December 7, 2006Several public policy groups are beginning to set up limited operations within the virtual realm called Second Life; lectures, publications, that sort of thing. On a much larger scale, car, shoe and hotel companies are doing business there. But along with budding euphoria over what looks to be the next big online thing, there's a risk that regulators could get in there early and spoil the fun. Already, membership in Second Life is impressive as is the money spent there (over half-a-million over the past 24 hours if their stats are to be believed), but actual member usage as a percentive of members is often relatively low; it'd be easy to mess things up.
Adam Thierer, my former partner in crime at the Cato Institute and now senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, has taken an early look at some emerging MMOG regulatory debates via the...
December 5, 2006Alex Singleton's LibertarianHome blog (go bookmark it) today highlights a new Economic Research Council report on the British pop music business called Creative Destruction In the Music Industry: The Way Ahead. The report's author is Andrew Ian Dodge.
This study is yet more confirmation that the radically changing universe of digital content requires new business models and drastic liberalization of spectrum and airwaves--policies worthy of tomorrow's torrent of broadcasted, narrowcasted and self-casted content. Protection won't even save the recording industry in its current form since the industry is a middleman operation that must adapt given the increasing cheapness of both recording...
November 28, 2006The European Union claims that unsolicited email --spam-- accounts for between 50 and 80 percent of all Internet traffic. But that can't be true, because a 2002 EU directive outlawed spam. Worse, an EU spokesman yesterday called the United States the biggest offender, blaming us for 22 percent of the torrent. That can't be true either, since here in the U.S. we passed the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003, and as everyone knows, especially the politicians and activists who pushed for that legislation, there isn't any spam here anymore.
November 27, 2006Microsoft met a November deadline imposed by EU officials for sharing "interface' and "compatibility' information about its operating system to workgroup server market competitors who want to build for it. Since markets are incapable of something known as a "contract" or a "deal" or consumer rejection of overly exclusive behavior, regulators insist they have a role in helping competitors hitch their wagon by forcing Microsoft to provide a government-approved technical manual.
The original ruling came in 2004, addressing as well as server software issues. Record fines have been handed down on both counts, as well as a directive that Microsoft sell a version of Windows without Media Player software.
Now the company seems to have complied with the latest commandment, but we'll just have to wait and see, won't we? The European Commission said (excerpted from the Wall Street Journal...
November 17, 2006The Antitrust Modernization Commission will report recommendations for streamlining the nation's antitrust laws sometime in April 2007; while the ponderous commission has been around for three years nearly undetected and undetectable, there are good signs that even commissions like this are heeding the wisdom of the magnificent Milton Friedman, lost to us yesterday at the age of 94. (See stories and pictures here, and my colleague Iain Murray's appreciation here.)
According to Dow Jones Newswires, the AMC panel recognizes that regulators get several bites at the apple when it comes to examining mergers, and they want to...
November 16, 2006The lede of this Washington Post article ["Loudoun Excluded From Utility Route"] is jarring to me:
Dominion Virginia Power has excluded most of Loudoun County as a potential route for a power line in northwestern Virginia, putting to rest fears that steel lattice towers and high-voltage cables would slice through parts of the county with deep natural and historic significance.
We're supposed to feel "fear" because of pretended offended aesthetics? What about the "historical significance" of electric power itself? Iain Murray's oped ["What Will We Do When America's Lights Go Out?"] on the sorry shape of our electricity infrastructure-- unwieldy...
October 24, 2006The Child Online Protection Act (COPA), signed by President Clinton eight years ago, has yet to be enforced. Kids have grown up waiting to be "protected" by it. The law requires that Website operators, through such means as requiring credit card numbers and other techniques for proof of age, must ensure that material "harmful to children," is not accessed by them. Sizeable penalties apply.
Free speech advocates (Salon, the ACLU) have continued their arguments--in a trial in federal court starting today--that the law is too vague and could prevent the accessing of legitimate material by adults. The Supreme Court has twice upheld injunctions barring enforcement.
It's become tiresome to reiterate...
September 27, 2006As often happens to successful ventures, Starbucks now faces critics who challenge the company's leasing contracts, which specify competitors may not occupy the same building. But that's a sensible business practice for any expanding firm, and there's always the building next door available to those rivals, anyway. The company is also being attacked for buying out rivals or building nearby stores, as if competition itself were objectionable.
These critics allege that a firm employs “predatory” tactics to drive rivals out of business, snatch their customer base, and amass a larger market share—and charge monopoly prices after achieving all this. As aspiring rivals surface, the now-monopolist merely cuts price again. Yet when has anyone ever...
July 25, 2006Contrary to the network neutrality agenda presented in this Newsforge
article by some anonymous individual going by the name of James Glass,
there is no such thing as one network that is suitable for all the disparate
functions that are increasingly being demanded today (porn, national defense,
financial transactions, massive uploaded video, kid-friendly environments,
secure video-conferencing, etc.) Future, wealthier, generations will
"surf" networks--not sites on a network. Think of them as "Splinternets"
rather than just the "capital-I" Internet.
There are good reasons for wireless phone networks to
exclude all the services noted below by Glass-not-his-real-name; the cell
network couldn't function otherwise; it'd be as polluted as Kazaa and
unsuitable for its purpose of making reliable calls. Better to accord...