Information Policy:

Fall 2006, Tuesdays, 11:50-2:30, SCILS bldg 313

This is the website for Michael Lesk's course on information policy, to be given at Rutgers SCILS in the fall semester of 2006.

Before anyone complains again about the order of the two course numbers, there is a tiny bit of Javascript on this page to see to it that half the time one course number is displayed first, and the other half the time the other course number is displayed first. This is probably the stupidest coding I have ever done.

At the moment the course is still being designed. Comments on what it should include are welcome. It may be that we won't get to all the topics below, and will need to decide what to drop; or, we might want to include topics that didn't get included, such as (a) duties owed by ISPs to their customers and to the government, (b) electronic voting, (c) internet taxes, (d) liability for libel or fraud online, (e) cryptography policy, and many others.

I haven't figured out the assignments; see discussion here and we'll talk it out at the first class session.

Possible schedule (all dates 2006)

1Sept. 5 Intellectual property: how far should it extend? Is it good or bad to expand protection for ideas? How far should this go (boat hulls, dress designs, type fonts, databases, theatrical stagings and architecture are all points of dispute)? What do you think of Larry Lessig's "commons"? See Overview of information property scope.
2Sept. 12 Fair Use Is indexing fair use? What should happen in Authors Guild v. Google? Compare the legal situation with what would be best for the country. More on fair use. Assignment 1
3Sept. 19 Digital Rights Management Are the French doing the right thing by "open format"? What do you think of MGM v. Grokster? Should we have the "Broadcast Flag"? Comments on DRM. Assignment 2
4Sept. 26 Privacy and Surveillance If Amazon can do a better job for you by watching you, is that ok? If the government can protect us better by watching us, is that ok? If you're so concerned about your privacy, why do you carry a supermarket affinity card? Privacy and leftover MGM v. Grokster slides. Assignment 3
5Oct. 3 Digital Divide / Universal Service Should the government be trying to assure a minimum level of communications service to everyone? If so, how? Should we worry that South Korea and Iceland now lead the world in broadband access? Slides here.. Assignment 4
6Oct. 10 Abuse: spam, phishing, pornography and terrorism Is the anonymity of the web good or bad? Do you have a different answer if the question is asked in China? Spam spam spam spam ...Assignment 5
7Oct. 17 Network neutrality: good or bad? Should all packets be treated equally? Or should ISPs be allowed to favor some packet streams over others? Is this question different from asking whether the Postal Service should offer Express Mail? Network neutrality Assignment 6
8Oct. 24 Mass media vs. specialized media Will the new media increase the diversity of what we see? Or will greater bandwidth just mean multiple broadcasts of the same thing? Is it easier or harder for a new publisher to start up today? Long Tail Assignment 7
9Oct. 31 International issues Is the Internet world culture or national culture? How much freedom should individual countries have to enforce their own rules: China stops political sites, Singapore pornography, France prohibits Nazi memorabilia sales and the US doesn't like internet gambling. International Jurisdiction Assignment 8
10Nov. 7 Government information Should government information be provided free or via contractors? Should FOIA be expanded or contracted? How economics took over my view of government information after all. Assignment 9
11Nov. 14 Externalities, good and bad Some technologies work better the more people that have them. Sometimes this causes us to "lock in" an inferior technology. Should we be encouraging earlier or later standardization? Was it fair to bash Paul Krugman for claiming VHS/Beta as an example of lock-in? How can the typical economist be so ignorant of the real world that it took twenty years for them to realize that farmers paid beekeepers? Externalities, normal and network. Assignment 10
Nov. 21 (Thanksgiving week)
12Nov. 28 Content regulation Should we be trying to raise the quality of what we find on the Web? If so, how might we do this? Should we worry that students are exposed to vast amounts of conspiracy theory and propaganda? What about the bloggers who spotted both the typographical inconsistencies in the Bush-National Guard memo in 2004 and the alleged picture of normal life in Baghdad that turned out to be a photograph of an Istanbul shop? Some thoughts. Assignment 11
13Dec. 5 Spectrum management How should spectrum be managed/sold? Are public interest broadcast requirements a good idea? Should there be bands for experimental service? Should cities be allowed to offer free broadband? Does the Forest Service really need 45 MHz of bandwidth in New York City? Elections. Discussion 12
14Dec. 12 What should be invented? Bill Joy wrote about the dangers of technology; how fearful should we be that bad things are being invented? Bill Joy. Discussion 13