Tim Wu

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Tim Wu
Tim Wu in 2007
Simplified Chinese 吴修铭
Traditional Chinese 吳修銘

Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School, the former chair of media reform group Free Press, and a regular contributor to the New Yorker.[1] He is also a former Bernard L. Schwartz and Future Tense fellow at The New America Foundation.[2] He is best known for coining the phrase network neutrality in his paper Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination,[3] and popularizing the concept thereafter, leading in part to the 2010 passage of a federal Net Neutrality rule.[4][5][6] Wu has also made significant contributions to wireless communications policy, most notably with his "Carterfone" proposal.[7]

Wu's academic specialties are copyright and telecommunications policy. For his work in this area, Professor Wu was named one of Scientific American's 50 people of the year in 2006. In 2007 Wu was named one of Harvard University's 100 most influential graduates by 02138 magazine.[1] His book The Master Switch was named among the best books of 2010 by The New Yorker magazine,[8] Fortune magazine,[9] Publishers Weekly,[10] and other publications. Wu was named to National Law Journal's "America's 100 Most Influential Lawyers" in 2013.

From 2011 to 2012, Wu served as a Senior Advisor to the Federal Trade Commission.[11]


Wu is an American citizen, but grew up in Toronto, Canada. His father is from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and his mother is British. They both studied as immunologists at the University of Toronto.[12] Wu and his younger brother were sent to alternative schools that emphasized creativity. Wu's father died in 1980 and his mother bought him and his brother an Apple II computer using some of the insurance money, starting Wu's fascination with computers.[7] He is married to Kate Judge, also a Columbia Law professor.

Clerkships and academic career[edit]

Wu graduated from McGill University in 1995 with a B.Sc. in biochemistry and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1998. At Harvard, he studied under copyright scholar Lawrence Lessig.[12] He worked with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, after graduating law school, and before starting a clerkship with Richard Posner on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998-1999.[13] Wu also clerked for Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court in 1999-2000.[13] Following his clerkships, Wu worked at Riverstone Networks, Inc. (2000–02) and then entered academia at the University of Virginia School of Law.[13]

Wu was Associate Professor of Law at the University of Virginia from 2002 to 2004, Visiting Professor at Columbia Law School in 2004, Visiting Professor at Chicago Law School in 2005, and Visiting Professor at Stanford Law School in 2005.[14] In 2006, he became a full professor at Columbia Law School[citation needed] and started Project Posner, a free database of all of Richard Posner's legal opinions.[15] Wu called Posner "probably America's greatest living jurist."[15]


Wu is credited with popularizing the concept of network neutrality in his 2003 paper Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination. The paper considered network neutrality in terms of neutrality between applications, as well as neutrality between data and Quality of Service-sensitive traffic, and proposed some legislation to potentially deal with these issues.[4][5]

In 2006, Wu wrote "The World Trade Law of Internet Filtering", which analyzed the possibility of the World Trade Organization treating censorship as a barrier to trade.[16] In June 2007, when Google Inc. lobbied the United States Trade Representative to pursue a complaint against China's censorship at the WTO, Wu's paper was cited as a "likely source" for this idea.[17] In 2006 Wu was also invited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help draft the first network neutrality rules attached to the AT&T and BellSouth merger.[7]

In 2007, Wu published a paper proposing a "Wireless Carterfone" rule for mobile phone networks;[18] the rule was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission for the 700 MHz spectrum auctions on July 31, 2007, with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps stating: "I find it extremely heartening to see that an academic paper—in this case by Professor Timothy Wu of Columbia Law School—can have such an immediate and forceful influence on policy."[19] In November 2007 BusinessWeek credited Wu with providing "the intellectual framework that inspired Google's mobile phone strategy."[7]

With his Columbia Law School colleagues Professors Scott Hemphill and Clarisa Long, Wu co-directs the Columbia Law School Program on Law and Technology, founded in 2007.[20][21] In August 2007, in collaboration with the University of Colorado School of Law's Silicon Flatirons Program, the Columbia Law School Program on Law and Technology launched a Beta version of AltLaw, which he produced.[22]

The Master Switch[edit]

Wu's 2010 book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires described a long "Cycle" whereby open information systems becoming consolidated and closed over time, reopening only after disruptive innovation. The book shows this cycle develop with the rise of the Bell AT&T telephone monopoly, the founding of the Hollywood entertainment industry, broadcast and cable TV industries, and finally with the internet industry. He looks at the example of Apple Inc., which began as a company dedicated to openness that evolved into a more closed system under the leadership of Steve Jobs, demonstrating that internet industry will follow the historical cycle of the rise of Information Empires (though Wu does discuss Google as an important counterpoint). The book was named one of the best books of 2010 by The New Yorker magazine,[8] Fortune magazine,[9] Amazon.com,[23] The Washington Post,[24] Publishers Weekly,[10] and others.

Selected publications[edit]





  1. ^ a b "Tim Wu". OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy, June 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2008. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Who Should Govern the Internet?". New America Foundation. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Wu, T. (2003). "Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.388863.  edit
  5. ^ a b "Tim Wu Elected Board Chair At Free Press". Columbia Law School. 14 April 2008. 
  6. ^ Bray, Hiawatha (21 December 2010). "FCC passes New Neutrality Rule". Boston Globe. 
  7. ^ a b c d Ante, Spencer E. (8 November 2008). "Tim Wu, Freedom Fighter". BusinessWeek. 
  8. ^ a b "Reviewer's Favorites". The New Yorker. 
  9. ^ a b Wu, Tim (2010-12-22). "America's Original Startup". Fortune. 
  10. ^ a b "Best Books of 2010". Publishers Weekly. 
  11. ^ "Professor Tim Wu Named Advisor to Federal Trade Commission on Consumer Protection, Competition", Columbia University Public Affairs, New York, Feb. 8, 2011
  12. ^ a b Ante, Spencer E. (2007-11-08). "Tim Wu, Freedom Fighter". BusinessWeek. 
  13. ^ a b c "Tim Wu". Columbia University School of Law. 
  14. ^ "Tim Wu". Columbia Law School. Retrieved 10 December 2008. 
  15. ^ a b Lattman, Peter (2006-10-06). "A Paean to the Opinions of the Prolific Judge Posner". The Wall Street Journal Law Blog. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  16. ^ Wu, Tim (2006-05-06). "The World Trade Law of Internet Filtering". SSRN. 
  17. ^ Rugaber, Christopher S. (2007-06-25). "Google Fights Internet Censorship". Washington Post. 
  18. ^ Wu, Tim (2007). "Wireless Carterfone". International Journal of Communication: 389–426. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  19. ^ "Statement of FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps on the 700 MHz Service Rules". Free Press Newsroom (Press release). freepress.net (Free Press). 2007-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  20. ^ "Program on Law and Technology at Columbia University School of Law". Programs & Centers. Columbia University. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  21. ^ "Program on Law and Technology at Columbia University School of Law". columbialawtech.org. Columbia Law School, Columbia University. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  22. ^ "About AltLaw". Archived from the original on 2008-07-13. Retrieved 2008-08-24. "Written by Stuart Sierra and Paul Ohm, with help from Luis Villa and Dana Powers, and produced by Tim Wu." 
  23. ^ "Best Books of 2010". Amazon.com. 
  24. ^ "The five best books I read this year". Washington Post. 

Further reading and resources[edit]

Articles about Wu[edit]

Audiovisual resources[edit]

External links[edit]