Last month, I noted that UCLA Law School professor Doug Lichtman has a wonderful new monthly podcast called the “Intellectual Property Colloquium.” This month’s show features two giants in the field of tech policy — George Washington Law Professor Daniel Solove and Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman –- discussing online privacy, defamation, and intermediary liability. More specifically, in separate conversations, Solove and Goldman both consider the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields Internet intermediaries from liability for the speech and expression of their users. Sec. 230 is the subject of hot debate these days and Solove and Goldman provide two very different perspectives about the law and its impact.
Goldman calls Sec. 230 “pure cyberspace exceptionalism” in the sense that it breaks from traditional tort norms governing intermediary liability. But he argues that this new online version of intermediary liability (which is extremely limited in scope) encourages more robust speech and expression than the older, offline version of liability (which was far more strict). I completely agree with Eric Goldman, but I respect the arguments that Lichtman and Solove raise about the privacy and defamation problems raised by the purist approach that Goldman and I favor.
Goldman also does a nice job dissecting the Roomates.com and Craigslist.com cases. And Lichtman brings up the JuicyCampus.com case during the conclusion. These are important cases for the future of Sec. 230 and online liability. Incidentally, there’s also an interesting conversation between Lichtman and Solove (around the 32:00 mark) about an issue that Alex Harris and Tim Lee have been raising here about the nature of online contracts and the perils of messy EULAs / Terms of Service (TOS).
These are two absolutely terrific conversations. Very in-depth and very highly recommended. Listen here.
[Note: I recently reviewed Daniel Solove's important new book, Understanding Privacy, here.]