Julie Cohen Lecture January 29

JECphotoYou are cordially invited to the first Information Society Project speaker series event of the new semester, scheduled for Friday, January 29 at noon in the Sterling Memorial Library Lecture Hall (location to be confirmed the week of the lecture).  This event is co-sponsored by the Yale University Library and is part of the library's Copyright Lecture Series.

Julie Cohen, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, will give a talk entitled "The Structural Conditions of Human Flourishing in the Information Society."  Her talk will be based on her upcoming Yale University Press book The Networked Self: Copyright, Privacy, and the Production of Networked Space.

Julie E. Cohen teaches and writes about intellectual property law and privacy law, with particular focus on copyright and on the intersection of copyright and privacy rights in the networked information society. She is a co-author of Copyright in a Global Information Economy (Aspen Law & Business, 2d ed. 2006), and is a member of the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Public Knowledge. From 1995 to 1999, Professor Cohen taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. From 1992 to 1995, she practiced with the San Francisco firm of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation. Professor Cohen received her A.B. from Harvard University and her J.D. from the Harvard Law School, where she was a Supervising Editor of the Harvard Law Review. She is a former law clerk to Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

"The Structural Conditions of Human Flourishing." You can call the talk "The Structural Conditions of Human Flourishing in the Information Society."  Here's an abstract:

Within U.S. legal and policy circles, the discourse of information policy reform has been organized principally around the themes of "access to knowledge" and "network neutrality." Each of those movements has contributed powerful insights to our understanding of the principles that should inform the legal and technical specification of information rights and architectures. Yet the discussion in Part II suggests the need for a more accurate understanding of the ways that the information environment can foster, or undermine, capabilities for human flourishing. We saw that play-including both intentional play and the fortuitous play of circumstances-is a vital ingredient in creative practice, subject-formation, and the evolving accommodation between networked artifacts and user behavior. Those processes do not follow automatic and inevitable trajectories. Everyday practice is highly robust as a phenomenon, but the specifics of everyday practice are contingent and extraordinarily vulnerable to environmental modulation. And the everyday behaviors of networked selves require spaces where they can be enacted, tools with which they can be pursued, and meaningful legal guarantees with which they can be claimed. This means that information policy problems cannot always be solved by prescribing greater "openness" or more "neutrality."

Beginning with the centrality of everyday practice and the overarching importance of play, this chapter derives three subsidiary principles that should inform the design of legal and technical architectures. The first principle remains that of access to knowledge; without the raw materials necessary for social and cultural participation, one cannot participate meaningfully in the development of culture and community, and without access to the appropriate tools, one cannot partake of the resources that the networked information society has to offer. The second and third principles, however, move beyond access to specify structural attributes of the networked information environment that are necessary to provide, and shelter, "breathing room" for everyday practice. In different ways, each principle takes aim at the growing imbalance between the seamless predictability of autonomic technologies and the transgressive potential of everyday practice. The second principle, operational transparency, seeks to render the network's geographies of accessibility and inaccessibility less opaque. To take full advantage of the network's potential to enable human flourishing, network users need access to information about how the network and its constituent artifacts and protocols work.

The final principle concerns the ways in which legal and technical boundaries that define the scope of copyright, privacy, and (un)authorized access to information technologies should be defined. To preserve room for play, those boundaries should afford degrees of freedom to access and repurpose cultural and technical materials, and should reserve to individuals and communities degrees of control over both personal information and the experienced boundaries of personal space. Such control is achieved most effectively when legal and technical architectures are characterized by semantic discontinuity-by gaps and inconsistencies into which the everyday practice of network users can move. In an increasingly networked information society, maintaining those gaps may require legal and technical interventions designed to circumscribe the authority of powerful state and commercial actors.