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YLS Information Society Project to Hold Conference on "Information Flow," April 1-3


Yale Law School's Information Society Project will examine how technology has expedited the flow of information across national borders in a conference called "The Global Flow of Information" on April 1-3.

Eddan Katz, executive director of the ISP and an organizer of the conference, says that a number of issues in the field of law and technology have been getting widespread attention for several years. He points to the scholarly and political debates around copyright laws and the use of online music or patent law and the development of new drugs. However, the issues have become more and more international as information from scientific research to political discourse moves across borders, and various international bodies have become interested in regulating such information flow.

"We need to try to understand what the nature of this information flow is," Katz says, "so we can be smart about regulating it or letting it be."

The conference will open with a keynote conversation that will seek to define "information flow" and provide a framework for the discussions to follow. The participants in the conversation will be Yochai Benkler, professor of law, and Robert Post, David Boies Professor of Law. It will be moderated by Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment.

The following panels will consider issues of information flow from the perspectives of different fields and add the "nuance of the different kinds of information flow," according to Katz. For instance, "Politics and Information Flow" will seek to answer questions such as, How will the flow of information affect the power of relatively disempowered groups in existing national and global decision-making spheres?

Katz says that the conference will be "highly theoretical," but that it will also have several practical aspects. For example, issues of current concern, such as outsourcing, will come up during the conference. ("What is the flow dynamic in outsourcing?" Katz asks.) Katz also points to a proposal to move elements of the regulation of the internet from ICANN to the UN. The conference will consider whether "the companies setting technological standards have more influence than any national government or international treaty." And representatives of the companies in question, such as Carl Cargill, Sun Microsystems' director of standards, will be at the conference.

The ISP has initiated the information flow for the conference by posting papers from many of the participants on the conference website (see the Panels page). In addition, they plan to keep an archive of the conference's papers available online and the International Journal of Communications Law Policy and the Yale Journal of Law and Technology will publish winning papers from the conference's writing competition.