I’m taking a course here at Princeton on IT Policy, taught by my advisor, Ed Felten. It’s been an interesting experience. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve spent more time thinking about the topics than the median member of the class, and the class has been an opportunity to re-acquaint myself with how these issues look for smart people who aren’t immersed in these issues every day.
The course has a blog, where each class participant is asked to contribute one post per week. I’ve been impressed by the quality of a number of posts. Here is a good post by “Jen C.” about the Author’s Guild’s implausible claim that text-to-speech software on the Kindle 2 infringes copyright by creating a derivative work. And here is a fascinating post by Sajid Mehmood about Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet, which our own Adam Thierer reviewed here. Sajid points out that Zittrain’s prophesy is more likely to come true if it’s helped along by bad government regulations, an argument that I find persuasive (and not just because he quotes my DMCA paper).
One of the most interesting debates has been over the Google Book Search settlement. A couple of weeks ago, Sajid posted a tentative defense of the settlement, arguing that whatever its flaws, the Google Book Search settlement is a private agreement and the courts would be overstepping their authority to reject it. I responded with a pair of posts making the case that, thanks to the creative use of the class action mechanism, the settlement would have effects far beyond those that could be achieved by an ordinary private contract, and that the results of the settlement would be anticompetitive. Sajid responded with the reasonable point that the settlement will not be the only—or even necessarily the most important—barrier to entry in the book search engine market, and that its better to have one firm able to build a book search engine than zero.
We’ll all be blogging throughout the month of April, so I encourage you to check it out.