutrality, Jan. 18, 2006,; Free Press, “Dead End for the Internet?” (link is broken); Free Press, “Internet Freedom Under Fire: Act Now” (link is broken); Larry Lessig, Lessig Blog; MobuzzTV on Net Neutrality; H.R. 4780 [109th]: Global Online Freedom Act of 2006, (for subsequent history, see Analysis of The Global Online Freedom Act of 2008 [H.R. 275] at The Center For Democracy & Technology,; Kim Dixon, Lawmaker Plans Bill on Net Neutrality,, available at

                [20] F2C: Freedom to Connect, (last visited Apr. 23, 2008).

                [21] Id.

                [22] Center for Democracy and Technology, Digital Democracy, (last visited March 11, 2009).

                [23] Id.

                [24] Id.

                [25] Technology Liberation Front, (last visited Apr. 23, 2008).

                [26] Id.

                [27] Lawrence Lessig, Code Version 2.0 (2006).

                [28] See generally LESSIG, id.; Kevin J. Harrang, Challenges In The Global IT Market: Technology, Creative Content, And Intellectual Property Rights, 49 Ariz. L. Rev. 29 (2007); Robert S. Boynton, The Tyranny of Copyright, NY Times Mag. 40, January 25, 2004; Creative Commons,; Copy Left,; GNU General Public Licenses,; Electronic Frontier Foundation,; Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism, Harper’s Magazine 59, February 2007; Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas, On the Rights of Molotov Man: Appropriation and the Art of Context, Harper’s Magazine 53, February 2007; “Harvard Law Faculty Votes for ‘open access’ to scholarly articles,”

                [29] The Internet Archive, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an ‘Internet library,’ with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Founded in 1996 and located in the Presidio of San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages.

                There are many interesting examples of this potential on the internet. One is the Global Voice Project,, with the mission to compile some of the most interesting voices and conversations from around the world, provide a forum for an international exchange of ideas, and even help train citizen journalists.

                A growing number of bloggers around the world are emerging as “bridge bloggers:” people who are talking about their country or region to a global audience using various forms of participatory media such as podcasts, photo sharing sites, and videoblogs.  See, e.g.,;  


                [30] http://www.itu.inst/wsis/index.html


                [32]] Bill Thompson, The Democratic Republic of Cyberspace?,, Sept. 14, 2005, available at

                [33] Id.

                [34] Id.

                [35] The term “Web 2.0” gained widespread use after the first O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. See Tim O’Reilly, What is Web 2.0, Sept. 30, 2005,  

                [36] Investor Group Against Digital Divide, IGADD, Its History and Principles, (last visited March 11, 2009).

                [37] Id.

                [38]  Of course, Internet conversations are not confined solely to populist democracy.  Social Networking has achieved skyrocket status.  See generally Christine Rosen, Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism, The New Atlantis,; Linton Freeman, The Development of Social Network Analysis (2006); Nancy Scola, Despite Negative Press, Facebook is a Powerful Agent for Social Change, April 24, 2008,; Michael Hirschorn, The Web 2.0 Bubble,; Peggy Orenstein, Growing Up on Facebook: Can You Forge Your Future Self When You Never Learn The Present?, NY Times Mag., March 15, 2009, at p. 11.  The Internet can also be used to harass, humiliate, and torment strangers.  See Mattathias Schwartz, Malwebolence, NY Times Mag., August 3, 2008, at p. 24.

                [39]  Here is some recent data on the “blogosphere” – over 35.3 million personal web logs (blogs) are currently tracked & monitored by an organization called Technorati:

·         The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months

·         It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago

·         On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day

·         19.4 million bloggers (55%) are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created

·         Technorati tracks about 1.2 Million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour

                [40] David Barboza, “Google and the Big Music Labels Are Betting On Free Downloads in China,” NY Times, April 6, 2009, at Sec. B, p. 4.  Here is just a recent example.  I have neither the time nor inclination to write comprehensively on the myriad of issues surrounding commerce and the Internet.  See generally,; Kenneth C. Laudon & Carol Guercio Traver, E-Commerce: Business, Technology, Society (5th Ed.) (2009).

                [41] See generally Internet Crime Complaint Center,  There too exists a world of controversy over file-sharing and copyright infringement.  See, e.g., Eric Pfanner, “Four Convicted in Internet Piracy Case,” (Pirate Bay), NY Times, April 18, 2009 at Sec. B, p. 1.

                [42] “Folks of All Ages Are Becoming Fatigued by Networking Sites,” AZ Daily Star, April 9, 2009, at Sec. A, p. 5.

                [43] See Claire Cain Miller, Putting Twitter’s World to Use, NY Times, April 14, 2009 at Sec. B, p. 1.

                [44] Elizabeth Grossman, Where Computers Go to Die – and Kill,, Apr. 10, 2006,       

                [45] Id.

                [46] Id.  This article is must-reading for anyone seeking to understand the nexus between technology, globalization, market-forces, international politics (treaties, etc), and the environment.   See also Nancy Weil, E-Waste Dumping Victimizes Developing Nation, Study Says, (Oct. 31, 2005), available at

[Over a billion computers are now in use worldwide -- over 200 million in the United States, which has the world's highest per capita concentration of PCs. The average life span of an American computer is about three to five years, and some 30 million become obsolete here each year. According to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, approximately 3 billion pieces of consumer electronics will be scrapped by 2010. Overall, high-tech electronics are the fastest-growing part of the municipal waste stream both in the U.S. and Europe.

The EPA estimates that only about 10 percent of all obsolete consumer electronics are recycled. The rest are stored somewhere, passed on to second users, or simply tossed in the trash. The EPA's most recent estimate is that over 2 million tons of e-waste end up in U.S. landfills each year. As Jim Fisher of Salon reported in 2000, a toxic stew from discarded computers leaches into groundwater surrounding landfills.

The U.S. may be one of the world's biggest consumers of high-tech electronics, but unlike the European Union or Japan, the U.S. has no national system for handling e-waste. Unless a state or local government prohibits it, it's currently legal to dump up to 220 pounds a month of e-waste, including CRTs and circuit boards, into local landfills. Several dozen states have introduced e-waste bills, and a handful of U.S. states -- California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington -- have recently passed substantive e-waste bills, some of which bar CRTs from their landfills. E-waste bills have also been introduced in the House and Senate, but neither would create a national collection system.

The export of e-waste has been discussed in Congress but no legislation to regulate this trade has yet been introduced.]  Id.

See also Guan Hua Xing, et. al., Environmental Impact and Human Exposure to PCBs in Guiyu, an Electronic waste Recycling Site in China, 35 Envtl. Int’l. 76 (2009)


                [47]Elizabeth Grossman, Where Computers Go to Die – and Kill, SALON.COM, Apr. 10, 2006,  See also Deanna J. Richards, et al., Information Systems and the Environment (2001).  We have yet to consider the Internet’s increasing thirst for electricity and that demand’s compounded effects on the environment.

                [48] Information Society Project, About A2K, (last visited Apr. 23, 2008).

                [49] Id.