Homage to the Women of Public Radio..

And the men, too, of course – but bear with me.

So, I listen to public radio a lot.  And over the years, I’ve also been lucky enough to be interviewed on public radio a lot — NPR, BBC, CBC, the local university affiliate, whatever.  Sometimes its because they need a talking head to explain the latest intellectual land grab, the plan du jour to mess up the internet.  Sometimes its because I’ve written a book, or a comic book, or a novel and they are kind enough to cover it.  The first thing you notice if you do this enough is that public radio works partly because of the concentrated efforts of a disproportionate number of extraordinary women.  Its not that there aren’t brilliant male interviewers and producers at every level — and more the further up the prestige ladder you get. (Suspend the gender critique for a moment  people, there will be plenty of time for that later. I am working on an appreciation here.)  There are — and they are remarkable.  Frank Stasio of WUNC is probably the best interviewer I have ever encountered, at any level — a maestro, and its all live!  If Robert Siegel told me, with that slight note of private amusement in his voice, that the Martians had landed, or that the End of Days had come, I’d believe him.  I even love the way that Robin Lustig of the BBC World Service says “I’m Robin Lustig!” as though someone had just suggested that he wasn’t.   (We never doubted it, Robin, honest.)

I don’t even have the figures on gender breakdown — I am writing here as fanboy, not scholar, ok?  So for all I know, its just that my encounters were skewed by some bizarre selection bias.  But time after time, what you get is a 1.) smart 2.) informed 3.) woman who has 4.) actually done their research  5.) has a sense of humour 6.) a great voice and 7.)  can even get long winded academics to cut to their main point in under a paragraph. It could be the producer who does all the hard work behind the scenes and feeds the questions to the host to ask, or it could be the interviewer herself.  Now  in a non sexist economy, all these smart, intellectually agile generalists, with their ability to be a quick study — (“the last report was on mosquitoes, and now we turn to intellectual property!”) and to get things to run on time — maybe in a non sexist economy they’d all be moved to more “valuable” work as  missile engineers or sellers of credit default swaps.  My friend Janet Babin could probably run GM.  Great.  But while they are there, I want to celebrate them. The producers make the whole thing run.. and then let someone else take the credit.   Then there are the interviewers..  and, damn.

The first thing you have to understand is that they are in your ear.  I mean, in your ear.  You know that trademark female public radio voice?  Terry Gross, Barbara Bogaev you’ve probably heard.  But what about Nora Young of CBC’s Spark, Jessica Jones or Nora Flaherty who  interviewed me today for the Fordham NPR affiliate.   Yeah, that voice.  Well, you have to remember in lots of these interviews the host and interviewee are in different studios.  The host is off in the NPR batcave somewhere, and the interviewee is sitting in a dingy university studio, with headphones on, while a bored university technician files his fingernails and the sound comes over the ISDN line.  The key here is the headphones.  They are very good headphones.  Until I did Fresh Air, I had always wondered how they got the guests to have that slightly giddy good humour that makes the discussion work.  The answer is simple.  Barbara Bogaev (she was filling in for Terry Gross that day) could read pork belly futures prices or obituaries in my ear and I’d be giggly and good humoured.  You can practically feel the interviewer’s breath.  (I am sure there are people who go to sleep every night dreaming that Robert Siegel is blowing in their ears, but that’s just not my thing.)  Its like Frost/Nixon.  I’d cheerfully admit to invading Cambodia just to prolong the conversation.

The other thing — and I’ll happily agree that this one isn’t gendered in any way — is that public radio embodies the best tradition of the humanities.  Not just the generalist’s ability to turn a penetrating intelligence on the topic du jour.  (When, when, will Xeni Jardin come by and explain social media, iPhone apps and Tibetan dissidents to me?)  The ability to give someone their best argument..  to extract from the long winded dithering of their interviewees, the crisp and provocative statement of their best points, that is an ability that actually makes public debate possible.  At its best, this ability is supernatural.  (Jon Stewart, for example, is so funny that people miss what a superb interviewer he is.   His goal, though, isn’t always to have people show their best arguments.  He picks the one question — like the diamond cutter’s precisely chosen strike — that will cause the subject to deconstruct.)  But on public radio, they are generally trying to get the sides out in their best form and they are sometimes doing it live, on the fly.  Its hard.  I ask questions for a living — though without the same kind of time constraints — and I am still learning how to do it.  And the good ones have completely different styles.  Conversations with Brooke Gladstone of On the Media are hilarious — they wend hither and yon, turn back on themselves, jump to new topics and leave you dazzled and convinced that the only person who could follow the conversation is you.  Then Brooke and her amazing producer Nazanin Rafsanjani cut and splice and voila! — suddenly I actually sound more coherent, she’s touched on all the key points, and the fat has been trimmed away.  Done badly, it would be terrible, indeed it would be a falsification.  Done well, its something close to magic.  Frank Stasio is completely different.  You walk in, sit down, its live, he talks to you for 20 minutes and its like a conversation with an old friend but somehow you have strung all the key ideas together and bam, you are ushered out, and a couple of nervous teens who are doing community theater or a historian with a book about jazz come in, and the process is repeated.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t know these people — some of them have never interviewed me, and the ones who have wouldn’t remember.  Take 2 and its off to cover the sex trade in Albania, North Carolina furniture factories, or the bistronomie trend in Paris. They have better things to do than worry about the witterings of the law prof who was in segment B.   But I appreciate what they do.   TV interviews are the one night stands of the media.  Short, mutually false, messy, done for largely vanity’s sake and you come away feeling slightly unclean.  Public radio actually gets at the truth.  What’s the bottom line?  All over the country, probably all over the world, public radio is taking a hit.  The brilliant women and men who make it work are getting pink slips and going off to find jobs that will actually pay — as missile engineers or traders in default swaps or what have you.  So if you have a moment, give to your local public radio station, or to mine.  Rebuilding that talent base is going to be very, very hard.  And you will make this public radio fanboy very happy.

Saturday, July 18th, 2009 Uncategorized

From the Blog

  • Free, Open, Intellectual Property Textbook

    Jennifer Jenkins and I have just published the 2021 edition of our free, Creative Commons licensed, Intellectual Property textbook.

    read more

  • ‘Dumping: On Law Reviews’. The Green Bag

    I will probably never be published in a law review ever again after writing this.  I find myself curiously untroubled by the thought.  

    read more

  • Mark of the Devil: The University as Brand Bully

    I teach at Duke University, an institution I love.  The reverse may not be true however, at least after my most recent paper (with Jennifer Jenkins) — Mark of the Devil:  The University as Brand Bully.  (forthcoming in the Fordham Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Journal).  The paper is about the university most frequently accused of being a “trademark bully” — an entity that makes assertions and threats far beyond what trademark law actually allows, something that is all too common, with costs to both competition and free speech.   Unfortunately, that university is our own — Duke. 

    read more

  • Tragedy/Comedy of the Commons @ 50

    The Economist was kind enough to ask me to write an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons.  ““THE ONLY way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed.” This ominous sentence comes not from China’s one-child policy but from one of the 20th century’s most influential—and misunderstood—essays in economics. “The tragedy of the commons”, by Garrett Hardin, marks its 50th anniversary on December 13th.”  Read the rest here.

  • Theft: A History of Music — Free Comic


    read more

  • (When) Is Copyright Reform Possible?

    I am posting here a draft of a chapter for Ruth Okediji’s forthcoming book on the possibilities of international intellectual property reform.  In my case, the article recounts the lessons I learned from being part of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property in the UK.

    “In the five months we have had to compile the Review, we have sought never to lose sight of David Cameron’s “exam question”. Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth? The short answer is: yes. We have found that the UK’s intellectual property framework, especially with regard to copyright, is falling behind what is needed. Copyright, once the exclusive concern of authors and their publishers, is today preventing medical researchers studying data and text in pursuit of new treatments. Copying has become basic to numerous industrial processes, as well as to a burgeoning service economy based upon the internet. The UK cannot afford to let a legal framework designed around artists impede vigorous participation in these emerging business sectors.” Ian Hargreaves, Foreword: Hargreaves Review (2011)

    Read the chapter.

  • Apple Updates — A Comic

    sampleEver been utterly frustrated, made furious, by an Apple upgrade that made things worse?  This post is for you.  (With apologies to Randall Munroe.)

    read more

  • Open Coursebook in Intellectual Property

    Cover of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society and link to purchase at Amazon.comDuke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain is announcing the publication of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society—Cases and Materials by James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins. This book, the first in a series of Duke Open Coursebooks, is available for free download under a Creative Commons license. If you do not want to use the entire casebook you can view and download the individual chapters (in a variety of formats) here. It can also be purchased in a glossy paperback print edition for $29.99, $130 cheaper than other intellectual property casebooks.

    read more

  • So you’ve invented fantasy football, now what?

    We are posting excerpts from our new coursebook Intellectual Property: Law and the Information Society which will be published in two weeks is out now! It will be is of course  freely downloadable, and sold in paper for about $135 less than other casebooks.  (And yes, it will include  discussions  of whether one should ever use the term “intellectual property.” )  The book is full of practice examples..  This is one from Chapter One, on the theories behind intellectual property: “What if you came up with the idea of Fantasy Football?”  No legal knowledge necessary.  Why don’t you test your argumentative abilities…?

    read more

  • Free/Low Cost Intellectual Property Statutory Supplement

    Today, we are proud to announce the publication of our 2014 Intellectual Property  Statutory Supplement as a freely downloadable Open Course Book. Statutes Cover  It offers the full text of the Federal Trademark, Copyright and Patent statutes (including edits detailing the changes made by the America Invents Act.)  It also has a number of important international treaties and a  chart which compares the various types of Federal intellectual property rights — their constitutional basis, subject matter, length, exceptions and so on.You can see it here in print, or download it for free, here

    read more

  • Persnickety Snit

    This is the fourth in a series of postings of material drawn from our forthcoming, Creative Commons licensed, open coursebook on Intellectual Property.  It is about lawyers and language. 

    read more

  • Macaulay on Copyright

    Macaulay’s 1841 speech to the House of Commons on copyright law is often cited and not much read.  In fact, the phrase “cite unseen” gains a new meaning.  That is a shame, because it is masterful.  (And funny.) One fascinating moment?  When Macaulay warns that copyright maximalism will lead to a future of rampant illegality, as all happily violate a law that is presumed to have lost all moral legitimacy.

    At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot…  Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create.

    The legal change he thought would do that?  Extending copyright to the absurd length of life plus 50 years.  (It is now life plus 70).  Ah, Thomas, if only you could have been there for the Sonny Bono Term Extension debates.

    read more

  • Mark Twain on the Need for Perpetual Copyright

    This is the second in a series of postings of material drawn from our forthcoming, Creative Commons licensed, open coursebook on Intellectual Property.  The first was Victor Hugo: Guardian of the Public Domain The book will be released in late August.

    In 1906, Samuel Clemens (who we remember better by his pen name Mark Twain) addressed Congress on the reform of the Copyright Act.  Delicious.

    read more

  • Victor Hugo: Guardian of the Public Domain

    Jennifer Jenkins and I are frantically working to put together a new open casebook on Intellectual Property Law.  (It will be available, in beta version, this Fall under a CC license, and freely downloadable in multiple formats of course.  Plus it should sell in paper form for about $130 less than the competing casebooks. The accompanying statutory supplement will be 1/5  the price of most statutory supplements — also freely downloadable.)  More about that later.  While assembling the materials for a casebook, one gets to revisit the archives, reread the great writers.  Today I was revisiting Victor Hugo.  Hugo was a fabulous — inspiring, passionate — proponent of the rights of authors, and the connection of those rights to free expression and free ideas.

    read more

  • “We Need To Start Seeing Other Futures..”

    Today is the second day of “Copyright Week!” Talk about a lede. That sentence has all the inherent excitement of “Periodontal Health Awareness Week” or “‘Hug Your Proctologist! No, After He’s Washed His Hands’ Week.” And that’s a shame. Copyright Week is a week devoted to our relationship with our own culture. Hint: things aren’t going well. The relationship is on the rocks.

    read more

  • Discussion: “The Foolish War Against Song-Lyric Websites”

    Professor Alex Sayf Cummings, author of a fascinating book called Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the 20th Century (recommended as a  thought-provoking read)  has an interesting  post up about attempts to shut down music lyric sites such as Rapgenius.com.

    read more

  • The Top Ten List of a Conference Planner

    Academics (and others) arrange conferences.  Perfectly normal people are invited to those conferences to speak.  Most of them are just as charming as can be… but then there are the special ones.  This Top 10 List of the special people one has to respond to is devoted to all conference planners everywhere.  Hold your heads up high.  After this, purgatory should be a snap.

    read more

  • (EM)I Has A Dream

    EM(I) Has A DreamAugust 28th, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The copyright in the speech is administered by EMI, with the consent of the King family. Thus the speech may not be freely played on video or reproduced and costlessly distributed across the nation — even today. Its transient appearance depends on the copyright owner’s momentary sufferance, not public right. It may disappear from your video library tomorrow. It has even been licensed to advertise commercial products, including cars and mobile phone plans.

    read more

  • The Prosecution of Aaron: A Response to Orin Kerr

    Aaron Swartz committed suicide last week.  He was 26, a genius and my friend.  Not a really good friend, but someone I had worked with off and on for 11 years, liked a lot, had laughed with frequently, occasionally shaken my head over and deeply admired.

    read more

  • The Hargreaves Review

    An Intellectual Property System for the Internet Age

    James Boyle

    In November 2010, the Prime Minister commissioned a review of the Britain’s intellectual property laws and their effect on economic growth, quoting the founders of Google that “they could never have started their company in Britain” because of a lack of flexibility in British copyright..  Mr. Cameron wanted to see if we could have UK intellectual property laws “fit for the Internet age.”   Today the Review will be published. Its conclusion?  “Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth?  The short answer is: yes.” Those words are from Professor Ian Hargreaves, head of the Review.   (Full disclosure: I was on the Review’s panel of expert advisors.)

    read more

  • Keith Aoki — A Remembrance Book

    A slideshow and downloadable book remembering Keith in words and pictures.  You can order a glossy, high quality copy of the book itself here from Createspace or here from Amazon.  We tried to make it as beautiful as something Keith would create.  We failed. But we came close; have a look at how striking it is… all because of Keith’s art.

    read more

  • Now THAT is how you teach a class

    read more

  • RIP, Keith Aoki

    Our friend, colleague, co-author and brilliant artist and scholar Keith Aoki died yesterday in his house in Sacramento.  He was 55 years old.

    read more

  • The Future of the Constitution?

    The Brookings Institution has organized a volume on “The Future of the Constitution” edited by Jeff Rosen and Benjamin Wittes and featuring articles by me, Larry Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Tim Wu and many others.  How will our constitutional tradition deal with the challenges posed by new technologies?  The topics range from possible personhood claims by artificial intelligences, to the future of free speech and the Net, to neuroscience and criminal punishment.  The essays are freely available online. Details after the jump.

    read more

  • Presumed Guilty

    My new FT column is up. Shakespeare, copyright, Scott Turow and a shadowy group of law professors..  What could be more fun? Ungated version after the jump. 

    read more

  • Follow thepublicdomain on Twitter.