The anti-copyright crowd have a few different ways to turn astroturf into deceptively scholarly work product. One way is to take over otherwise credible brands to insert their own truthiness.
In a highly predictable move, the American Law Institute, a reliable old brand in the law, appears to have had some sudden interest in writing up a “Restatement of Copyright” treatise. The ALI’s restatements of the law have been around a very long time, but they mostly deal with bodies of law that rely heavily on judge-made law such as agency, property or contracts.
The advantage of having a Restatement that says what you want it to say is that those toiling against artists and songwriters can cite it as an authoritative source in legal briefs, scholarly writings, amicus briefs, etc. Handy, eh?
The ALI Restatement of Copyright seems to have been the brainchild of one Pamela Samuelson, she of the Samuelson-Glushko technology and policy legal academic centers–Silicon Valley’s answer to the Confucious Institutes. The project is nominally under the watchful eye of Professor Christopher Sprigman, from whose intellectual loins sprang Spotify’s defense of “sorry just kidding” in the Bluewater lawsuit for Spotify’s alleged nonpayment of mechanical royalties. Sprigman is trying to convince the court that mechanical royalties don’t exist, don’t you know.
The Restatement of Copyright has been on the horizon for quite some time as it takes a lot of effort to produce one of these treatises. So naturally, one must ask–why the sudden interest at the American Law Institute in such a costly project that we’ve struggled along without for a hundred years or so? You don’t suppose someone is…paying for the costs of this work? And who might be interested in picking up the tab for the project?
Perhaps the same company that paid for five–count ’em–five–research projects by Professor Sprigman. That we know of.
According to the useful “Google Academics, Inc.” database created by the Google Transparency Project, Google funded these articles co-written by Sprigman (two of which criticize moral rights):
Valuing Publication And Attribution In Intellectual Property: Sprigman, Christopher, Christopher Buccafusco, and Zachary Burns. “Valuing Publication and Attribution in Intellectual Property.” (2012)
What’s A Name Worth?: Experimental Tests Of The Value Of Attribution In Intellectual Property: Sprigman, Christopher Jon, Christopher Buccafusco, and Zachary C. Burns. “What’s a name worth?: Experimental tests of the value of attribution in Intellectual Property.” (2013)
What’s In, And What’S Out: How IP’s Boundary Rules Shape Innovation: McKenna, Mark P., and Christopher Jon Sprigman. “What’s In, and What’s Out: How IP’s Boundary Rules Shape Innovation.” (2016)
Experimental Tests Of Intellectual Property Laws’ Creativity Thresholds, Buccafusco, Christopher, Zachary C. Burns, Jeanne C. Fromer, and Christopher Jon Sprigman. “Experimental tests of Intellectual Property laws‰Ûª creativity thresholds.” (2014)
Innovation Heuristics: Experiments On Sequential Creativity In Intellectual Property: Bechtold, Stefan, Christopher Buccafusco, and Christopher Jon Sprigman. “Innovation heuristics: experiments on sequential creativity in Intellectual Property.” Ind. LJ 91 (2015): 1251
And speaking of astroturf, what’s also interesting is that Sprigman appears to have filed comments in Copyright Office moral rights study that incorporated concepts in Google-funded papers and cited to one of them without disclosing Google’s funding as far as I can tell. (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=COLC-2017-0003-0019).
So a perfect lawyer to advance the interests of Spotify, the savior of the music business and to gift the legal community with the Restatement of Copyright, a crystalization of his genius.
When Google received a record $2.7bn fine from the European Union in June for abusing its search engine monopoly to promote its shopping search service, a relatively minor member of an American thinktank, the New America Foundation, posted a short statement praising the regulator, and calling on the US to follow suit.
The New America Foundation is intimately intertwined with the search firm. It has received more than $20m over its lifetime from Google and related companies and individuals. So when Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, expressed his displeasure over the statement, the foundation moved quickly. The tussle that followed ended up with its author, Barry Lynn, departing the group, along with his entire team at the Open Markets programme.
To be clear: neither Google, nor Mr Schmidt, told New America to fire Mr Lynn or his colleagues. They did not have to.
Similarly, Google doesn’t have to ask the researchers whom it funds to write about public policy to turn in favourable articles. But it has funded, directly or indirectly, 329 such papers since 2005, according to the US-based Campaign for Accountability. More than a quarter of those funded directly by Google didn’t disclose the source of their money, according to the report.
A network of academics on Google’s payroll just so happens to churn out “independent research” friendly to their sugar daddy’s corporate goals. But two-thirds of the time you wouldn’t know it, according to the Campaign for Accountability….
Instead of providing a dispassionate critique of Silicon Valley, academics viewed it as a chance to expand their domains. The early noughties saw a proliferation of “cyberlaw” departments and “internet institutes” only too keen to take corporate funding from technology companies. This was a shrewd investment – it has helped now-dominant internet platforms set the agenda.
Academics prominent in today’s corporate-backed net neutrality protest include Stanford Law School’s Barbara van Schewick and lawyer Marvin Ammori, who runs “Fight For The Future”. Both, the GTP said, are indirectly funded by Google….
Although all large corporations lobby and fund academic research, Silicon Valley is unique in funding not only thinktanks but also ersatz “civil society” groups (such as Fight For The Future), which then manufacture a synthetic “grassroots” legitimacy for a policy issue. The phenomenon of “slacktivism” or “clicktivism” makes use of low-cost, low-risk tools to generate apparent support for lightweight causes (“save the internet”).
This means that the corporate puppet master can work academics to create and promote an issue, and then deploy fake “citizen” groups to generate the impression of popular support for its position. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell the slacktivists from the academics.