Woodrow Hartzog: The Public Information Fallacy

Date(s) - 11/17/2014
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Freedom Forum Conference Center

whartzogPlease join us for an upcoming lecture on The Public Information Fallacy with Dr. Woodrow Hartzog.

One of the most important questions in the modern age of media, surveillance, and information technologies is if and when it is appropriate to place legal restrictions on the collection, use, or disclosure of “public” information. Yet, while the related concept of privacy has been rightfully criticized as too vague or protean to be useful, the concept of public information has inexplicably been given a free pass.

This is an unfortunate lapse. The concept of public information plays a central, lynchpin-like role across a vast number of regulatory regimes, including privacy law, intellectual property law, insider trading, the First Amendment, and public records law. Unfortunately, public information is also a myth.

Like the term privacy, there is no set legal definition for the term “public.” This ambiguity has enabled ideological drift, fostered inconsistency, and ignored the centrality of transaction costs in obtaining information.

The time has come to end this confusion. We can no longer allow the concept of public information to be used without further clarification. By itself, the concept is a fallacy. This talk will propose five different ways to conceptualize public information. There are dramatic differences among these conceptualizations. We must clarify the concept within regulatory regimes and normative discourse for effective information policy, technological design, and social interaction.

Woodrow Hartzog is an associate professor of law at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where he joined the faculty in 2011. Professor Hartzog writes in the area of privacy, media, contracts, and robotics. His work has been published in numerous scholarly publications such as the Columbia Law Review, California Law Review, and Michigan Law Review and popular publications such as Wired, Bloomberg, New Scientist, The Atlantic and The Nation. Before joining the faculty at Cumberland, Professor Hartzog worked as a trademark attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia and as an associate attorney at Burr & Forman LLP in Birmingham, Alabama. He also served as a clerk for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington D.C. Professor Hartzog holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an LL.M. in intellectual property from the George Washington University Law School, a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, and a B.A. from Samford University. He is an Affiliate Scholar at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Tagged: Event, First Amendment, Intellectual Property, Privacy, Scholarship, Speakers
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