GW Law Tech Policy Talks

In recent weeks, GW Law faculty gathered with Internet policy and technology leaders to discuss breaking news and trends in the industry, highlighting the Law School’s expertise and leadership in the field.

Professor Jeffrey Rosen, along with The New Republic (TNR) Editor Richard Just, recently moderated “On the Record with TNR: Newsmakers on Technology” at GW. The event focused on the future of technology and featured Edward Felten, Chief Technologist at the Federal Trade Commission; Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The event took place the day websites such as Wikipedia and Craigslist went dark to protest two U.S. House and Senate online piracy bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The bills aim to prevent foreign internet piracy of U.S. companies. Critics say the legislation will result in censorship and weakened cyber security.

As a technology law expert and Legal Affairs Editor of the New Republic, Professor Rosen has written extensively on Internet freedom issues. He is an editor of the recently published book, Constitution 3.0, that examines the constitutional protections of privacy and free speech in the digital age. “The future of privacy and technology is such a timely topic,” Professor Rosen said. “As the Supreme Court’s decision striking down GPS tracking without a warrant shows, the legal and technological boundaries are changing every day.”

True to GW’s hallmark for moving beyond textbooks, Professor Rosen guided Felten in an analysis of the Internet topics making headlines. Felten recognized the difference between sound policy provisions and panic regarding SOPA and PIPA. He said the bills will not stop piracy but may limit legitimate actors.

Professor Rosen conducted a lively discussion with Chairman Genachowski on the FCC’s vision for broadband leadership in 2012. Genachowski explained how the FCC is encouraging digital literacy, noting their efforts to expand broadband to all communities, schools, and small businesses. He also discussed how online piracy should not compromise free speech, innovation, or cyber security. 
The Obama Administration’s favorable response the previous weekend to two petitions opposing the bills also directed the dialogue among the speakers. Internet freedom in China, and social media’s role in the Arab Spring were also discussed.

Additionally, GW Law initiated the Global Internet Freedom and Human Rights Distinguished Speaker Series to address tech policy topics. Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, was a recent guest speaker. He cautioned against governments shutting down websites, and said that addressing violations of the law should not result in hindering an entire medium. 

The developing news on these topics in the days following the speaker series demonstrates the ongoing need for analysis from legal experts in the field of technology and cyber law. “It’s hard to imagine a better place to explore the transformation of technology policy than GW Law and Washington DC,” Professor Rosen said.

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