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Author: Anupam Chander

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The Age of Mass Mobility: Freedom and Insecurity

In Talent Wants to Be Free, Orly Lobel’s masterfully demonstrates the importance to business, employees, and society at large of workers who are free to move and free to innovate. The symposium this week has seen well-deserved praise heaped on the book from many of the nation’s leading scholars in the area. Lobel, a legal academic, explains the law in a way that non-lawyers (and even lawyers seeking a summary of the law of covenants not to compete, confidentiality agreements, and trade secret) will greatly appreciate.

The shift she describes is part of the larger move from status to contract that has marked modernity—a world in which individuals make and remake themselves. I have myself embraced this model in my own way in my book The Electronic Silk Road. I accordingly find myself entirely sympathetic to Lobel’s prescription. In that book, I describe and embrace the ways that production processes are now splintered across the globe, with global supply chains now including services, not just manufactured parts, supplied in disparate locations. There is liberation implicit in this—on the Internet, no one knows what class or caste into which you were born (though cultural markers are never entirely absent, even in cyberspace). Equally important, it allows individuals in developing countries to participate in lucrative markets in developed countries that would deny those individuals visas.

When I moved to Northern California a decade and a half ago, I carried my Midwestern and East Coast sensibilities with me. When a former student told me he was leaving his job after just one year at one of the leading technology law firms, Wilson, Sonsini, I was not entirely sure this was wise. He joined an important Silicon Valley operating company, and worked there for two or three years. He surprised me by then informing me that he was returning to Wilson, Sonsini. I would have thought that his leaving his law firm after such a short time might have made him persona non grata there, but he returned there certainly a lot more knowledgeable about the needs of the firm’s clients. Wilson, Sonsini clearly understood the virtues of freedom of employees—seeing it not as a sign of instability or disloyalty, but a marker of curiosity, dynamism, and ambition. Lobel would certainly approve, both of the employee and of the employer.

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Opportunities and Roadblocks Along the Electronic Silk Road

977574_288606077943048_524618202_oLast week, Foreign Affairs posted a note about my book, The Electronic Silk Road, on its Facebook page. In the comments, some clever wag asked, “Didn’t the FBI shut this down a few weeks ago?” In other venues as well, as I have shared portions of my book across the web, individuals across the world have written back, sometimes applauding and at other times challenging my claims. My writing itself has journed across the world–when I adapted part of a chapter as “How Censorship Hurts Chinese Internet Companies” for The Atlantic, the China Daily republished it. The Financial Times published its review of the book in both English and Chinese.

International trade was involved in even these posts. Much of this activity involved websites—from Facebook, to The Atlantic, and the Financial Times, each of them earning revenue in part from cross-border advertising (even the government-owned China Daily is apparently under pressure to increase advertising) . In the second quarter of 2013, for example, Facebook earned the majority of its revenues outside the United States–$995 million out of a total of $1,813 million, or 55 percent of revenues.

But this trade also brought communication—with ideas and critiques circulated around the world.  The old silk roads similarly were passages not only for goods, but knowledge. They helped shape our world, not only materially, but spiritually, just as the mix of commerce and communication on the Electronic Silk Road will reshape the world to come.

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Further Studies of Bilateral Free Trade Agreements Needed

As Larry Helfer writes, the United States has “regime shifted” in international trade, moving from the multilateral, global negotiations in the WTO, where liberalizing trade has stalled, to bilateral or regional agreements. These agreements have received insufficient attention.

In a recent paper written as part of a symposium in honor of Margaret Jane Radin, I offer one example of how we might approach such studies. In the paper, “Exporting DMCA Lockouts,” I compare anti-circumvention provisions in all of the post-DMCA FTAs. To do this, I ran dozens of blacklines, comparing those provisions in various FTAs with each other. This comparative approach revealed a significant amount about the negotiating position of the United States, viz., what aspects of these provisions on which the U.S. would be flexible. Such an approach provides information not only for other potential FTA counterparties, but also demonstrates the extent of our commitment to largely not budge from very strong anti-circumvention rules.

The amount of material for future scholarship in such an approach is quite large. Many aspects of human endeavors are affected by these FTAs–which bind not only our trading partners, but ourselves. Thus, there is a large need for academic inquiry into what these FTAs require.

Here’s my abstract for the paper, which can be downloaded here.

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For the True IP Geek: Podcasts of IP Conferences

The Berkeley Center for Law & Technology has now made podcasts of its fabulous August IP conference available online here.

And the UC Davis Law Review has made our March “Intellectual Property and Social Justice” conference available as free podcasts on iTunes.

Putting audio of academic conferences online is a tremendous advance. It makes the leading scholarship available worldwide to those with access to the Internet. At the same time, it enables scholars who cannot attend multiple sessions occurring simultaneously to listen to what they missed–or to review sessions they found especially valuable.

Law Reviews should make this a standard practice.

The obvious next step: YouTube.

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A Review of UN Secretary Generals Past

UNSG.jpg

I have copied here the Wikipedia entry reviewing the history of the UN Secretary General post.

The Security Council has just selected South Korean Ban Ki-Moon for the post of UN Secretary General–the leader of both the free and unfree world.

As the chart shows, the post has moved fitfully between continents.

Early on in the deliberations, many agreed that it was now Asia’s turn. However, U.S. Acting Ambassador John Bolton argued that the job should go to the best qualified candidate regardless of nationality. The United States ultimately agreed to the selection of an Asian SG, albeit one from a historic American ally. One hopes that, when it is North America’s turn, the United States will remember its earlier preference for a wholly merits-based approach. Who knows? The best person for the job then might be an African, a European, or an Asian.

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‘See At Least One Subtitled Movie A Month’

See at least one movie with subtitles a month. bfbroke06.jpg

This is Kwame Anthony Appiah’s injunction to the audience at a Fordham conference on global citizenship over this past weekend. Appiah, the dazzling University professor at Princeton, believes in conversations across cultures. Such conversations, he hopes, will help us to understand one another, perhaps even inculcate global feelings.

Some might argue that this might lead us to recognize what we all hold in common. But Appiah believes in difference as well. The conversation might lead us to recognize what divides and differentiates us as well.

Appiah is not a cultural relativist: tolerance, he notes, suggests a view as to what is not to be tolerated.

So here is my question for you: Have you learned something from watching a film with subtitles (and, if so, what film)? Did it reveal commonality or difference?

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