Who Owns Information? From Privacy to Public Access

Who Owns Information? From Privacy to Public Access

Who Owns Information? From Privacy to Public Access

Who Owns Information? From Privacy to Public Access

Synopsis

'Every word we record, every trip we make, every item we buy or order, and every move we make leaves a trace or trail. Who owns it, controls it, has access to it? Anne Wells Branscomb has written a very accessible guidebook for students, scholars, and all citizens on how to think about control of information and thus of action.'-George Gerbner, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Annenberg School of Communication

Excerpt

Anyone who thinks that the ownership of information is an arcane preoccupation for lawyers and economists will think again after reading this book. Using some of the most practical and painful examples possible, Anne Wells Branscomb demonstrates the urgency and importance of the collision of intellectual property rights and privacy for all citizens, whether they are high-level executives or entry-level or blue-collar workers. She pointedly asks questions that all too often have been ignored by others who have observed, praised, or lamented the march of technology and the massive growth of information and data sources. She raises questions that go to the heart of individual identity and personal privacy, such as who owns your name, telephone number, medical history, image, or record of videos you might have rented. In the process, the author, a distinguished attorney and communications scholar and longtime observer of new media technologies and their impact, demonstrates the inadequacy of present laws and regulations in this fragile and unsettled environment.

All this has been brought on by the fast-paced communications revolution of recent years, ratcheted up even more recently by corporate machinations that are building a giant information superhighway. What was once the stuff of graduate seminars on information theory or communications policy is now truly in the public arena, where it is beginning to dawn on people that the information revolution may affect them in helpful or harmful ways. In part, the message here is that what you don't know or don't protect can make your life quite perilous.

What seems to be a simple question about who owns information really is not. Most often, the answer from the players in this field is that they simply don't know, while the courts, scrambling to fashion solutions to daily problems, typically answer that "it depends." The reason is that existing laws at the state and federal levels in the United States are light-

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