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Old 01-16-2008, 11:37 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Amazon Kindle - a threat to our First Amendment rights?

The thought goes: Under the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC has the power to control the awarding and assignment of broadcast licenses, so long as the broadcasters act in the "public interest." Assuming for a moment that it was in the public interest to ban certain books, for instance on the premise that children would be corrupted by reading them, could the FCC potentially diminish our liberties through controlling what can and what cannot be transmitted through Amazon's Whispernet service? Mr. Collins, a former Judicial Fellow at the U.S. Supreme Court, thinks so:

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We may not yet know the actual reach of the FCC's authority to regulate the brave new world of electronic books. But if history is any guide, it will only be a matter of time before some well-meaning lawmaker or some ardent advocacy group suggests that the use of the "public airwaves" justifies regulating e-books as we do some other mass media. So emboldened, the FCC could one day go after e-books like, say, The Essential Lenny Bruce or an illustrated version of D.H. Lawrence’s novel Women in Love — to protect our children, of course.
A scary thought.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:57 AM   #2
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I have no doubt that if you ordered up a bunch of ebooks considered questionable by Homeland Security, that you'd shortly find the FBI or some other jackboots in suits standing on your doorstep. I think we're already at a perilous point were just criticizing the president in pubic can get you in trouble, or thrown out of a government building or a public function.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:00 PM   #3
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Always a good idea to be a little bit paranoid. Generally, the FCC has stayed away from regulating content on two-way transmissions (e.g., phone calls), even if those are carried over radio waves rather than over copper wires. Indeed, cellular is covered by the Wireless Communications Bureau and broadcast by the Media Bureau.

That said, it is an interesting possibility. Certainly American history shows a willingness to ban books--and our current Supreme Court seems willing to ignore earlier SC judgements when these don't favor their particular slant.

Still, I'd argue that the biggest threat we face isn't coming from the FCC but from the overall decline in reading--and the contempt for thinking.

Rob Preece
Publisher, www.BooksForABuck.com
(and former FCC employee)
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:25 PM   #4
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I have no doubt that if you ordered up a bunch of ebooks considered questionable by Homeland Security, that you'd shortly find the FBI or some other jackboots in suits standing on your doorstep...
Oops, I guess I shouldn't have downloaded the Koran on my Sony Reader.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:31 PM   #5
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I have no doubt that if you ordered up a bunch of ebooks considered questionable by Homeland Security, that you'd shortly find the FBI or some other jackboots in suits standing on your doorstep.
I doubt that electronic versus paper would make much difference on that one.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:50 PM   #6
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I doubt that electronic versus paper would make much difference on that one.
Oh, I'm sure you're right, and that was kind of my point. The Kindle isn't really a threat to our First Amendment rights because we're already at a point where those rights are seriously under pressure. Whether it's the books we read, the internet sites we visit or the people we associate with, there's likely someone somewhere making a note of it.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:58 PM   #7
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I understand the concern... however, the print world already takes steps to "limit" minors' access to certain books and publications (mostly porn), based on a combination of government regulation and local public preference, and few people see it as a problem.

I'd expect that, if such issues came up regarding e-books, that the FCC would find some way to force Amazon and similar sellers to screen its customers according to age (and possibly state or geographic location), and have them deny certain materials based on that. It probably wouldn't be a perfect system, but limiting minors' access to certain print materials has rarely been a perfect system either.
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:01 PM   #8
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The FCC - A threat to our First Amendment rights? Aboslutely!

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Several unpersuasive arguments have been presented as to why broadcasters should not get full free speech rights. First, it is argued that broadcasters use public property. But so do speakers in public parks, and so do newspapers, which are delivered through the public streets and printed on paper made from trees that grew on federal lands. Furthermore, there is no sound reason that the electromagnetic spectrum should have been seized by the government. Government ownership of the spectrum is inefficient and unnecessary.

As argued in Chapter 33, the spectrum should be auctioned off to private owners. If declaring the spectrum public property means that broadcasters cannot enjoy free speech rights, that is itself an excellent reason to privatize the spectrum.

Some also claim that broadcasters cannot enjoy full First Amendment rights because broadcasting is too powerful and too pervasive to be free. But broadcasters are hardly more powerful than newspapers were in the 19th and early 20th century. And broadcasting faces competition from a growing number of other media outlets, from cable television to Direct Broadcast Satellites, the Internet, movies, VCRs, and, as always, the print media. Furthermore, television and radio are pervasive only when we want them to be; nobody is forced to own a radio or television set, or to turn it on. Finally, if we fear the power and pervasiveness of broadcasting, we should especially fear the power of government control of broadcasting.
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:08 PM   #9
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fcc has been controlling what we see and hear for decades. i dont see why this is a scary though now
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:21 PM   #10
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fcc has been controlling what we see and hear for decades. i dont see why this is a scary though now
It's a scary thought now because it's ALWAYS been a scary thought for anyone who respects liberty.
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:24 PM   #11
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indeed, but is the kindle going to be the salvation of liberty? no. maybe im just cynical, but i dont think anyone that can make a difference (legislators or mass population movements) is going to be swayed by the fact that the fcc has a new avenue for censorship
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:25 PM   #12
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fcc has been controlling what we see and hear for decades. i dont see why this is a scary though now
True enough. But in the context of this thread there is no indication ever that the FCC has interfered with private transfer of information. Only broadcast of information. The Amazon solution does not broadcast the book, thus it is not under any of the FCC broadcast rules.

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Old 01-16-2008, 01:25 PM   #13
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The U.S. government has not really "controlled" broadcasting. Their efforts have been largely to prevent individuals from taking over too much of the public spectrum, to avoid a monopoly over broadcasting. Beyond that, they have taken little action regarding what was broadcast.

In fact, the only downside to the present system is that they haven't done a good enough job at it, allowing major corporations to buy up more and more affiliates in TV and radio, and thereby lessening the variety of programming (and limiting who has a say over what is deemed appropriate). Look at the serious loss of variety in radio, nationwide, thanks to the vast ownership of the bulk of the affiliate radio stations by only 3 corporations.

If anything, I'd like to see the government step in and try to encourage a unifying e-book format and delivery system, on the grounds that such a measure would enable more of the population to get access to more information at a lower cost. But that's another discussion...
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:54 PM   #14
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The U.S. government has not really "controlled" broadcasting. Their efforts have been largely to prevent individuals from taking over too much of the public spectrum, to avoid a monopoly over broadcasting. Beyond that, they have taken little action regarding what was broadcast.
Baloney

The F'ing Censorship Commission has strangled all voices that are not in the so-called main stream media. Their imact has destroyed my country.

First, look at the difference in the reporting done by ABC news (for example) and compare it to the forums that are discussing the same event. That's the impact of the F'ing Censorship Commission.

Second, I once dared to make a phone call criticizing ABC News reporting (carried on 820 AM in the D/FW, Texas area) for making false statements about the death of a friend of mine. I offered proof of their errors, and asked that they correct it. I was told to screw myself. After I looked into pursuing slander suit against ABC News on behalf of my late friend's estate, I was almost fired. I never mentioned my employer in the course of this dispute, but I was called into the VP's office at the telecom where I worked, and Mr. Ed, Mr. Charlie, & Mr. Ron threatened my job over my actions against a fellow company that was also regulated by the FCC. They told me that if I ever said a word against the FCC's regulation of companies - on or off the job - that I would be fired.

Third, the FCC subsidizes the political interests that keep them in power. ABC News (for example) gets bandwidth for a tiny fraction of the cost that other companies would pay for it. Imagine what Google would pay for the bandwidth that is used for a few FM radio stations. Ron Paul would cut funding the FCC, so he's never mentioned on FCC censored broadcasts.

I've preached before that you must get the ebooks now, and keep them off line. Have off site back-ups.

Andy
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
The U.S. government has not really "controlled" broadcasting. Their efforts have been largely to prevent individuals from taking over too much of the public spectrum, to avoid a monopoly over broadcasting. Beyond that, they have taken little action regarding what was broadcast.

In fact, the only downside to the present system is that they haven't done a good enough job at it, allowing major corporations to buy up more and more affiliates in TV and radio, and thereby lessening the variety of programming (and limiting who has a say over what is deemed appropriate). Look at the serious loss of variety in radio, nationwide, thanks to the vast ownership of the bulk of the affiliate radio stations by only 3 corporations.

If anything, I'd like to see the government step in and try to encourage a unifying e-book format and delivery system, on the grounds that such a measure would enable more of the population to get access to more information at a lower cost. But that's another discussion...
The oligopoly of private spectrum ownership is due in large part to government regulation. The government holds a large portion of the spectrum for itself (claiming it needs it for the military) and most of it goes unused. So in the private market, airwaves appear to be a more scarce resource than they actually are. Unfortunate.

If the government were to actually establish a "unifying e-book format and delivery system," this would make things even more expensive. Someone would own the format and someone would own the delivery system and everyone who wished to use it would have to pay for the monopolistic service. If you advocate nationalizing such a service, then you start down the road of a regulated economy. Ask the Soviet Union how that worked out for them. Government regulation would do anything BUT lower prices. It would hurt innovation in the area of ebooks and it would hurt competition.

Last edited by SpiderMatt; 01-16-2008 at 02:03 PM.
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