Julie E. Cohen, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center (Feb 23, 2009 at Case Western Reserve University, School of Law) In recent years, the law has been asked to respond to a variety of disputes involving accessibility of information and related technical standards and practices. These disputes cover the waterfront from the design of proprietary media players to network neutrality to privacy protection for search queries. So far, the law has been unable to generate compelling discourses and principles for evaluating them. Prof. Cohen offers another way of thinking about issues of accessibility and unauthorized access. The reference point for this exercise is not be innovation, competition or expressive freedom, but rather the concept of everyday practice, a term intended to encompass all of the ways in which situated users experience and interact with networked information technologies and the purposes for which they do so. Attention to the demands of everyday practice suggests that the law should shelter hacking and tinkering in many instances, and explains why those activities are valuable both intrinsically and instrumentally. But altering the law to privilege technical self-help is not a panacea. Prof. Cohen argues that the law also should pay closer attention to the design of network standards and related expert processes.
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