South Korea to Require Internet Users’ Real Names

One theme in my Internet law class is the rise of the “bordered” web, the increasing influence of national governments over Internet architecture and online activity within their borders. I have assigned two excellent recent books that develop this theme, Who Controls the Internet? by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu and Larry Lessig’s Code V2.0. Code V2.0 is both new and old, being an update of Lessig’s 1999 Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, a book I’ve used since my first Internet law class in 2001. The original Code‘s insight that “left to itself, cyberspace will become a perfect tool of control” was a brilliantly prescient cold shower for utopians who believed the Internet would free humankind from the constraints of government. Its core insights remained vital but some parts of Code had become dated. I considered removing it from the required reading and relaying Lessig’s concepts through lectures until he published Code V2.0, which restates his themes for the cyberspace of today, and the next five years.

That is background for this very brief post, based on an article from the Korea Times. To curtail “rampant crimes in cyberspace conducted by anonymous attackers” the South Korean National Assembly passed a law in December that, come July, will require South Korean Internet users who “make online postings at local Web sites where more than 100,000 visit a day” to identify themselves with their real names. Internet sites that do not comply are subject to a fine of up to 30 million won ($32,014 at today’s exchange rate.) This law has provoked complaints that such data collection by web sites increases the risk of its misuse violates constitutional rights to free speech.

This is the bordered web at work: a national government indirectly regulating individual conduct (lawless anonymous posters) by passing a law directly regulating intermediaries (Internet portals).

Steve Jobs to Cisco: “Like iCare”

This week Apple unveiled its long-awaited iPhone which, like all exciting new phones today, is a digital organizer, home entertainment center, game platform, camera, and close personal companion. It even makes phone calls. The name “iPhone” is a natural fit, joining iPod, iTunes, and iMac. It also belongs to Cisco, which, according to The Wall Street Journal today, registered the iPhone trademark in 2000. (The iPhone mark, Serial# 75076573, was actually registered on March 20, 1996 by Infogear Technology Corporation. Infogear assigned the mark to Cisco on June 5, 2000.) News articles about Apple’s iPhone release reported Cisco’s ownership of the mark and the fact that Cisco and Apple were negotiating terms for Apple’s use of the name. It is not a surprise, then, that Cisco countered iPhone’s debut by suing Apple for trademark infringement. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for Steve Jobs’ internal discussions about unveiling the phone with its rights to the mark unresolved. I wonder: how much is Apple willing to pay Cisco for exclusive rights to the name, and how much has Apple budgeted for legal fees?

“cRANKy”??

I followed a story today to cRANKy, “the first age-relevant search engine.” How does an age-relevant search engine differ from an age-irrelevant search engine? According to a press release dated today, cRANKy is “designed to deliver the most targeted search results by applying a 50-plus lens to every query . . .” The site is part of Eons, “a 50-plus media company” founded by Monster.com creator Jeff Taylor. In cRANKy’s world those who are 50+ want their data pre-chewed and still cannot process more than four pieces at a time.

I started my exploration with the “Top cRANKy Searches 2006.” Example: Top Search Number 3 is Body Mass Index. A cRANKy sidebar links to a list of its most popular search terms for 2006, which overlaps yet is different from the Top cRANKy Searches 2006: Alternative Health, Entertainment, Finances, Health/Disease, Hearth & Home, Hobbies / Fitness, Ones to Watch, Relationships, Travel Spots, Web 101. Selecting Ones to Watch in 2007 I found ten subtopics: Brain Builders, Stephen King, Blogs, Work From Home, Elderhostel, Make New Friends, Jobs After Retirement, Arthritis, Online Dating, and RVs. Putting aside the obvious that (save for Stephen King) these are not “ones to watch” but Trends, perhaps, an image began to form of the cRANKy demographic. I pictured a graying couple hopping from elder hostel to elder hostel in their RV, reading Cujo, completing Sodoku puzzles with their new friends, posting blog entries (“Five Fun Facts About Phoenix”), and making pin money by selling macramé plant hangers at craft sales. I followed the first BrainBuilder link to a results page with abundant white space. Two sponsored links appear at the top of page. Below are only four organic results, followed by another four sponsored links in smaller type. Finding additional organic search results required clicking to page 2 for results 5-8, to page 3 for results 9-12, and so on. The four-results page is a cRANKy selling point, its response to the sheer overwhelming mass of a typical Google search. (When was the last time you navigated beyond page two or three of Google results?)

How is cRANKy for general search? (As I do with other trademarks like iPod I’m trying to be fair and enter the mark as it is written, but its inelegance is off-putting). If, say, a cRANKy user wants to understand this “Facebook” her college-aged daughter is talking about, can she get her answer cRANKily? I entered “facebook” in the search field and received a query back–Did you mean factbook?–followed by the standard four results: number one to a Business Week article, number two to a Technorati page of blog posts tagged “facebook,” number three to the Wikipedia Facebook entry, and number four to facebook.com. Somehow I don’t think the cRANKy demographic will want to make sense out of the technorati page, but to be fair the site is new. It intends to rank results based on user feedback (how very Web 2.0-ish!) and in six months, perhaps, the results will better reflect the cRANKy spirit.

Would I recommend this search engine tricycle with training wheels to my 85-year old father-in-law or the residents of the continuing care retirement center on whose board I sit? Not yet.

Judicial Pay Raises

After Chief Justice Roberts called for judicial pay raises in his annual State of the Courts address, a few students asked my thoughts. Judges are underpaid, in the same way that teachers are underpaid: their salaries don’t reflect their worth to society and are inadequate compared to what they could earn in related fields. Judicial salaries will never be fully competitive with, say, those available in private practice, nor should private-sector parity be the sole benchmark for the adequacy of judicial pay. One generally becomes a judge (or a teacher) for reasons not driven primarily by compensation. Most judges care deeply about, and are good at, what they do. There are always exceptions, of course, but I don’t perceive a pervasive lack of judicial quality. I’m speaking here as an outside observer, not a trial lawyer. I might have a different opinion if I argued in court regularly, but I’m not convinced that an extra $50,000/year would address what irked me. If a judge is incompetent it reflects the appointment process more than a lack of qualified applicants. I’m also speaking as someone who lives in a state with appointed, not elected judges.

One student argued that any pay above $150,000/year is “nothing to complain about” and assumed that most judicial appointees would have adequate savings to cushion a drop in pay. We could quibble about the threshold, about whether the “complaint line” is $100,000 or $200,000, without accomplishing much. His $150,000 mark is reasonable–and higher than the salary of most on the bench. You cannot assume that everyone who becomes a judge has built an adequate nest egg. A lawyer who has always been in the public sector before joining the bench will not have had the same opportunities for wealth accumulation as one in private practice. A lawyer in private practice who has always lived up to his or her means (i.e., just about everyone) will not have much left over to save. We all speculate “what’s the amount I need to make every year to be happy,” but that number is elastic. People tend to ratchet up their standard of living as they earn more and their threshold earnings requirement increases accordingly.
This is beside the point anyway because whatever number one picks as adequate for a public sector job will always be less than what one could earn in the private sector. Public-sector employment should not be the path to fantastic wealth. That a fourth-year associate in a large firm can earn $200,000 year with bonuses while a state court judge with 30 years experience earns $115,000 does not mean the judge should get a $100k raise. A $20-30,000 raise, sure. Career decisions involve trade-offs. When I left private practice and business to become a teacher I walked away from larger paychecks. The satisfaction is not only in the remuneration. It would be dandy if we all had top-rank psychic and financial compensation. I’d like the Red Sox to win the 2007 World Series, too. Judicial pay should be fair and rational within the context of public-sector compensation. As long as qualified lawyers want to serve on the bench judicial pay should reflect the social importance of an impartial, dedicated judiciary and be high enough for judges to maintain a standard of living commensurate with their status as professionals, without regard to whether they can earn three times as much in the private sector.