Tom Lee

Tom Lee is the director of Sunlight Labs. His writing on technology issues has appeared at TechDirt and DCist. The views expressed here are his own.

Recent Articles

Digital Copywrongs

New DMCA exemptions are an improvement, but the basic paradox of telling consumers how they may use electronics remains unaddressed.

Protests against DRM. (Flickr/makoshark)
On July 26 the librarian of Congress announced six ways you can legally violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Internet found this extremely exciting. " DMCA Victory! " declared the homepage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "With the full force of the U.S. government behind [you] … you might be able to, perhaps, sue Apple when an iOS update makes your phone inoperable," PC Magazine daydreamed . Some reactions were even more grandiose . Passed in 1998, the DMCA brought U.S. law into harmony with various international intellectual-property treaties. The new law not only changed the liabilities and penalties associated with copyright violation but also went after the tools that make such violations possible. For some time, various copyright holders had been attempting to deal with the challenges of copy-friendly digital technology by creating so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems. DRM is what makes your iTunes movie rentals expire after 24 hours; it's what...

The Cost of Hashtag Revolution

With the Iranian election, we've seen a privately owned technology becoming a vital part of the infrastructure supporting political activity. That's a problem.

That discussion of the Iranian election popped up on Twitter was not particularly surprising. The microblogging service is often mocked as a venue for the discussion of daily minutia -- a recent spoof was made up entirely of real-time reports about the sandwiches that users were eating -- but by now Twitter is clearly one of the most popular forums for online chatter about current events. But when the action on Twitter began to affect events in Iran, well, that was downright shocking. And to the extent that it signaled Twitter's arrival as an important political tool, it was also somewhat alarming. For those still resisting the Twitter hype, a quick primer: The service allows users to broadcast short messages to one another by text message, through, or by using a variety of purpose-built programs. Which messages you receive is determined by the accounts you've subscribed to -- who you're "following," in Twitter terminology. Users are also able to apply "hashtags" to their...