Please join us for this CIPR Research Lunch on Sept 17, 2014, featuring Dr. Christopher Terry (Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies). A light lunch will be provided.
Porn, Privacy, Copyright and Net Neutrality: Standing at the Digital Crossroads of Constitutive Choice
Dr. Christopher Terry
Lecturer, Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies, UW-Milwaukee
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
12:30 – 2:00pm
2025 E Newport Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211
In The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications, sociologist Paul Starr developed a theory of “constitutive choice” to explain how the U.S. systems of mass communication had evolved differently from those of other countries. Starr explains that the design a country’s communication system is reflective of a society’s value system related to free speech, access to information, privacy and copyright. Just as with earlier systems of mass communication, as digital technology becomes a fundamental part of our media environment, we see three key issues arise-Privacy, Copyright and Net Neutrality. In terms of a media system, this is part and parcel of the constitutive choices we face in terms of the integration of the next generation of mass communication.\
Our digital media environment was shaped by the constitutive choices made in relationship to earlier communication systems but also by the changing of our traditional value system away from a citizen orientated perspective to one based in economics. Although the basic design of digital communications are reflective of the constitutive choices made for systems of communication as far back as the U.S. Postal System, the change in values away from citizen access has had a profound effect on how the system operates, the values it serves and the ways information is distributed.
The design of a system is reflective of its values, and with these changes, the dynamics, operation and design of our communication system have shifted substantially. Although policy researchers and other academics frequently discuss these changes as separate issues, the reality of modern issues of privacy and the ethics of mass data collection can be increasingly tied to the issues of surrounding digital copyright, access to information and net neutrality.
This project proposes that at the center of all of these issues, standing at the ethical crossroads between the choices we make in relationship to access to information, copyright and privacy in the digital age, is a significant series of intellectual property cases involving the illegal downloading of pornography. More than any other example, the nature of these cases illustrates the intersection between these essential values in the digital age. In terms of privacy, violators have been identified using an invasive tracking mechanism. In terms of net neutrality, internet service providers are using these cases as justification for throttling or content blocking. In terms of copyright, the constitutional premise of copyright to stimulate and enhance has been replaced by a desire to use existing copyright law as a way to coerce financial settlements by threatening to expose serial downloaders. These collective changes are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines our system of communication and the role it plays in a democratic society. Pornography has replaced political speech as non-governmental entities control our access to information.
This paper combines historical, legal and policy research to trace the significant changes in terms of ethics, law, content distribution, our value system and constitutive choice to illustrate that the time to rethink and reevaluate our priorities is now.