Monday, May 22, 2006

Net Neutrality and Fair Use

Larry Lessig has posted an interesting blog article comparing net neutrality to fair use, and asking whether there's a problem in consistency on the part of those who favor one but not the other. As someone who more strongly supports laws recognizing fair use than regulated net neutrality, I agree with the reasons given by several of the posters (including Kevin Farnham, Jeremy, Cory Doctorow, three blind mice, and poptones). It seems that some of the better reasons to question creating a regulatory regime for net neutrality are present in these comments--I'm pleasantly surprised to see that the comments appear to be dominated by net neutrality skeptics.

Some of the highlights:

* Fair use is a limitation on rights pertaining to intellectual property, while net neutrality is a limitation on rights pertaining to physical property--Lessig's own excellent book Free Culture points out that intellectual or creative property is different from physical property in significant ways.
* The burden of proof on a fair use claim is on the person claiming fair use, not the copyright owner; in net neutrality the burden is on the property owner.
* Fair use is really a limitation on a government regulation (copyright), while net neutrality is a regulation that's a limit on business models, contracts, and technology.
* Net neutrality advocates have not been clear about what they would require and prohibit, how violations will be detected/measured, and what the enforcement mechanisms will be. (I don't trust Congress to tell network engineers how to do their jobs.)

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