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Submission + - How Tech Policy Is Like German Forestry (

binarybits writes: James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State, which examines how modern states came to understand and control their subjects, is legendary in political science circles. In an essay for Cato Unbound, I examine the parallels between the mechanisms of control Scott describes and the legal powers that modern software and media companies use to control technological evolution and, with it, consumers themselves. Read on to learn what 19th Century German forestry techniques can teach us about modern debates over software patents and the DMCA.

Submission + - Justice Stevens, Champion of Internet Freedom (

binarybits writes: "Monday was Justice John Paul Stevens's last day on the bench. I've got an article examining his record on tech policy issues. He wrote a number of decisions that were crucial to the development of the digital economy. He wrote the court's strongest anti-software-patent decision in 1978. In 1984, he narrowly saved the VCR from extinction, writing a 5-4 majority opinion holding that "time shifting" was fair use. And in 1997, he wrote the Supreme Court's opinion striking down software patents. Everyone who appreciates their DRM-free music players, free software, and the uncensored Internet owes Justice Stevens their thanks."

Submission + - When Libertarians Attack Free Software ( 1

binarybits writes: I've got a new article analyzing the unfortunate trend of libertarian and free-market organizations attacking free software. The latest example is a policy analyst at the Heartland Institute who attacks network neutrality regulations by arguing that advocates have "unwittingly bought into" the "radical agenda" of the free software movement. I argue that in reality, the free market and free software are entirely compatible, and libertarians are shooting themselves in the foot by antagonizing the free software movement.

Comment Re:Cato !Free Market (Score 1) 242

Several Cato scholars (including me and Cato's president) wrote op-eds on the other side of the warrantless wiretapping debate. We're a think tank, not a lobbying outfit, so we don't have a "party line"--sometimes that leads to scholars writing things that most people (including me in this case) don't consider libertarian.

Comment Re:Cato !Free Market (Score 1) 242

That's a serious charge. Do you have any evidence? Microsoft has given Cato money in the past, but Cato donors don't fund specific research projects, and I don't know of any studies we've published that fit your description. Cato scholars did side with Microsoft during the antitrust case, but we've taken a number of positions since then that are at odds with Microsoft's agenda.


Submission + - Cato Institute Critique of Software Patents (

binarybits writes: "I've written an article for the free-market Cato Institute about how patents impede innovation in the software industry. It points out that people tend not to realize how vast the software industry is. It's not just Google and Microsoft; virtually every organization has an IT department producing potentially-infringing software. Organizations as diverse as J. Crew and the Green Bay Packers have been sued for patent infringement. It's crazy to expect all these organizations to worry about potential patent infringement. Hopefully the Supreme Court's Bilski decision will lead to new limits on software patents."

Submission + - Firefox Plugin Liberates Paywalled Court Records (

Timothy B. Lee writes: "If you want to access federal court records, you're often forced to use PACER, a cumbersome, paywalled website run by the federal judiciary. My colleagues and I at Princeton's Center for IT Policy have released a new Firefox extension called RECAP that allows users to automatically upload the documents they download from PACER into a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive. It also saves users money by automatically notifying them if a document they're searching for is available for free from the public archive. Over time, we hope to build a comprehensive, free repository of federal court records that's available to everyone."

Submission + - Software Patents in the New York Times (

Timothy B. Lee writes: "I've got an article in the New York Times in which I make the case against software patents. Expanding on a point I first made on my blog, I point out that Microsoft has had a change of heart on the patent issue. In 1991, Bill Gates worried that "some large company will patent some obvious thing" and use it to blackmail smaller companies. Now that Microsoft is a large company with a patent war-chest of their own, they don't seem so concerned about abuse of the patent system. I then point out that Verizon's efforts to shut down Vonage are a perfect illustration of Gates's fears."

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