President Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of governmental transparency. This Essay examines how his administration has implemented this commitment in two policy areas: Internet communication, and intellectual property. It finds a sharp contrast between rhetoric and reality. The Obama administration’s statements on Internet freedom do not comport with its efforts to impede challenges to seizures of allegedly unlawful domain names, its resistance to disclosing its role in the new “graduated response” system being implemented by Internet Service Providers, or its panoply of pressures on WikiLeaks. In the intellectual property arena, the administration has refused to disclose materials on new, key international agreements, and has outsourced critical enforcement decisions to private entities. The Essay suggests that seemingly abstruse issues, such as IP and the Internet, function well as leading indicators of transparency. An administration unwilling to endure scrutiny on less consequential issues is unlikely to do so on more weighty or controversial ones. Finally, the Essay argues that disappointment with Obama’s promises was inevitable: structural features of the modern presidency penalize transparency politically.
Filed under: Copyright, Digital Media, Filtering, First Amendment, Intermediaries, international, Internet & Society, ISP, Media, national security, Network Neutrality, Open Access, Politics, RIAA, Scholarship, Voting