For more than three decades, Collins has shined as C-SPAN’s sole in-house counsel, supervising the company’s copyright protections and other legal issues, including authoring several Supreme Court amicus briefs supporting C-SPAN and/or cable industry policy objectives. Collins said that one the biggest issues in 2017 was separating falsehoods from truth for content providers. “The myriad of consequences of how technology can toy with facts, indeed, even create new realities, will trigger legal responses,” he says. “My hope is those responses will continue to respect free speech.” A cancer survivor, Collins is a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
What have been the most important legal issues in communications for you in the past year?
Separating false from true is important to a content provider, and it has gotten more difficult in the past year. The law and regulations are not good tools, mostly because of free speech concerns, which is appropriate. But eventually, the myriad of consequences of how technology can toy with facts, indeed, even create new realities, will trigger legal responses. My hope is those responses will continue to respect free speech.
What new legal issues do you expect in 2018?
It is possible the #metoo movement will trigger more enforcement of existing workplace rules, and the development of new ones.
How is today’s political environment impacting your job and the industry?
Today’s politics have no impact on my job or the industry at all. The political environment is probably having a significant effect on all of us, but I can focus only on the grammar of the thing. The rest would take too much space to answer.
What is your golden rule for negotiating?
Never assume you know the other side’s goals. That is why listening is important at the beginning of a negotiation.
If you could be remembered for just one case, which case would that be and why?
I would like to be remembered for Collins vs. United States. I think I won that one. At least in my mind I did. And, I like the case name.
My net neutrality prediction is …
Be careful what you wish for.
If you could be any legal thriller writer, who would you want to be and why?
Mark Twain wrote a short story called The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, which combined law, science, and race to tell a story of our prejudices and folly in an amusingly frustrating way—as only Twain could. I would like to be able to do that, and with as much hair, a great mustache and a good cigar.
What’s the biggest sleeper issue in communications?
Being put on “hold.”
What movie superhero would you most like to be and how would that character fit into the legal world of communications?
I would like to be Law Man, a hero to in-house general practitioners who don’t always focus on communications issues. And, I think I’d get to design the cape and the outfit. One thing is for sure: Law Man won’t be wearing his underwear on the outside. And the boots will be nice and Oxford-like, with a bit of a heel.