Professor Cohen Authors New Book on Information Law and Policy

January 12, 2012 — WASHINGTON, D.C. - How just are the rules that govern information access and use? Why is cultural and technical information often so restricted, while personal information is hardly restricted at all?

Georgetown University Law Center Professor Julie E. Cohen asks these questions and more in her new book, Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice (Yale University Press, 2012).

Cohen argues that in making legal rules for the information society, legal scholars should focus on the ordinary, everyday ways that people use information and on the importance of play with cultural and technical artifacts and with different conceptions of identity.

Cohen maintains that in order for people to flourish in the networked information society, we must have "access to knowledge," but that access alone is not enough. Lawyers, policy makers and designers of information tools must also work to ensure "operational transparency," or knowledge of how digital architectures work and how information will be used. In addition, they must work to preserve "semantic discontinuity," or breathing room to play with information and information tools without undue technical constraint and without being reduced to a simplistic informational profile.

"Julie Cohen’s important new book challenges every aspect of our thinking about copyright, privacy and identity in a digital age. Everyone interested in our digital present and future should read this book," said Professor John Palfrey of Harvard Law School.

According to Tel Aviv University Professor Michael Birnhack, "Configuring the Networked Self is a sophisticated and intellectually stimulating achievement."

Cohen joined the Georgetown Law faculty in 1999. She teaches and writes about intellectual property law and information privacy law, with particular focus on digital works and on the intersection of copyright and privacy rights. She is a co-author of Copyright in a Global Information Economy (Aspen Law & Business, 3d ed. 2010) and serves on the advisory boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Public Knowledge.

Prior to coming to Georgetown, Cohen taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She also practiced with the San Francisco firm McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation. Previously, she was law clerk to Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. She received an A.B. from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.