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Bits without Borders

Law, Communications & Transnational Culture Flow in the Digital Age
September 24-25, 2010

Intellectual Property & Communications Law Program
Michigan State University College of Law
East Lansing, Michigan


Whether termed a "Flat Earth" or "Global Village," the planet's shrinking and linking is widely accepted as a fait accompli. While cybertopians may celebrate the emergence of globally networked communities, others fear the "coca-colonization" of culture will impoverish diversity of expression. Digital communications not only accelerate cultural convergence, but also disrupt existing policies that preserve and nourish local cultures and identities. Some see the technologies that facilitate such transnational exchanges as undermining the authority of the nation state itself.

Look closely, however, and peaks and valleys emerge in the so-called "Flat Earth," and the "Global Village" turns out to be far from global. Rather than passively watch their borders become obsolete, governments at every level subject digital communications to state control–from the explicit censorship of "content" (e.g. internet filtering) to regulation of the "pipes" (e.g. communications protocols) to restrictions on "speakers" (e.g. media ownership laws).

This conference examines the broad cross section of regulatory policies that affect transnational culture flows. From internet governance to intellectual property rights to cultural protectionism, we have inherited a patchwork of piecemeal, often contradictory policies, some squarely aimed at cross-border exchange, others with purely domestic motivations. By examining the choices that governments make to facilitate or thwart transnational flows of cultural expression across these legal domains, we hope to provoke insights that transcend these specific areas and to develop a common language by which scholars can identify core values, characterize recurring problems, evaluate systemic tradeoffs, and contribute to more informed legal decisions.

We invite contributions from scholars working in both legal and non-legal disciplines on topics related to the conference themes. Possible subject-areas include:

  • Digital Communications
  • Internet governance
  • Internet filtering
  • Search Engine Regulation
  • International Trade
  • E-Commerce Regulation
  • Cultural Economics
  • Cultural Geography
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Traditional Knowledge/Folklore Protection
  • Human Rights/Constitutional Rights
  • Cybersecurity

Please send abstracts to the conference organizers, Sean Pager and Adam Candeub (Michigan State University College of Law) by June 25, 2010. Conference papers will be due in early September. Selected papers will also be considered for an edited collection. A more complete version of the conference prospectus may be found here.

Contact: or

Scholars who have confirmed their participation at the Conference include:

Olufunmilayo Arewa, Northwestern University School of Law
Derek Bambauer, Brooklyn Law School
Barton Beebe, New York University School of Law
Susan Brenner, University of Dayton School of Law
Tomer Broude, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law
Adam Candeub, Michigan State University, College of Law
Anupam Chander, University of California, Davis, School of Law
Kimberly Christen, Washington State University
Wayne Fu, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Jon Garon, Hamline University School of Law
Daniel Gervais, Vanderbilt University Law School
Christoph Graber, University of Lucerne Faculty of Law
James Grimmelman, New York Law School
Michael Kende, Analysys Mason Consulting
Lili Levi, University of Miami School of Law
Lyrissa Lidsky, University of Florida Law
Larisa Mann, U.C. Berkeley Jurisprudence & Social Policy
Milton Mueller, Syracuse University School of Information
James Nadler, Ryerson University, Toronto
Phil Napoli, Fordham University Graduate School of Business
Sean Pager, Michigan State University College of Law
David Post , Temple University, James E. Beasley School of Law
Eric Priest, University of Oregon Law
Catherine J. K. Sandoval, Santa Clara University School of Law
Kevin Saunders, Michigan State University College of Law
Mark Schultz, Southern Illinois University School of Law
Michal Shur-Ofry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem University Faculty of Law
Joseph Straubhaar, University of Texas at Austin, College of Communications
Hannibal Travis, Florida International University College of Law
Jonathan Weinberg, Wayne State University
Steve Wildman, Michigan State University, Quello Center for Telecommunications, Management and Law
Mary Wong, Franklin Pierce Law Center
Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, World Trade Institute/World Intellectual Property Organization
Christopher Yoo, University of Pennsylvania Law School

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