Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Verizon plus the EFF Here's a remarkably candid interview of Verizon's general counsel (head lawyer), Sarah Deutsch. What's most interesting is the way it reveals how the content industries concerns about the Internet began in 1995, and how the DMCA resulted from behind the scenes negotiation to limit ISP's liability while addressing the content cartel's fears.

The RIAA's and MPAA's current assaults against the Internet, fair use, free speech, and the public domain are unilateral, and since telcos have had trouble getting their traditional carve-outs, they're siding with the EFF on these regulatory issues for now.

Given the legal murk around telco regulation (TA96, Tauzen-Dingell), the big carriers aren't sure whether they need to compete on infrastructure or services. As content is complimentary to distribution, ISPs like P2P filesharing as it drives demand for faster connections, and so is not interested in stopping Napster (although it would like a cut).

The DMCA did not do the job, as P2P networks are not covered and prosecuting end-users is expensive. While the content cartel may have predicted Napster (kind of), they did not predict Morpheus, thus this new raft of legislation. The difference is that this time it's all very public. Blogs like this one, and countless others, are sending hundreds of citizen eyeballs to obscure candidates from obscure states, uncovering the campaign money trail, and following legislation the way folks usually follow sports teams. This has to have some effect on how things shake out.

What's also interesting is how new this is to the (non corporate) participants. The content industries in particular were born from backroom deals and have operated under Congressional aegis since their inception, but not geeks. Lessig, for example, is clearly new to this lobbying / grassroots activism thing, and that goes for many of us.


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