Everyone knows that cyberspace is a wild frontier that can't be regulated, right? Everyone is wrong, and that's why we should all read Harvard Law prof (and famous Microsoft trial expert) Lawrence Lessig's eye-opening, jaw-dropping book Code
, the best guide yet to the future that's heading our way like a frictionless freight train. For such an analytical book, it's also anecdote-studded and utterly fun to read.
Lessig leads us through the new controversies in intellectual property, privacy, free speech, and national sovereignty. What about a computer worm that can search every American's PC for top-secret NSA documents? It sounds obviously unconstitutional, but the worm code can't read your letters, bust down your door, scare you, or arrest anyone innocent. If you're not guilty, you won't even know you were searched. The coded architecture of the Net also enforces certain freedoms: via the Net, we have now globally exported a more extreme form of free speech than the First Amendment encodes in old-fashioned law. The once-important Pentagon Papers case would be meaningless today: instead of fighting to publish secret government documents, The New York Times could simply leak them to a USENET newsgroup. The Constitution is rife with ambiguities the framers couldn't have imagined, and virtual communities such as AOL and LamdaMOO are organizing themselves in ways governed largely by code--strikingly different ones.
We've got tough choices ahead. Do we want to protect intellectual property or privacy? How do we keep cyberporn from kids--by brain-dead decency laws, censoring filters, or code that identifies kid users? (Lessig advocates code.) Lessig demonstrates that legal structures are too slow and politics-averse to regulate cyberspace. "Courts are disabled, legislatures pathetic, and code untouchable." Code writers are the unacknowledged legislators of the new world, backed by the law and commerce. Lessig thinks citizens must recognize the need to be the architects of their own fate, or they'll find themselves coded into a world they never made. --Tim Appelo
From Library Journal
Lessig (law, Harvard) tackles the tricky and troubling question of Internet regulation. Cyberspace has no intrinsic structure to protect its libertarian nature, and we are now well into an era where commerce and its partner in control, government, are working in a manner that could permanently, and perhaps negatively, alter its character. Now is the time for all who stand to benefit from the unique nature of cyberspace to assert their collective values into a framework for regulating it. Apathy or inaction, Lessig argues, would result in a medium shaped by special interests. His book is replete with examples of failed attempts to address cyberspace issues, such as the 1996 Communications Decency Act. A central theme is that the architecture of cyberspace can be coded to address properly salient issues related to free speech, intellectual property, and privacy. This is a vital book for concerned citizens of cyberspace. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.