Digital Policy Reading List

book cover (small)I am pleased to announce the release of my latest book, “Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom.” It’s a short manifesto (just under 100 pages) that condenses — and attempts to make more accessible — arguments that I have developed in various law review articles, working papers, and blog posts over the past few years. I have two goals with this book.

First, I attempt to show how the central fault line in almost all modern technology policy debates revolves around “the permission question,” which asks: Must the creators of new technologies seek the blessing of public officials before they develop and deploy their innovations? How that question is answered depends on the disposition one adopts toward new inventions. Two conflicting attitudes are evident.

One disposition is known as the “precautionary principle.” Generally speaking, it refers to the belief that new innovations should be curtailed or disallowed until their developers can prove that they will not cause any harms to individuals, groups, specific entities, cultural norms, or various existing laws, norms, or traditions.

The other vision can be labeled “permissionless innovation.” It refers to the notion that experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted by default. Unless a compelling case can be made that a new invention will bring serious harm to society, innovation should be allowed to continue unabated and problems, if they develop at all, can be addressed later.

I argue that we are witnessing a grand clash of visions between these two mindsets today in almost all major technology policy discussions today. Continue reading →

Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs at Public Knowledge, discusses emerging issues in digital copyright policy. He addresses the Department of Commerce’s recent green paper on digital copyright, including the need to reform copyright laws in light of new technologies. This podcast also covers the DMCA, online streaming, piracy, cell phone unlocking, fair use recognition, digital ownership, and what we’ve learned about copyright policy from the SOPA debate.


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Jane Yakowitz Bambauer, associate professor of law at the University of Arizona, discusses her forthcoming paper in the Stanford Law Review titled Is Data Speech? How do we define “data” and can it be protected in the same way as free speech? She examines current privacy laws and regulations as they pertain to data creation and collection, including whether collecting data should be protected under the First Amendment.


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Richard Brandt, technology journalist and author, discusses his new book, One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.Com. Brandt discusses Bezos’ entrepreneurial drive, his business philosophy, and how he’s grown Amazon to become the biggest retailer in the world. This episode also covers the biggest mistake Bezos ever made, how Amazon uses patent laws to its advantage, whether Amazon will soon become a publishing house, Bezos’ idea for privately-funded space exploration and his plan to revolutionize technology with quantum computing.


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In my last post, I discussed an outstanding new paper from Ronald Cass on “Antitrust for High-Tech and Low: Regulation, Innovation, and Risk.” As I noted, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read about the relationship between antitrust regulation and the modern information economy. That got me thinking about what other papers on this topic that I might recommend to others. So, for what it’s worth, here are the 12 papers that have most influenced my own thinking on the issue. (If you have other suggestions for what belongs on the list, let me know. No reason to keep it limited to just 12.)

  1. J. Gregory Sidak & David J. Teece, “Dynamic Competition in Antitrust Law,” 5 Journal of Competition Law & Economics (2009).
  2. Geoffrey A. Manne &  Joshua D. Wright, “Innovation and the Limits of Antitrust,” 6 Journal of Competition Law & Economics, (2010): 153
  3. Joshua D. Wright, “Antitrust, Multi-Dimensional Competition, and Innovation: Do We Have an Antitrust-Relevant Theory of Competition Now?” (August 2009).
  4. Daniel F. Spulber, “Unlocking Technology: Antitrust and Innovation,” 4(4) Journal of Competition Law & Economics, (2008): 915.
  5. Ronald Cass, “Antitrust for High-Tech and Low: Regulation, Innovation, and Risk,” 9(2) Journal of Law, Economics and Policy, Forthcoming (Spring 2012)
  6. Richard Posner, “Antitrust in the New Economy,” 68 Antitrust Law Journal, (2001).
  7. Stan J. Liebowitz & Stephen E. Margolis,”Path Dependence, Lock-in, and History,” 11(1) Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, (April 1995): 205-26.
  8. Robert Crandall and Charles Jackson, “Antitrust in High-Tech Industries,” Technology Policy Institute (December 2010).
  9. Bruce Owen, “Antitrust and Vertical Integration in ‘New Economy’ Industries,” Technology Policy Institute (November 2010).
  10. Douglas H. Ginsburg & Joshua D. Wright, “Dynamic Analysis and the Limits of Antitrust Institutions,” 78 (1) Antitrust Law Journal (2012): 1-21.
  11. Thomas Hazlett, David Teece, Leonard Waverman, “Walled Garden Rivalry: The Creation of Mobile Network Ecosystems,” George Mason University Law and Economics Research Paper Series, (November 21, 2011), No. 11-50.
  12. David S. Evans, “The Antitrust Economics of Two Sided Markets.”

It’s time again to look back at the major cyberlaw and information tech policy books of the year. I’ve decided to drop the top 10 list approach I’ve used in past years (see 2008, 2009, 2010) and just use a more thematic listing of major titles released in 2011.  This thematic approach gets me out of hot water since I have found that people take numeric lists very seriously, especially when they are the author of one of the books and their title isn’t #1 on the list! Nonetheless, at the end, I will name what I regard as the most important Net policy book of the year.

I hope I’ve included all the major titles released during the year, but I ask readers to please let me know what I have missed that belongs on this list. I want this to be a useful resource to future scholars and students in the field. [Reminder: Here’s my compilation of major Internet policy books from the past decade.] Where relevant, I’ve added links to my reviews as well as discussions with the authors that Jerry Brito conducted as part of his “Surprisingly Free” podcast series. Finally, as always, I apologize to international readers for the somewhat U.S.-centric focus of this list.

Continue reading →

When it comes to technology policy, I’m usually a fairly optimistic guy.  But when it comes to technology politics, well, I have my grumpier moments. I had at particularly grumpy moment earlier this summer when I was sitting at a hearing listening to a bunch of high-tech companies bash each other’s brains in and basically calling for lawmakers to throw everyone else under the regulatory bus except for them.  Instead of heeding Ben Franklin’s sound old advice that “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” it’s increasingly clear that high-tech America seems determined to just try to hang each other. It’d be one thing if that heated competition was all taking place in the marketplace, but, increasingly, more and more of it is taking place inside the Beltway with regulation instead of innovation being the weapon of choice.

That episode made me think back to the outstanding 2000 manifesto penned by T. J. Rodgers, president and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, “Why Silicon Valley Should Not Normalize Relations with Washington, D.C.”  I went back and re-read it upon the 10th anniversary of its publication by the Cato Institute and, sadly, came to realize that just about everything Rodgers had feared and predicted had come true.  Rodgers had attempted to preemptively discourage high-tech companies from an excessive “normalization” of relations with the parasitic culture that dominates Washington by reminding them what Washington giveth it can also taketh away. “The political scene in Washington is antithetical to the core values that drive our success in the international marketplace and risks converting entrepreneurs into statist businessmen,” he warned a decade ago. “The collectivist notion that drives policymaking in Washington is the irrevocable enemy of high-technology capitalism and the wealth creation process.”  And he reminded his fellow capitalists “that free minds and free markets are the moral foundation that has made our success possible.  We must never allow those freedoms to be diminished for any reason.”

Alas, as I point out in my new Cato Policy Report essay “The Sad State of Cyber-Politics,” no one listened to Rodgers.  Indeed, Rodgers’s dystopian vision of a highly politicized digital future has taken just a decade to become reality. The high-tech policy scene within the Beltway has become a cesspool of backstabbing politics, hypocritical policy positions, shameful PR tactics, and bloated lobbying budgets. I go on in the article to itemize a litany of examples of how high-tech America appears determined to fall prey to what Milton Friedman once called “The Business Community’s Suicidal Impulse“: the persistent propensity to persecute one’s competitors using regulation or the threat thereof.

It’s a sad tale that doesn’t make for enjoyable reading, but I do try to end the essay on an upbeat (if somewhat naive) note. If you are interested, you can find the plain text version on the Cato website here and I’ve embedded the PDF of the publication down below in a Scribd Reader. Continue reading →

[I’ve been working on an outline for a book I hope to write surveying technological skepticism throughout history. I first started thinking about this topic two years when I noticed that a great number of recent books about Internet policy could generally be grouped into one of two camps: Internet optimists vs. Internet pessimists. I subsequently penned an essay on the subject that generated a fair bit of attention. So, I figured I must be on to something, and the more Net policy books I read, the more I realized that the divisions between these two camps were growing wider and increasingly heated. Thus, I thought I would share this very rough draft (much of it still in outline form) of the opening chapter of that book I want to write about this great intellectual war over the impact of technology on society. I invite reader input. Update Jan. 2011: I finally published a full-length essay on this topic. You can find it here. ]


The impact of technological change on culture, learning, and morality has long been the subject of intense debate, and every technological revolution brings out a fresh crop of both pessimists and pollyannas. Indeed, a familiar cycle has repeat itself throughout history whenever new modes of production (from mechanized agriculture to assembly-line production), means of transportation (water, rail, road, or air), energy production processes (steam, electric, nuclear), medical breakthroughs (vaccination, surgery, cloning), or communications techniques (telegraph, telephone, radio, television) have appeared on the scene.

The cycle goes something like this. A new technology appears. Those who fear the sweeping changes brought about by this technology see a sky that is about to fall. These “techno-pessimists” predict the death of the old order (which, ironically, is often a previous generation’s hotly-debated technology that others wanted slowed or stopped).  Embracing this new technology, they fear, will result in the overthrow of traditions, beliefs, values, institutions, business models, and much else they hold sacred.

The pollyannas, by contrast, look out at the unfolding landscape and see mostly rainbows in the air. Theirs is a rose-colored world in which the technological revolution du jour is seen as improving the general lot of mankind and bringing about a better order.  If something has to give, then the old ways be damned! For such “techno-optimists,” progress means some norms and institutions must adapt—perhaps even disappear—for society to continue its march forward.

Our current Information Revolution is no different. It too has its share of techno-pessimists and techno-optimists. Indeed, before most of us had even heard of the Internet, people were already fighting about it—or at least debating what the rise of the Information Age meant for our culture, society, and economy. Continue reading →

book stackSo, did the decade just end or do we have another year to go? Honestly, I’ve never understood when the cut-off is from one decade to the next. (My friend Larry Magid struggles with the same question in his recent column on “The Decade in Technology.”) Nonetheless, I’ve seen a lot of best-of-decade lists published recently, so I thought I would throw my own out there even though it is still a work in progress.

I have been attempting to compile the definitive bibliography for our digital decade—the definitive list of Internet policy books, that is. I started throwing this together two years ago when I was penning my list of “The Most Important Internet Policy Books of 2008” and continued to work on it as I was finishing up my 2009 installment as well. I grabbed every book off my shelf that dealt with the future of the Internet and the impact the Digital Revolution is having on our lives, culture, and economy and threw the title and a link onto this list. (I’m also using the list to help structure my thoughts for a forthcoming book of my own on Internet Optimists vs. Pessimists, something I’ve been writing a lot about here in recent years.)

Below you will find what I’ve got so far. There are around 80 90 books on the list. I’ve divided the list by year, but you may be wondering what determined the order the books appear in. In essence, I’ve listed what I feel are the 1 or 2 most important titles first and then just added others randomly. Eventually, I plan to post a “Most Important Internet Policy Books of the Decade” list outlining which titles I believe have been the most influential. I suspect I’ll name Benkler’s Wealth of Networks to the top slot followed closely by Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet, Lessig’s Free Culture, and Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail. Anyway, that’s for another day.

For now, I would just like to ask for reader suggestions regarding what other titles that should appear on this list. I will add titles as they come in. I want to stress, however, that I am trying to keep this list limited to books that have something to say about Internet policy (cyber-law, digital economics, information technology politics, etc).

I hope others find this useful.  And yes, I have read all* most of the books on this list!  As I’ve noted here before, I’m a bit of book nerd.  (*Now that I’ve received so many helpful additions to the list, there are some titles on the list I have not had a chance to read through yet). Continue reading →

libertyby Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka — (Ver. 1.0 — Summer 2009)

We are attempting to articulate the core principles of cyber-libertarianism to provide the public and policymakers with a better understanding of this alternative vision for ordering the affairs of cyberspace. We invite comments and suggestions regarding how we should refine and build-out this outline. We hope this outline serves as the foundation of a book we eventually want to pen defending what we regard as “Real Internet Freedom.” [Note:  Here’s a printer-friendly version, which we also have embedded down below as a Scribd document.]

I. What is Cyber-Libertarianism?

Cyber-libertarianism refers to the belief that individuals—acting in whatever capacity they choose (as citizens, consumers, companies, or collectives)—should be at liberty to pursue their own tastes and interests online.

Generally speaking, the cyber-libertarian’s motto is “Live & Let Live” and “Hands Off the Internet!”  The cyber-libertarian aims to minimize the scope of state coercion in solving social and economic problems and looks instead to voluntary solutions and mutual consent-based arrangements.

Cyber-libertarians believe true “Internet freedom” is freedom from state action; not freedom for the State to reorder our affairs to supposedly make certain people or groups better off or to improve some amorphous “public interest”—an all-to convenient facade behind which unaccountable elites can impose their will on the rest of us.

Continue reading →