Christopher Jon Sprigman


Congress’s Article III Power and the Process of Constitutional Change

Christopher Jon Sprigman

Text in Article III of the U.S. Constitution appears to give to Congress authority to make incursions into judicial supremacy, by restricting (or, less neutrally, “stripping”) the jurisdiction of federal courts. Article III gives Congress authority to make “exceptions” to the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Article III also gives Congress discretion whether to “ordain and establish” lower federal courts. Congress’s power to create or abolish these courts would seem to include the power to create them but to limit their jurisdiction, and that is how the power has historically been understood.

Is Congress’s power to remove the jurisdiction of federal courts in effect a legislative power to choose the occasions on which federal courts may, and may not, have the final word on the meaning of the Constitution? That is a question on which the Supreme Court has never spoken definitively.

In this Article I argue that Congress, working through the ordinary legislative process, may remove the jurisdiction of federal and even state courts to hear cases involving particular questions of federal law, including cases that raise questions under the Federal Constitution. Understood this way, the implications of Congress’s Article III power are profound. Congress may prescribe, by ordinary legislation, constitutional rules in areas where the meaning of the Constitution is unsettled. Or it may displace otherwise settled constitutional rules by ordinary legislation.

To be clear, Article III does not permit Congress to escape accountability. Rather, Article III gives to Congress the power to choose whether it must answer, in a particular instance, to judges or to voters. Compared with judicial review, the political constraint is, of course, less formal and predictable. But that does not mean that the political constraint is weak. A successful exercise of its Article III power will require a majority in Congress, and, in most instances, a President, who agree both on the substantive policy at issue and on the political viability of overriding the public expectation that Congress should face a judicial check. In such instances, we should welcome the exercise of Congress’s Article III power. In the push-and-pull between judicially-enforced constitutional rules and the desires of current democratic majorities, the potential for Congress’s exercise of its Article III power helps legitimate both constitutionalism and judicial review.

The Second Digital Disruption: Streaming and the Dawn of Data-Driven Creativity

Kal Raustiala, Christopher Jon Sprigman

This Article explores how the explosive growth of online streaming is transforming the market for creative content. Two decades ago, the popularization of the internet led to what we refer to here as the first digital disruption: Napster, file-sharing, and the re-ordering of numerous content industries, from music to film to news. The advent of mass streaming has led us to a second digital disruption, one driven by the ability of streaming platforms to harvest massive amounts of data about consumer preferences and consumption patterns. Coupled to powerful computing, the data that firms like Netflix, Spotify, and Apple collect allows those firms to know what consumers want in incredible detail. This knowledge has long shaped advertising; now it is beginning to shape the content streaming firms purchase or even produce, a phenomenon we call “data-driven creativity.” This Article explores these phenomena across a range of firms and content industries. In particular, we take a close look at the firm that is perhaps farthest along in its use of data-driven creativity. We show how MindGeek, the little-known parent company of Pornhub and a leader in the market for adult entertainment, has leveraged streaming data not only to organize and suggest content to consumers but even to shape creative decisions. MindGeek is itself the product of the same forces—the shift to digital distribution and the accompanying explosion of free content—that transformed mainstream creative industries and paved the way for the rise of streaming. We first show how the adult industry adapted to the first digital disruption; that story aligns with similar accounts of how creative industries adapt to a loss of control over intellectual property. We then show how MindGeek and other streaming firms such as Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon are leveraging the second digital disruption, using data to make decisions about content promotion, aggregation, dissemination, and investment. Finally, we consider what these trends suggest for competition and innovation in markets for creative work. By making creative production far less risky, data-driven creativity may drive down the need for strong IP rights and reshape conventional assumptions about the purpose and role of IP. At the same time, the rise of data-driven creativity may reinforce the tendency of online markets toward dominance by a few major firms, with significant implications for competition and innovation.