“What Ifs” Conference

Derek and I spent the weekend at a great conference organized by Professor Peter Yu at Michigan State University College of Law, entitled “What Ifs and Other Alternative Intellectual Property and Cyberlaw Stories.” The conference consisted of numerous panelists spinning counterfactual sceanarios, which turned out to be an excellent way to evaluate underlying assumptions about the inevitability or desirability of various features of Info Law.

There is extensive live-blogging of the event available from both David Levine and Rebecca Tushnet. Some of my personal highlights:

  • Greg Lastowka considering a world where virtual information increasingly merges with real space;
  • Joe Miller speculating about a rejected 1948 proposal for testing nonobviousness in patent law;
  • Mark Lemley wondering about the practice of “ignoring patents”;
  • Mike Madison imagining the legal ramifications if the printing press were invented by the ancient Romans (and suggesting two alternative paths, one leading to a repressive copyright-supported worldwide theocracy and the other to just about the world we now inhabit!) [UPDATE: Mike recaps his own talk here];
  • Julie Cromer ruminating on the complex copyright implications of government-produced satellite imagery now used in various maps and mash-ups (and explaining a lot of cool outer space law in the process);
  • Rebecca Tushnet and Lisa Ramsey discussing — and at times debating — the relationship between First Amendment and trademark principles.

Much of the proceedings eventually will be published in the Michigan State Law Review.

One Response to ““What Ifs” Conference”

  1. [...] At a conference (see Bill’s post) at Michigan State (run by the indefatigable, immensely connected Peter Yu), I came across a proposal to help Internet users avoid porn. Intrigued, after years spent working with the ONI on filtering issues, I gave the Web site (at cp80.org) a read. The purported solution incorporates both legal and technical elements. My analysis: it’s not only a terrible idea, but it won’t work on either front. I’ll go through the problem statement, the technological proposal, and the legal proposal, then give my own thoughts. [...]