Saturday, October 08, 2005

FIRST AMENDMENT: Business dispute shuts down one-fifth of Internet

Here's an example of something we touched on in class last week --
business disputes among large Internet service providers which have the
potential the balkanize and shutdown the open sharing of information. IN
this case, one giant ISP -- Denver-area based Level 3 Communications, is
allegedly upset that a competitor, Cogent, is beating them competitive by
charging low prices for internet service. As a result, Level 3 decided
this week to "pull the plug" on any traffic from Cogent -- affecting
Comcast and Time-Warner/Road Runner's access to all kinds of websites. By
Friday, they had resolved the dispute -- but Level 3 said it would only
connect with Cogent until Nov. 9 -- unless the business dispute is
resolved. Level 3 denies it is trying to pressure a competitor to raise
prices and says the dispute has to do with the fact that it is costing it
too much to handle Cogent traffic and wants to charge Cogent to do so.
Until now, they have had a "peering" arrangement where each had agreed to
exchange traffic at no charge to the other.

QUESTIONS: Should the government forbid the shutting off of connections
between major ISPs? If so, on what basis? What is to prevent some ISPs
from trying to create "private Internets" where they don't have to share
any traffic? How have the wireless phone carriers worked out this issue?
What are the implications for the free exchange of ideas? What if a major
news organization's website is on one network -- say Level 3 -- and it has
no other way to get its website to non-Level 3 customers?

-- bill,1299,DRMN_4_4142021,00.html

Level 3 settles Internet dispute

Net firms resume sharing each other's fiber-optic networks

By News Wire Reports
October 8, 2005

A dispute between Level 3 Communications Inc. and a major competitor over
prices and terms of their Internet service ended Friday, a battle that
blocked off portions of the Internet for thousands of users worldwide for
more than two days.

Broomfield-based Level 3 and Cogent Communications Group of Washington,
D.C., had stopped handling each other's Internet traffic Wednesday,
meaning Level 3's customers -such as Cox Communications and America Online
- couldn't connect with those of Cogent, which links 360 Internet service
providers worldwide and has 9,500 customers, including many colleges and

Each company has its own Internet "backbone" - a network of high-capacity
fiber-optic cables that carry vast amounts of Internet traffic. These
fiber-optic networks link phone companies, cable companies and independent
Internet service providers, who pay Level 3 and Cogent for access to their

Cogent said Friday that Level 3 again was accepting its traffic.

"We are pleased that Level 3 has taken (this step) to restore full
Internet to their customers and ours. We welcome this move and hope and
expect the peering connections will be maintained," Cogent spokesman Jeff
Henriksen said.

Level 3 officials were not immediately available for comment.

Cogent Chief Executive David Schaeffer said earlier Friday that Internet
users had been blocked from millions of Web sites and e-mail communication
for Cogent customers had been disrupted. He said 15 percent to 17 percent
of the Internet was affected.

The dispute involves prices and the traffic Cogent puts on Level 3's

"They have been dumping a lot of traffic on the network," Level 3
President Kevin O'Hara said earlier Friday. "It's way out of balance to
what we have been sending them."

Cogent isn't overloading the Level 3 network, Schaeffer said. Level 3 is
trying to get Cogent to raise its prices for Internet bandwidth, which are
lower than Level 3's, he said.

"Level 3 basically said they can't sell at our price point," said
Schaeffer, who said his company's customer base is growing 250 percent a
year. "They wanted Cogent to stop what they effectively consider a price

Cogent charges customers $10 per megabit for network access, below the
market average of $60 per megabit.

Schaefer said Level 3 pulled the plug on peering - the practice of
exchanging Internet traffic with peers, or other companies with bandwidth
- when Cogent refused to raise its prices.

"That is absolutely ludicrous," O'Hara said. "We've put a huge premium on
the ethics of how we do business."

The cutoff affected Time Warner Inc.'s RoadRunner Internet subscribers
Thursday, though service was rerouted, Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith
Cocozza said. He said TWC's 4.3 million high-speed Internet subscribers
may have been affected for about eight hours.

Cogent-Level 3 Peering Spat Ends.for Now,1895,1868765,00.asp

October 7, 2005

By Ben Charny

Network operator Cogent said Friday that rival Level 3 "has taken the
necessary actions" to once again carry its customers' Internet traffic, a
sign that days old service disruptions for a significant number of
Internet users are over, for now.

As been reported, Level 3 Communications, a major Internet
network operator, has since Wednesday refused to make room for traffic
from rival Cogent because of an ongoing dispute about financial
arrangements. The nasty turn has disrupted Internet service for between
five and 10 of Cogent's customers since about Wednesday, Cogent estimates.

On Friday afternoon, Cogent said Level 3 has restored all peering
connections. Level 3, in a statement, said it's done so in order to let
Cogent customers make alternative arrangements. "We will maintain this
connection until 6:00 a.m. ET, November 9, 2005," Level 3 wrote in a

"We are pleased that Level 3 has taken the necessary actions to restore
the full Internet to their customers and ours," Cogent wrote in its
statement. "We welcome this move and hope and expect the peering
connections will be maintained and a productive dialogue established."

Click here to read more about the spat between Level 3 and Cogent.

A Cogent spokesman, Jeff Henriksen, was asked whether service had been
resumed to the customers impacted.

He wrote in an e-mail that "to date, there has been no dialogue between
the two parties other than notification that the connections were being
restored," and wouldn't comment further.

The apparent turn for the better in the spat follows an outcry for the
U.S. government to regulate traffic-swapping arrangements between major
communications providers.

These agreements, as the experiences of the last few days shows, are so
key that they can bring Internet traffic to a halt for significant amounts
of people.

Critics fear that more of these spats between operators will erupt,
cutting off even more people.

Such spats also bolster arguments from a number of European governments
that are calling for the United States to relinquish its unilateral
control over Internet governance, in favor of a new body. The United
States opposes the changes.

Click here to read more about how European countries think the Internet
should be governed.

In the days since the spat became public, U.S. Representative Edward J.
Markey, D-Mass., has suggested the Federal Communications Commission, the
nation's utility regulator, consider stepping into the fray if the
infighting between providers goes on.

Markey, a House Telecommunications Subcommittee member, told The Boston
Globe that the "FCC must be prepared to take steps to assure continuity of
service to consumers."

An FCC representative did not return a call seeking comment.

Check out's Infrastructure Center for the latest news, views and
analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise
and small businesses.

Copyright (c) 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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FIRST AMENDMENT: Connecticut libraries lose round in Patriot Act suit

A consortium of Connecticut libraries which has been barred from publicly protesting provisions of the USA Patriot Act lost an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Please be familiar with this case for our discussion on Thursday, Oct. 13, with Ty Resch.

Here's an earlier story from the American Library Association website describing the rather complicated legal situation:

Here's a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff-written story on the action on Friday by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg of the U.S. Supreme Court:

A U.S. Supreme Court justice refused yesterday to lift a court order that has prevented a Connecticut library system from identifying itself as the recipient of an FBI letter seeking records showing whether patrons had visited a particular Internet address.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled against the library system even though she acknowledged that it had offered "cogent" arguments for being allowed to identify itself so it could participate in the public debate over whether the USA Patriot Act should be extended.

Making use of provisions in the Patriot Act, the FBI sent the library system a "national security letter" seeking the computer records as part of an investigation of "international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." Under the law, recipients of such letters may not reveal that fact publicly.

In September, a federal district judge in Bridgeport, Conn., ruled that the non-disclosure rule was unconstitutional, saying that it had "the practical effect of silencing individuals with a constitutionally protected interest in speech and whose voices are particularly important in an ongoing national debate about the intrusion of governmental authority into individual lives."

But that ruling in the libraries' favor has been stayed -- meaning that the library system must stay mum -- while the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reviews the district judge's ruling.

The library system -- identified in court papers only as "John Doe" -- asked Justice Ginsburg, who handles emergency appeals from the 2nd Circuit, to lift the gag order.

In a brief filed by the ACLU, the library consortium renewed its complaint that it was prevented by the order from offering Congress and the public first-hand information about the operation of the Patriot Act. It also noted that the library system had been identified by The New York Times in a Sept. 21 news story.

But in a seven-page opinion Justice Ginsburg said the libraries' arguments didn't constitute an "extraordinary" situation that would justify the Supreme Court's intervention in a matter that was still before the 2nd Circuit, which she said was "swiftly proceeding" toward a resolution of the issue.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said that the ALA was disappointed by Ginsburg's ruling. She said the association thought that the gag order did qualify as an "extraordinary" restriction on speech.

(Michael McGough can be reached at 1-202-662-7025 or


Posted on Mon, Oct. 03, 2005

High court input eyed in Patriot Act case

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court was asked Monday to let libraries speak out about FBI demands for their records in a case involving the Patriot Act anti-terrorism law.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the emergency appeal, on behalf of an anonymous client, but the paperwork is censored and gives few details.

The ACLU has argued that a gag order prevents its client, apparently librarians in Connecticut, from participating in a debate over whether Congress should reauthorize the Patriot Act.

A federal judge said that the gag order had "the practical effect of silencing individuals with a constitutionally protected interest in speech and whose voices are particularly important in an ongoing national debate about the intrusion of governmental authority into individual lives."

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York put the decision on hold, and the Supreme Court was asked to overrule the appeals court.

Federal prosecutors have maintained that secrecy about records demands is necessary to keep from alerting suspects and jeopardizing terrorism investigations. They contend the gag order prevents only the release of the client's identity.

The Patriot Act, passed shortly after the 2001 terror attacks, allowed expanded surveillance of terror suspects, increased use of material witness warrants to hold suspects incommunicado and secret proceedings in immigration cases. Some key provisions expire at the end of the year.

Ann Beeson, the ACLU attorney in the Supreme Court case, said Monday that "the government's application of the gag order is preventing me from explaining our First Amendment argument" about the free-speech rights of her client.

"It's really ridiculous," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "I'm just waiting for the first search of a newsroom to come down and for someone to say, `You can't report we just searched you.'"

The emergency appeal was filed with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who handles cases from the 2nd Circuit. She could act alone or ask that all the justices participate.

The case is Doe v. Gonzales, 05-A295.


This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Friday, October 07, 2005

FIRST AMENDMENT: Delaware Supreme Court protest anonymous blog poster

Former San Francisco Chronicle website manager Bob Cauthorn writes about a new Delaware Supreme Court decision which extended free-speech protections to an anonymous blog poster. The anonymous post allegedly libeled a public official; the official sued the internet service provider (Comcast) seeking to compel disclosure of the identity of the poster so the suit could be joined. A lower court ordered the name release but the state supreme court overturned the decision.

LECTURE: ABC newsman Dan Harris Oct. 14 at MCLA

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Hardman Lecture Series will present
Dan Harris, ABC News Correspondent (and brother of Board Member and MCLA
Trustee Matt Harris) on Friday, October 14 at 7:30 in the Church Street Center
auditorium on the MCLA campus. An informal reception at 7:00 precedes the

Dan Harris currently reports for World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and
Nightline. He has covered many of the major news stories in recent years
including the John Kerry general election campaign, and the Gulf Coast
devastation by hurricane Katrina, among others. He will be speaking on the
broad subject of ethics in journalism.

The Spring Hardman Lecture will be presented by syndicated columnist Ellen

Both the Harris and Goodman lectures are open to the public free of charge.

For additional information contact the English/Communications department at

JOURNALISM: Quality online websites hightlighted among ONA finalists

The Online News Association spotlights high-quality web-based journalism through its annual Online Journalism Awards. Finalists were announced:


(which excerpted from a United Press International story)

The nominees were selected by the Online News Association and the USC
Annenberg School for Communication for showing "excellence in
English-language Web journalism." Awards cover areas from breaking news to
commentary to service news, with separate categories for small and large
operations. Finalist were announced Sept. 30 and winners will be announced Oct. 28 and
29 at the ONA conference in New York.

Part of that variation included a larger number of small, relatively unknown
sites and outlets that are purely Internet-based.
"In the first few years, larger sites dominated. What's happened is that as
the online medium has matured and as we've refined our competition, you're
seeing a lot more outstanding smaller sites," Regan told United Press

The Internet has steadily become a prominent part of today's news
consumption. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press estimates
that one-third of Americans over 18 get news online regularly.
"People see online media as another option. In the car, you use radio, on
Sunday morning, a newspaper, and at work, you go online. Online media had
become an important component because it has become an option. Before it was
just an afterthought," said Regan.

One medium online journalism often finds itself in is the blog, the name for
online journals kept by millions of individuals worldwide. Many prominent
print journalists maintain personal weblogs, and blogs, while often informal
venues for opinions and attitude, sometimes take a more journalistic angle,
such as Los Angeles Times Editor Kevin Roderick's page, LA Observed.
"I consider it journalism, and try to apply the same standards of factual
accuracy and intellectual honesty that I would for anything I write for
publication or broadcast," writes Roderick of LA Observed.
Not all bloggers share Roderick's commitment to factuality and honesty,
however. Most blogs are kept as journals of opinion, and some critics argue
that when readers use blogs for news, they cannot be sure they're getting
the truth.

A poll of journalists in June found that less than 1 percent of news
professionals believe blogs are credible sources for news. With no editor
like their accredited counterparts, many feel bloggers are too susceptible
to misinformation.

"Oh really? Would that be like Steven Glass in the New Republic?" scoffed
Regan in response to the idea. "Lots of print reporters have fabricated
stories in past. The problems of credibility have nothing to do with the

Both bloggers and academics seem to agree. MSNBC blogger Jon Bonne wrote,
"Journalism is a function; blogging is a form."

At a "Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility" conference held at Harvard in
January, NYU professor Jay Rosen argued in an essay that "Bloggers vs.
Journalists is over," and that "(Bloggers) are closer to the transaction
where trust gets built up on the Web."

Online journalism, whatever its relationship with blogs turns into, is sure
to have a prominent place in the future of news production and consumption.
Said Regan, "It's changing journalism in a way we're just beginning to deal
with. It's really exciting to me."

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

The article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

ASSIGNMENT: Ex-Post Dispatch editor says journalists need to accept some blame for failures of journalism

An assigment for the Tuesday, Oct. 11, class it to read the hand-out full-text version of Cole Campbell's essay, described in the review below.

Media Giraffe Project --
Link & reference blog: OPINION: Ex-Post Dispatch editor says journalists need to accept some blame
: "Wednesday, September 28, 2005

OPINION: Ex-Post Dispatch editor says journalists need to accept some blame

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
A glance at the current issue of The Kettering Review: Fixing journalism
Reviewed by Jamie Schuman
To offset criticism about their profession, journalists need to do a better job of relating the opinions of everyday citizens, writes Cole C. Campbell, dean of journalism at the University of Nevada at Reno and a former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Many critics say that the quality of journalism and the public's regard for the field have dropped in recent years, and they often attribute the decline to corporate influences. But journalists need to start blaming themselves -- and not business pressures -- for problems in their profession, writes Mr. Campbell. After all, newspapers have long been for-profit entities.
'The economic explanation of journalism's failings takes journalists off the hook,' Mr. Campbell writes. 'It makes journalists victims, not agents.'
Mr. Campbell criticizes journalists for focusing too much on opinions of the 'political and social elite,' failing to place isolated events in a broader context, and wrongly believing that their stories are objective and their voices are authoritative. Instead, journalists should trust everyday citizens to be sources and contributors to their publications. They also should help people become players in the political realm. To accomplish that goal, he asks reporters to:
Provide more context in their stories to show how events are tied to larger political"

GORE REACTION: Why does Gore want government regulating marketplace? - Al Gore on the Public Forum
This blog commentator thinks Gore is being inconsistent in calling for an open marketplace of ideas, yet praises FCC regulation.

FREE SPEECH: - Congress Wades Into Campus Politics

Congress Wades Into Campus Politics

Republicans Push for Academic Bill of Rights
To Ensure 'Dissenting Viewpoints' in Class
October 4, 2005; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- College campuses can be political hotbeds. And that has some members of Congress thinking they should get involved.

Some Republicans are pushing a measure through the House of Representatives meant to ensure that students hear "dissenting viewpoints" in class and are protected from retaliation because of their politics or religion. Colleges say the measure isn't needed, but with Congress providing billions of dollars to higher education, they are worried.

The measure's chief promoter, Marxist-turned-conservative activist David Horowitz, says an academic bill of rights will protect students from possible political "hectoring" and discrimination by their professors. "We have enough institutions in America that are political. Let's keep [universities] above that fray," he adds.

But professors say Mr. Horowitz really is trying to silence liberal faculty members. "It's an invitation for the government to get involved in the internal affairs of the university," says William Scheuerman, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Oswego, and president of the state's faculty union. "We don't want Big Brother here."

As it is, the measure is a sense-of-Congress resolution that comes with no enforcement powers or funding. Although it has passed a key committee vote, it still faces a long and potentially rancorous party-line fight in the House. There is no companion bill in the Senate.

But Mr. Horowitz's measure concerns colleges and universities because it reflects lawmakers' growing exasperation with higher education. The federal government provides loans to more than half of all college students and grant aid to about one in three, leaving many colleges vulnerable to congressional displeasure.

The House resolution suggests how seriously conservatives take the issue of academic rights, and implies they might be willing to use the big stick of federal funding down the road.

Higher-education lobbyists say Congress hasn't used that leverage to force curriculum changes on colleges or to retaliate for the political leanings of their students or faculty.

"Not in this round," says Mr. Horowitz to questions about whether the House bill can be enforced. But if the universities are "completely irresponsible, then we're going to nudge them," he adds.

Congressional pique with universities has been growing for years. Conservative lawmakers, including House Education Committee Chairman John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, complain that they are relentlessly badgered for more money for student grants and loans, but are stiff-armed when they ask for accountability measures in return. Two years ago, with college tuition soaring, higher-education lobbying groups beat back a House Republican attempt to link some federal aid to the colleges' willingness to limit price increases. Colleges also have battled House attempts to hold them accountable for the graduation rates and learning progress of their students.

The academic-rights bill poses a different risk for colleges and universities, though, because it second-guesses their classroom practices, says Robert Andringa, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which represents 131 schools. "If Congress feels it needs to start addressing academic freedom in a law, what's next?" he asks.

The current legislation is being fueled by several headline-grabbing incidents last school year involving outspoken college professors, including a University of Colorado teacher who justified the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. The larger backdrop, though, is the culture war simmering on campuses that long have tended to be politically and socially liberal, but now are experiencing the growth of conservative political and evangelical Christian groups.

Those groups complain about a lack of intellectual diversity on their campuses, even as universities undertake high-profile and expensive racial- and ethnic-diversity programs. To prove the point, conservative groups this year tabulated the political-party registrations of their professors, then published statistics that they said show Democrats predominate on most campuses.

Mr. Horowitz says he began promoting his seven-page academic bill of rights as a way to "protect the independence of the universities" from lawmakers or others that might try to interfere should professors be seen as overtly political. Among other things, his measure calls for hiring and promotion decisions to be based solely on a professor's competence, for reading lists to include dissenting viewpoints and for schools to "welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions." Faculty members shouldn't use their courses for "indoctrination," it adds.

Through an organization called Students for Academic Freedom, Mr. Horowitz also has called on students to report professors who they think promote a political viewpoint or discriminate against students for their beliefs. The two-year-old group, which says it has 150 campus chapters, has introduced nonbinding academic-rights measures in a dozen state legislatures, including those in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

In its most significant victory, Colorado's public universities pledged to follow Mr. Horowitz's bill of rights in return for the withdrawal of a binding law then before the legislature.

Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, the faculty union, dismisses Mr. Horowitz's assertion that he is only acting to protect colleges. He sees a bill of rights as an attempt by conservative politicians to "rectify what they believe is an ideological imbalance" on the campuses. Because it "comes at a time when power in Washington is heavily tilted in one direction, that concerns me," he adds.

Members of Congress began pondering their own academic bill of rights two years ago when Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, introduced a bill that largely copied Mr. Horowitz's wording. Mr. Kingston, whose father and sister are professors, says he is "pro-academic." But with taxpayers providing billions of dollars to the universities, they should be assured that professors won't "ridicule my kid when he has a George Bush bumper sticker," he says.

The Kingston measure went nowhere for two years, but in June, Republicans attached a shortened version to the Higher Education Act, which provides grants and loans to millions of college students. In hopes of heading it off, university presidents passed their own academic-rights statement. But the House education committee passed the measure anyway, over the opposition of Democrats who called Mr. Horowitz's student groups "thought police."

Faculty groups say that Congress's measure is costly and unnecessary. Florida has estimated that an academic-rights measure before its legislature would cost $4.3 million a year in staffing and legal costs. The AAUP argues that colleges already have grievance procedures and student-written teacher evaluations where allegations of ideological discrimination can be aired.

For Congress to get involved suggests "a lack of professionalism" among teachers, says David Hollinger, who heads the AAUP's committee on academic freedom and teaches the history of academia at the University of California at Berkeley.

Mr. Horowitz says that isn't the point, and that his measure is only about "decorum," "consumer fraud" and protecting the core values of the universities from activist professors. "It will only be a conservative issue if liberals make it that," he adds.


This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made
available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic,
democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice
issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by
Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit
to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must
obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

MEDIA FUTURE: Al Gore on TV and the threat to American Democracy

Former Vice president Al Gore was a keynote speaker today at the headquarters of The Associated Press in New York, where about 150 new-media professionals were meeting at a conference entitled: "We Media: Behold the Power of Us" -- about the future of journalism and media.

Link to his speech and other presentations at the conference from here:

At the URL below, you can hit links that will download MP3 audio of Gore's
speech and of a panel discussion including: Farai Chideya, Editor & Founder, Pop and Politics; Tom Curley, President & CEO, The Associated Press; Richard Sambrook, Director, BBC Global News Division; Larry Kramer, President, CBS Digital Media. Merrill Brown, Principal, MMB Media LLC.

After reading his speech, if you go to this link:
You can see the start of a thread of comments about his talk.

Here's a transcript of his prepared remarks:

Oct 05, 2005 -- 02:30:01 PM EST

Remarks by Al Gore as prepared
Associated Press / The Media Center
October 5, 2005

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions. How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?" The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history." But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here:he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well-informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."

Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire of Reason." Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in the presence of others -- but more commonly by communicating with their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of protecting the freedom of the printing press. Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.

Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print. And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.

Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar. But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow -- and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist."

But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists. It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation. Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere" , or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades. In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - "We the People" - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people. And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the authority of government. The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas!

1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all;

2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them;

3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.

What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise was a startling new development in human history: for the first time, knowledge regularly mediated between wealth and power. The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and eventually, we still dream, for all.

And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and power, self-government was understood to be the instrument with which the people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Rule of Reason under-girded and strengthened the rule of law.

But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this - including especially the ability of the American people to exercise the reasoned collective judgments presumed in our Founders' design -- depended on the particular characteristics of the marketplace of ideas as it operated during the Age of Print. Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today. Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens. Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.

The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in each community and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a few. The production of programming has been centralized and has usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control virtually all of the television programming in America. Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.

So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.

It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance. It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in!
the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.

The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me. Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."

The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the "horse race" and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which some disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it stinks.")

In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore. Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on. And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.

One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news. This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both. One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy. Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power. And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that. tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush's Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America's marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the manufacture of consent...was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique...under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy."

Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of America's gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth.

I don't know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel. We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network. I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America's ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success. I want to close with the two things I've learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the establishing reflex." And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously - sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.


FREE SPEECH: China closes popular online forum site


Popular online bulletin board shuttered

(Oct. 05, 2005)(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 3 October 2005 CPJ
press release:
In China, a popular Web forum is shuttered

New York, October 3, 2005 - The Committee to Protect Journalists
condemnsthe shuttering of the Beijing-based Yannan bulletin board
system. Radio FreeAsia reported today that the popular Web forum was
closed after providingcoverage and debate on a turbulent recall
campaign in a village in Guangdongprovince. (

Yannan posted a September 30 announcement stating that it would be
closeduntil further notice for "cleanup and rectification." It did
not elaborate.Nine days before, the Web site removed postings on the
political standoff inthe village of Taishi, as well as separate
discussions of murders committedby a Ningxia migrant worker,
according to international news reports.

The action comes less than a week after government agencies announced
newrules restricting Internet news and online content.

"Yannan has provided an important and rare forum for Chinese citizens
toexchange information and debate issues that are crucial to the
country'sfuture," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "Coupled
with theannouncement of new Internet regulations, China is sending a
clear anddisturbing message that it intends to crack down on free
expression on theWeb."

Readership had soared as Yannan provided a forum for public debate on
theefforts of Taishi villagers to recall the elected village
committee head,Chen Jinsheng, whom they accused of corruption,
according to ChinaInformation Center, a U.S.-based organization. The
case captivatedacademics, journalists, and legal scholars who saw it
as a test of thegovernment's commitment to its experiments in small-
scale democracy. Therecall efforts pitted villagers against local
officials and police, whoarrested dozens of protesters, many of whom
are elderly, according to newsreports.

The administrators of bulletin board, or BBS, forums in China
areresponsible for their content. In addition, new Internet
regulationsclassify bulletin boards carrying current events as news
organizations andmake them subject to State Council approval and
strict guidelines. New rulesalso ban any online content that could
incite "illegal protests" orgatherings.

Police briefly detained a journalist covering the Taishi standoff for
theHong Kong-based South China Morning Post on August 31, the

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that
works tosafeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information,

For further information, contact Asia Program Coordinator Abi Wright
(x140)or Research Associate Kristin Jones at CPJ, 330 Seventh Ave.,
New York, NY10001, U.S.A., tel: +1 212 465 1004, fax: +1 212 465
9568,,, Internet:

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of
CPJ.In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please
credit CPJ. (

ISSUE: Blogs as journalism? Blogfights in Missouri


Consider these two blogs in Missouri -- each openly partisan. Are they any
different from the partisan American newsletters two centuries ago? We'll
consider this along with the discussion of Benington's Haswell.

By Steven Clift

The partisan conflict-oriented national left/right political
blogosphere is deepening within the states. If you know of other
states where the "virtual civil war" is going local, let me know:

This of course is natural political competition among partisans for
power. It again raises the need for civic-minded investments that
counter often negative aspects of the new media when "politics as
usual" figures out how to use these tools like in Missouri. When the
model of diatribe and sarcasm works its way down into local
communities the lack of alternatives will be clear and politics will
become even more acidic to regular citizens. Contrast
http://Northfield.Org (the case study is here )with the national and
emerging state political blogging scene and you'll get a sense of the
opportunity we have (or will miss) to do something different.


Blog dogs governor, and Blunt bites back

Pointedly partisan Web site inspires rivals to return fire

The Kansas City Star

Matt Blunt is learning that being governor in the age of blogging
makes you an even bigger target.

Through the power of blogs —interactive Internet sites that allow
readers to add their comments to those of the site’s publisher —
critics now have platforms to challenge and mock Missouri’s governor
at every turn. One site in particular — — has
sparked the ire of the Republican Blunt and his staff.

Blatantly partisan and bitingly sarcastic, the site is the brainchild
of former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Democrat, and her former chief
of staff, Roy Temple, who has emerged as the Blunt administration’s
chief antagonist.

Temple’s site has lampooned the governor for barring protesters in
wheelchairs from Blunt’s speech to the Governor’s Council on
Disability. It chided Blunt for giving multiple and changing reasons
for remodeling his office during a budget crunch. And it mocked the
governor for “letting the insurance industry pick its state
regulator” and “standing up for industry bad actors,” then declaring
September “Life Insurance Awareness Month.”

After enduring months of criticism and sometimes unflattering
revelations, Blunt and his staff last week lashed out at the site.

Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson issued a statement calling “a left-wing blog site … best known for posting
scurrilous attacks on Gov. Blunt, his wife and infant son.” has spawned a conservative imitator,, whose biggest target so far has been state Auditor
Claire McCaskill, a Democrat now seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.


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democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice
issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by
Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
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obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

ISSUE: Are bloggers journalists? We'll consider this soon

Rebecca MacKinnon, a former CNN China correspondent who is now at the
Berkman Center at Harvard, was interviewed tonight on WGBH-Channel 2 in
Boston about whether bloggers should be considered journalists. There is a
significant debate going on about this and we will consider it as an issue
during some class later in October.

We'll take a half-hour for that class to view the interview. You can see
the page which links to the QuickTime video of the interview at:

But no need to read it now -- we'll schedule it.

-- bill
Bill Densmore, director
The Media Giraffe Project
Journalism Program
Department of Communication
108 Bartlett Hall
Univ. of Massachusetts-Amherst
Amherst MA 01003
OFF: 413-577-4370 / CELL: 413-458-8001

ISSUE: Propaganda? Media activists seek prosecution of White House over "faux news"

We will set aside some class time sometime in the next few weeks to
discuss the issue of "sponsored news" -- when the government, or a private
organization, prepares video news releases which appear to be news which
TV stations broadcast. Is this propaganda, or public information? Who is
responsible for alerting to the public when a news report is actually a
paid press release? The TV station which airs it?

Another issue.

-- bill

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2005 15:37:26 -0400
From: Rob Williams <>
To: ACME List <>
Subject: [ACME Member List] BREAKING BULLETIN - TAKE ACTION NOW - Prosecute
White House Propaganda Crimes

Hello ACME colleagues,

We are backing this Free Press initiative as a coalition.

I urge you to sign up as individuals, as well.

Simply click on "demanding a full prosecution," below.

The news belongs to us all,

Go get 'em,


Begin forwarded message:
> Subject: Prosecute White House Propaganda Crimes
> Reply-To:
> Last week, an official government investigation determined that the
> Bush Administration broke the law when it used taxpayer dollars to
> hire fake journalists like Armstrong Williams to promote its political
> agenda.
> It’s not only unethical, it’s also illegal. The only way for justice
> to be served is for you and 50,000 others to add your name to a letter
> I am sending to Congress and the Justice Department demanding
> prosecution. A copy of your letter will be sent to all the leaders of
> the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.
> Please put your name next to mine in demanding a full prosecution.
> This White House has a knack for evading prosecution. Our strength is
> in our numbers -- I need you to stand by me and make the charges stick
> against an administration that has set aside more than a quarter
> billion dollars to push covert propaganda on the public. No other
> administration has spent so much to deceive so many.
> In a report released on Sept. 30, the Government Accountability Office
> found that the Department of Education illegally used taxpayer dollars
> to fund a covert propaganda campaign, funneling money to Williams to
> tout Bush's education policies in advance of the 2004 elections. The
> investigation also dug up other instances of abuse, including a
> previously undisclosed case in which the Bush administration
> commissioned a newspaper article that praised the White House's role
> in promoting science education. But these abuses may just be the tip
> of the iceberg.
> We need the White House to provide a full accounting of the more than
> $250 million in taxpayer funds spent to promote its political agenda.
> Tell Congress and Justice to prosecute these crimes to the full extent
> of the law.
> The administration's silence on propaganda speaks volumes. Without
> popular dissent, an emboldened White House will continue to throw up
> obstacles to full disclosure. It is now up to the public to pressure
> our government to enforce the law and stop propaganda crimes.
> Take action today -- and don't forget to tell your friends.
> Onward,
> Robert McChesney
> President
> Free Press
> P.S. Learn more about stopping news fraud at
> You ( are receiving this message as a
> subscriber of the Free Press E-Activist list. To discontinue receiving
> messages, please visit

Monday, October 03, 2005

COPYRIGHT: WSJ interview with Napster founder Sean Fanning

In 2001, Napster was ordered by a federal court to stop allowing its users
to infringe on music copyrights. A sort time later, the service shut down.
In this 2002 Wall Street Journal interview, the founder of the "first
Napster" -- the first Internet file-sharing service to reach the mass
market -- gives candid views about copyright law.,,SB1033415659676981993,00.html

With Napster shut down since last summer, a number of music-sharing Web
sites have rapidly gained audience share. Remarkably, the Napster service
still gets traffic even though it is no more, presumably from users
launching the application and attempting to access the site.

Application June 2002 U.S. Home Users % Change vs. June 2001
Kazaa Media Desktop 8,257,000 +1,491%
Audiogalaxy Satellite 3,217,000 +346%
Morpheus 2,950,000 +265%
Winmx 2,326,000 +256%
Imesh 1,223,000 +32%
Napster 896,000 -89%
Bearshare 683,000 -19%
Aimster 440,000 -18%

Napter founder ponders His Legacy -- and Future

October 1, 2002

Shawn Fanning, at 21 years old, has already created something of
significance, nurtured it and watched it die.

His music-sharing software program Napster caused panic in the recording
industry when it showed up on the Internet in 1999, only to be shut down
last year in legal proceedings over copyright issues. Napster Inc.'s best
hope for survival as a company was dashed last month when a bankruptcy
court judge blocked its sale to German media concern Bertelsmann AG.

Napster laid off its employees. Its headquarters in a drab office park in
Redwood City, Calif., sit empty but for a lone former executive dealing
with financial odds-and-ends. The company's creditors last week said they
signed a nonbinding letter of intent with an unidentifed party to sell
Napster's assets, but the creditors continue to talk with other bidders.

Now Napster's founder and former chief technology officer is spending his
first few weeks of unemployment embarking on another type of nurturing
relationship, as new legal guardian of his 15-year-old half-brother. Mr.
Fanning, who quit college as a freshman at Northeastern University in
Boston and who has no current plans to return to school, says he's also
not ready to jump back into the online music industry.

But this is not to say the music industry can rest easily. Online
music-swapping through Napster copycat programs has exploded. In an
interview, Mr. Fanning discusses the entertainment industry's continuing
battle against Internet file-sharing services, the legacy of the service
he created and life after Napster.

WSJ: Since you created Napster in 1999, many clones have appeared on the
Internet, including Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster. The music and movie
industries are now suing the creators of all three. Recording companies
are even considering legal action against the biggest users of
file-sharing services. Do you think Internet-based piracy can be stopped
in the courts?

Shawn Fanning: You can't stop technology. Even if they succeed in shutting
down those particular services, new services will spring up. It's the
nature of the Internet.

I think the [industry's] approach of providing a limited catalog of music,
providing services that are significantly below the consumer's
expectations, and then simultaneously scaring them from trying to do what
they want is the wrong approach. They really need to try to determine what
are the core things that people really love and respect from a music
service and make sure they satisfy those needs.

WSJ: There's proposed legislation in Washington that would excuse the
industry from antihacking laws, allowing them to thwart piracy by
employing technical countermeasures on peer-to-peer networks. Do you think
such technical approaches to stopping online piracy will work?

Mr. Fanning: I don't. Trying to get authorization to attack peoples'
personal computers ... is so completely ludicrous and could have very,
very significant implications. My view is that it won't have the affect
that they're hoping for and, if anything, it will unite a lot of people
against them.

WSJ: Compact disc shipments fell 7% in the first six months of this year.
The recording industry says its data show consumers who download music
from the Internet are purchasing fewer CDs. Do you agree that the
Internet-based music services are hurting the music industry?

Mr. Fanning: It may be hurting the music industry at this point, but my
view is when consumers have the ability to learn about new and interesting
music -- and the barrier is lowered in a way that gives them control over
how they experience it -- I think those are positive things.

As Napster grew and ultimately hit its peak, if you look at CD sales
[they] were up as long as Napster was popular. The point at which Napster
started filtering (blocking out certain songs after a court order in March
2001) is the point at which the record industry announced that this
constant increase in their CD sales suddenly changed.

WSJ: If you were able to do it over again, is there anything you would do
differently from a technical or legal perspective to ensure Napster's

Mr. Fanning: There are certainly areas I can identify where there were
poor decisions on the part of the company, but each of those decisions
certainly had a justification. As soon as we brought in our first CEO, we
were trying to talk to the record companies about obtaining licenses.
We've always had an interest in paying artists and rights-holders based on
usage if we could come up with a business model that made sense for
everyone involved. We were pursuing those from the start.

On a personal level, I can certainly think of some things I would have
done better as far as managing my time and living a healthy lifestyle.

WSJ: Were you spending an unhealthy amount of time at the company?

Mr. Fanning: For sure. I was spending a lot of time on technology
development. We would create artificial emergencies and stay up for days
at a time writing code. Toward the latter part, after we'd had so many
emergencies, so many up and downs on the roller coaster that was Napster,
I learned to stay focused and ignore some of the outside influences. It
helped me mentally to accomplish a lot more and do higher quality work.
We kind of got wrapped up in the lawsuit [with the recording industry]. It
was important to stay focused on representing why we believed we were
right and certainly put our time and money into protecting the company
legally. I think the product certainly suffered a bit in the process.

WSJ: Napster was hugely popular although unprofitable, and never struck it
rich by going public or selling to a larger company. Do you feel any
bitterness about having missed out on the big money of the Internet era?

Mr. Fanning: Not at all. I started out with the intention of learning
about Windows programming and trying to solve an interesting problem.
[Napster's popularity] certainly far exceeded my expectations. I didn't
walk away with a ton of money, but I earned a salary while I was working
obviously and I was able to make a little bit of money in the process. If
I had just cashed out, it's possible I could just have blown it all.

WSJ: What have you been doing since you left Napster?

Mr. Fanning: I've been relaxing. I just adopted my 15-year-old brother so
he's out in California with me now. I'm working on getting him in school
and just hanging out with him, and I'm working on my own personal
situation, which I've sort of been neglecting for a while.

WSJ: You're living in Mountain View, in Silicon Valley?

Mr. Fanning: Yeah, I rent a house here.

WSJ: You're kind of a dad now.

Mr. Fanning: I wouldn't say that. I would say this environment represents
a much more positive environment for him than his East Coast environment.
He's around a lot of people who give him positive feedback. I've had him
out here for extended periods of time before, and he's always changed in a
positive way just because of the people he's around. (He declined to
discuss his family further.)

WSJ: What's next for you -- do you have any ideas you'd like to pursue?

Mr. Fanning: I love early-stage companies. If I do something it's going to
be a start-up but right now I'm not in a position to really say anything.

WSJ: Is it music-related?

Mr. Fanning: I have some music-related ideas, but I'm a little burnt out
on that space. If I do ultimately pursue those [ideas], I'm certainly
going to make sure that they're well thought out, and I get the right
people involved.

Write to Nick Wingfield at

Updated October 1, 2002 9:50 a.m. EDT


Napster rocked the music industry with its popular but controversial
file-swapping service. Browse a timeline of key events in Napster's rise
and fall, and review key coverage below:

. Judge Blocks Sale to Bertelsmann (Sept. 3, 2002)
. Napster Files for Chapter 11 Ahead of Sale (June 4, 2002)
. Bertelsmann, in Reversal, Buys Napster (May 17, 2002)
. Top Napster Executives Resign (May 15, 2002)
. Court Orders Napster to Stop Infringement (Feb. 13, 2001)

COPYRIGHT: "Eyes on the Prize" -- why it's so hard to make a film

This article illustrates one of the consequences of current copyright law: if you want to make a so-called "derivative work" -- a work of art that is itself new, but contains its and pieces of other copyrighted work -- you generally need permission to use all those pieces. Some people -- such as Professor Larry Lessig, argue that this stifles free expression and the creation of new works. Especially, it may tend to interfer with the flourishing of "blogs" and other "wisdom of crowds" citizen-journalism
efforts. Why?

January 26, 2005
From: Aliza Dichter <>

Eyes on the Screen

"Eyes on the Prize", Civil Rights Documentary, To Be
Released Over the Internet Despite Copyright Disputes

A day of public screenings of the legendary documentary,
was to be organized for February 8th, 2005


According to some, it's illegal for makers of the civil rights documentary "Eyes on the Prize" to put it on DVD or show it in public. But at 8:00 PM on February during Black History Month, Downhill Battle ( is encouraging Americans to celebrate the struggle and triumph of the civil rights movement with screenings of "Eyes on the Prize" in homes and public places with the goal of having a screening in every major city in America. The campaign is called Eyes on the Screen.

"Eyes on the Prize" is the most comprehensive and revered civil rights documentary ever made. But the documentary has not been available for public viewing for the past 10 years because of unreasonable copyright laws that impose stifling restrictions on artists and filmmakers. In one instance, copyright holders believe they should receive licensing fees for the song "Happy Birthday," which appears in footage of a group of people singing to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"To celebrate Black History Month, we believe that "Eyes on the Prize" should be seen by as many people as possible," says Tiffiniy Cheng of Downhill Battle. "The civil rights movement is just too important for this invaluable resource to be denied to the public. So, we're going to help distribute "Eyes on the Prize" to a mass audience and communities can have screenings."

"Eyes on the Prize is one of the most effective documentaries ever put together that dealt with civic engagement," says civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot. "This is analogous to stopping the circulation of all the books about Martin Luther King, stopping the circulation of all the books about Malcolm X, stopping the circulation of books about the founding of America... I would call upon everyone who has access to 'Eyes on the Prize' to openly violate any and all laws regarding its showing."

"Eyes on the Prize" is an award-winning 14-volume documentary made by the late Henry Hampton, tracking the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1965. Clayborne Carson, a Stanford University history professor, has said, "It is the principal film account of the most important American social justice movement of the 20th century" (Wired News, 12/22/04).

"Eyes on the Prize" was the first introduction to the history of the Civil Rights Movement for millions of people," says Nicholas Reville of Downhill Battle, "But our corporatized copyright system is keeping it locked away."

"The situation of "Eyes on the Prize" is a perfect example of why copyright law isn't working for the public," says Cheng. "It's ridiculous that this documentary is languishing in copyright purgatory, instead of being shown in classrooms. "Eyes on the Screen" is a perfect example of how people can bring attention to bad copyright law and start turning the situation around."

For background, see this article:

COPYRIGHT: Google halts book-scanning project until November amid publisher protests (fwd)

Updated: 3:46 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO - Stung by a publishing industry backlash, Google Inc. has halted
its efforts to scan copyrighted books from some of the nation's largest
university libraries so the material can be indexed in its leading Internet
search engine.

The company announced the suspension, effective until November, in a notice
posted on its Web site just before midnight Thursday by Adam Smith, the manager
of its ambitious program to convert millions of books into a digital format.

"We think most publishers and authors will choose to participate in the
publisher program in order (to) introduce their work to countless readers
around the world," Smith wrote. "But we know that not everyone agrees, and we
want to do our best to respect their views too."

Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they
don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the
program instead of opting in.

That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.

"Google's announcement does nothing to relieve the publishing industry's
concerns," Patricia Schroeder, the trade group's president, said in a statement
Friday. "Google's procedure shifts the responsibility for preventing
infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning every
principle of copyright law on its ear."

Google wants to scan copyright-protected books from three major libraries .
Harvard, Michigan and Stanford.

The company also is scanning books stored at the New York Public Library and
Oxford University, but those two libraries so far are providing Google only
with "public domain" works .material no longer protected by copyrights.

Google hasn't disclosed how many books it has scanned since it first announced
the program eight months ago. The company expects to be scanning books for at
least five years . and probably much longer if it can persuade other libraries
around the world to participate.

The project troubles publishers because they fear making digital versions of
copyrighted books available on the Internet could open the door to unauthorized
duplication and distribution, similar to the rampant online pirating that has
decimated the sales in the music industry.

Publishers are also upset that Google might be able to generate more
advertising revenue by offering an index of copyrighted books and so far hasn't
offered to pay any royalties for its potential financial gains. Mountain View,
Calif.-based Google ranks among the Internet's most profitable companies,
having earned $712 million on revenue of $2.6 billion during the first half of
this year.

Google executives have positioned the scanning project as a largely altruistic
endeavor that will make it easier for people around the world to read the
valuable . and often rare . material stockpiled in libraries. The company
hasn't disclosed how much the project will cost, but it's expected to require a
substantial investment.

The attacks on Google's handling of copyrighted material extend beyond books.

One of Google's most popular features . a section that compiles news stories
posted on thousands of Web sites . also has triggered claims of copyright
infringement. Agence France-Presse, a French news agency, is suing for damages
of at least $17.5 million, alleging "Google News" is illegally capitalizing on
its copyrighted material.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available
in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First
Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We
believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S.
Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the
material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving the included information for research and
educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog
for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright

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