Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard dorm event a decade ago today; an unusual observation regarding "fair use" and his files

Ten years ago today, at about this time of day, a good-looking 19-year old Mark Zuckerberg hit the Enter key on his Harvard dorm computer (probably Windows XP) and created “The Facebook”, and we all know what would happen in ten years.  Suffice it to say, at age 29 Mr. Zuckerberg (and his wife, a pediatrician) is in a position to match Bill Gates in philanthropy when he chooses to.
I could say that could I have entered a time machine and been one of his roommates, we would have been good friends and I might be involved with the company today. But physics has its time-arrow, doesn’t it.
A Washington Post contributor Michael Zimmer has opined a piece “Mark Zuckerberg’s Theory of Privacy”, today, in the Style section, here.  In short, the world is a better place if all information, even quasi-personal, becomes part of a Wikipedia-like experience and is shared (which puts Mark in the same circle as Jimmy Wales, and later Aaron Swartz).  Truth is what should matter, not the ability to protect one’s tribal relatives through the wielding of social combat.

Zimmer has assembled the “Zuckerberg Files” at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Digital Commons, link here.  This is supposed to link all of Mark’s public statements.   The collection requires the user to set up an account and password and justify his or her need for access.  The reason given is compliance with the “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication”, link here, from the Center for Media and Social Impact.  Although the files were all made public, it seems as though some of them were not always free or were uttered at for-pay events, so there could be real copyright questions.  I would rather just see these assembled into a book and sold on Amazon (or made available for Kindle download purchase). 
I would be particularly curious to see if Zuckerberg were influences in any way by the debate over “Don’t Ask , Don’t Tell” at the Harvard campus, which I believe would have occurred in the spring of 2003, when he was a freshman. (I’ll have to check this later;  I think one of our Supreme Court members was on campus then.)  The issue certainly could have mediate his thinking about the lack of moral integrity inherent in leading a “double life”.  To get a password, I guess I’ll have to prove that my purposes are “scholarly”.  Is wanting to know if your own previous books and web writings might have influenced one of the most important business evolutions of the past fifteen years a scholarly enough reason? (This note about Elena Kagan at Harvard in 2003-2004 is interesting, link., at Tampa Bay PolitiFact). 
The password-access (need an account) idea could be useful with distributing “free content” if you want to reduce the certain unusual future downstream liability risks, an idea I’ll get back into soon.  

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