Interview with Adam Marcus

Date: Aug 20 ’09
Region: North America

CCT Network: What motivated you to apply and participate in the CCT graduate program? 

Adam Marcus: I had been at the same job for 4 years and I was looking to make a change. 

CCT Network: How does your current career apply what you learned at CCT? 

Adam Marcus: I am Research Fellow and Senior Technologist at The Progress & Freedom Foundation, a think-tank focused on technology, telecommunications, and intellectual property issues. I wear a number of hats at my job, but the one that most directly relates to CCT (and that I enjoy the most) is authoring or co-authoring papers and blog posts. CCT classes like “Economics of Network Industries,” “Code War: Policy Implications of Internet Architecture,” “Advocacy and the Internet,” “Internet Technology Assessment,” and the intro CCT course (which seems to be equivalent to Dr. Garcia’s CCTP-742 Network Technology and Society course) equipped me with analytical frameworks and tropes that have been the basis for most of my work. I also would not have this job if not for connections I made through CCT. The program’s location in the nation’s capital and the fantastic adjunct professors and guest speakers allowed me to meet, interact, and work with the people shaping the nation’s technology policies. 

CCT Network: What prompted you to give a copyright policy talk for CCT students? 

Adam Marcus: I focused my studies at CCT on how new technologies like ubiquitous broadband, peer-to-peer file sharing, and digital rights management technology, are affecting the music industry and because I enjoyed CCT so much I went on to attend law school at Santa Clara University, where I took as many classes on intellectual property and technology as I could and received the school’s High Tech Law Certificate. I still don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but it’s a subject that I feel I know well and really enjoy. When I saw the call for workshop suggestions, it’s the first thing I thought of. 

CCT Network: What is the most critical issue currently facing technology regarding copyright policy? 

Adam Marcus: Technology is making it possible for contract law to completely eclipse copyright law. Copyright is premised on the notion of ownership–people actually owning “copies.” But ubiquitous broadband and digital rights management technology gives copyright holders the capability to completely transform our consumption of intellectual property from a system of purchasing copies to a system of renting access. If you don’t own a copy, copyright limitations like the first sale doctrine and fair use are almost meaningless. Instead, copyright holders can redefine your terms of access–or completely rescind your access–to works at any time. The most perverse example of this is the recent incident where Amazon remotely deleted George Orwell’s famous book “1984” from the Amazon Kindle ebook reader. 

CCT Network: Congratulations on your recent publication in CommLaw Conspectus – what was the focus of your analysis? 

Adam Marcus: The article itself is very long and complicated and is probably only understandable to lawyers. It is about how the FCC responded to reports that Comcast was surreptitiously blocking BitTorrent traffic on its network. I and my co-author Barbara Esbin first make clear that the FCC has no authority to impose rules on how Internet Service Providers such as Comcast manage their networks. Second, we explain that the FCC is incorrect in its claim that its Internet Policy Statement contains enforceable rules. Finally, we question why the FCC combined its processes for enforcing existing rules and making new rules and argue that the FCC violated established procedural rules and the rights of Comcast. If this explanation hasn’t already turned you away, I suggest that instead of reading the article itself, you read our press release and then the executive summary. 

CCT Network: You helped write The Digital Economy Fact Book 10th Edition. What facts do you find the most compelling for the future the digital economy? 

Adam Marcus: The Digital Economy Fact Book is produced annually by The Progress & Freedom Foundation and is available in PDF form for free on our website. I actually used this book when I was at CCT and it’s kind of a trip that now I’m producing it. I really do recommend the book to CCT students as a great source for finding all sorts of raw data for papers. One recent fact I came across that will definitely be in the next edition of the Fact Book is the fact thatone in four songs sold in the U.S. is from iTunes. The day I presented my CCT thesis, April 28, 2003, was opening day for the iTunes Music Store, so it’s incredible that it’s gotten so big in such a short time. Another incredible statistic is the fact that 13 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. By comparison, of the National Archives’ 400,000 motion pictures, only 22,000 have been digitized and only 182 are online.  These statistics prove that the Internet is now the dominant medium for the distribution of intellectual property, both commercial and non-commercial. 

CCT Network: Any advice for other alum interested in working in the areas of technology or copyright policy? 

Adam Marcus: The technology policy field is a lot like the copyright field. There are not that many jobs, and getting one is often a matter of knowing the right people or being in the right place at the right time. In my case, it was both. I would advise other alumni in the DC area to get involved in as many relevant organizations and groups as they can, to attend as many conferences as they can, and to write as much as they can. If you don’t have much experience, I think your time would be better spent attending a conference and blogging about it than sending out a dozen blind resumes or applying for jobs you’re not qualified for. Blog accounts are available for free, laptops are available for under $300, and if you can’t afford the registration fee for a conference just email the organizers and ask if you can volunteer in exchange for being able to attend some of the panels. If you’re lucky enough to live here in D.C., there area ton of conferences–you just need to find them. Getting on every email list you can find helps, because there isn’t one single place you can go to find out about all the tech-related or copyright-related events happening in town. When you email to ask about volunteering, point out that you’re a local resident and you’ll be able to help people with directions to their hotel, restaurant recommendations, etc. and mention that you’re a CCT graduate (or student) and you’re interested in the field. If you’ve written a related paper, mention that too to prove that you’re not just blowing smoke. If you do some other volunteer work on a regular basis, you could even give a reference so they can be assured you won’t flake on your responsibilities or mooch the free food. When you’re at these events, if you don’t have any interesting questions to ask speakers you like, just tell them you liked their presentation and ask if they have any advice for how you can get into the field. If you have a lot of free time, you can always volunteer. Congressional internships are very competitive, but you may have better luck contacting an agency.