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Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace [Paperback]

by Lawrence Lessig
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 13, 2000 0465039138 978-0465039135
There’s a common belief that cyberspace cannot be regulated—that it is, in its very essence, immune from the government’s (or anyone else’s) control.Code argues that this belief is wrong. It is not in the nature of cyberspace to be unregulable; cyberspace has no “nature.” It only has code—the software and hardware that make cyberspace what it is. That code can create a place of freedom—as the original architecture of the Net did—or a place of exquisitely oppressive control.If we miss this point, then we will miss how cyberspace is changing. Under the influence of commerce, cyberpsace is becoming a highly regulable space, where our behavior is much more tightly controlled than in real space.But that’s not inevitable either. We can—we must—choose what kind of cyberspace we want and what freedoms we will guarantee. These choices are all about architecture: about what kind of code will govern cyberspace, and who will control it. In this realm, code is the most significant form of law, and it is up to lawyers, policymakers, and especially citizens to decide what values that code embodies.

Editorial Reviews Review

"We, the Net People, in order to form a more perfect Transfer Protocol..." might be recited in future fifth-grade history classes, says attorney Lawrence Lessig. He turns the now-traditional view of the Internet as an uncontrollable, organic entity on its head, and explores the architecture and social systems that are changing every day and taming the frontier. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace is his well-reasoned, undeniably cogent series of arguments for guiding the still-evolving regulatory processes, to ensure that we don't find ourselves stuck with a system that we find objectionable. As the former Communist-bloc countries found, a constitution is still one of our best guarantees against the dark side of chaos; and Lessig promotes a kind of document that accepts the inevitable regulatory authority of both government and commerce, while constraining them within values that we hold by consensus.

Lessig holds that those who shriek the loudest at the thought of interference in cyberdoings, especially at the hands of the government, are blind to the ever-increasing regulation of the Net (admittedly, without badges or guns) by businesses that find little opposition to their schemes from consumers, competitors, or cops. The Internet will be regulated, he says, and our window of opportunity to influence the design of those regulations narrows each day. How will we make the decisions that the Framers of our paper-and-ink Constitution couldn't foresee, much less resolve? Lessig proclaims that many of us will have to wake up fast and get to work before we lose the chance to draft a networked Bill of Rights. --Rob Lightner

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465039138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465039135
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school's Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Lessig serves on the Board of Creative Commons, MapLight, Brave New Film Foundation, The American Academy, Berlin, AXA Research Fund and, and on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries.

Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Future of the Internet and Democracy April 28, 2001
I did the Japanese translation of this book. It was quite an amazing book.
First, Lessig argues that commerce and the government will try to turn Internet into a regulable place, and in order to do so, they will rely on changing the code (or protocol) of the Internet.
Now, regulation through code is problematic, because it is TOO good. If its a law or some regulation, you can intentionally choose to disobey it, or rebel against it. With code, you can't do that. He says that this is bad, because a lot of good things in this world depend on the fact that you can't enforce certain laws too strictly. That's where some part of freedom relies on. If regulation becomes too strict, we're doomed.
So, we have to do something about it. We have to force people to create "incomplete" code!! This is the very surprising conclusion of this book. You really should read this, because it sounds too crazy at first glance.
And then, the book becomes even better. He starts discussing who would actually take the trouble to do that kind of thing. And he starts discussing how we should restore the democratic process, and how we are in a process of becoming a world citizen!
It's a book with an amazing scope, dealing with much more than the title suggests. And it's not just some sort of a fairy tale, it's a problem that's facing us as we speak. A lot of people talk about the Internet changing the world, when all they actually talk about is making some petty cash. Not this book. This book will persuade you that the Internet WILL and IS really changing the world. After this book, you're Net crawling will never be the same.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Constitutional Convention for Cyberspace? July 20, 2000
July 10, 2000 Who or what rules in that romantic frontier called cyberspace? As it evolves into an increasingly central part of "real space," will cyberspace take on the zoned and regulated and law bound character of the rest of civil society? In Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig addresses these questions in three different ways: 1) he makes a crucial conceptual articulation between two kinds of code-computer code and law: each entails the sorts of structuring constraints familiar from architecture (code and law as two forms of architecture becomes the guiding metaphor of this book); 2) Lessig sounds a warning about the dangers of the regulated world he sees coming to cyberspace; and 3) Lessig submits a plea to his reader: that we deliberate about the sorts of code(s) within which (remembers it's an architecture) we will choose to live. What gives this argument its conceptual power and plausibility is a series of carefully developed theses about the code of cyberspace, the problem of regulation, and the solution: the deliberation upon a constitution for the digital age. 1: The open code of cyberspace. Since the matrix of cyberspace is woven from code, there is no fixed nature or essence to cyberspace. The Web may have started as a network woven from open software code, thereby embodying an ethos of liberty, but a comparison of the many different networks and network communities (AOL, listservs, avatar based networks, etc.) suggests the variety of different possible networks, the different sorts of social life they enable, and the way they are changing under the pressure of commerce. The code of cyberspace can be rewritten, and that process is going forward at this moment. Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is another great book that discusses what is going on in cyberspace today (or 1999 when it was written) first by defining cyberspace as a place where we can create personalities and have the ability to speak like we would never do in the real world. The book then goes on to discuss how the internet is regulated or not regulated and what the internet can and should become.
The book starts out by discussing multiple forms of regulation and just because technology makes it easier to monitor or regulate does not mean that it is right or legal. The book also discusses what things should be regulated and how and who should regulate it. The next chapters go into Free Speech, Intellectual Property, Privacy and other freedoms we have and should fight to protect. The book talks about Open Source vrs Closed Source software and how regulation can and is added to each. One of the solutions of the book is to offer transparent regulation that allows user to know what is regulated. This is possible and is happening now in Open Source software but is not happening in closed source software. This is an excellent book that should help call us to action that will help provide the right kind of regulation while ensuring our freedoms or not reduced. This is a great book and I would recommend it..
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing and so much more! November 28, 1999
Public perception of the information superhighway is this massive and complex place that only the super intelligent have access to control. Lawrence Lessig has other ideas and his book is the definitive answer to those questions and more.
Right from the beginning the book dispels the myth that the world of cyberspace cannot be controlled and regulated. The book also disproves that belief that this "being" is immune from any government or anyone's control.
What Lessig proves throughout the book is that cyberspace is nothing more that hardware and software and we are in control of the future of this colossal giant. The author proves that true "nature" of cyberspace is one that man is forever looking for ways to control.
It takes a great understanding to know that cyberspace is in its infancy and that we must take the right steps to make sure that the next and future generations have something to work with. Lessig has written a deep and complex book, and as is the case with cyberspace we must endeavor to understand the meaning.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessig's Code - Foundations for Tomorrow
Although Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace was a laborious read to me several years ago, it still deserves your attention today. Read more
Published on September 9, 2007 by Bob Magnant
4.0 out of 5 stars Important ideas on the future in a wired world
As it is, I spend a lot of time thinking about systems and issues like architectures, law, policy, and even individual expectations. Read more
Published on November 16, 2005 by C. Matthew Curtin
5.0 out of 5 stars Regardless of its style and structure, this is a IMPORTANT book.
Lawrence Lessig is not a writer, he is a lawyer. Don't expect his book to be easy nor entertaining. However, it is one if the more insightful writing of its time on the subject of... Read more
Published on June 26, 2005 by Garacotche
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview for outsiders - common sense for many
The premise of Code is that the architecture of the internet and not any one country's laws controls what one can do on it. Read more
Published on November 19, 2004 by Gagewyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Style
I am impressed with the ease of reading of this book. Also Lessig repeats himself constantly. It is very easy to get at what he is saying. Read more
Published on February 25, 2003 by Peter Timusk
1.0 out of 5 stars BOOOOO !!!! Thumbs Down, I hate this book
It is the worse piece of literature that I have ever read. I was made to read it for a college assignment.
It has microscopic type. Read more
Published on December 30, 2002 by L. lockhart
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the time, if you are interested.
Code is a challenging book to read. Lessig frequently uses complicated devices such as allegorical stories, figurative examples, and conceptual theories to support his arguments. Read more
Published on December 10, 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Good points, but dry and dull
There's no doubt that Lessig is brilliant and knows his material. However, his standpoint is from Constitutional Law, and doesn't incorporate more views of Intellectual Property... Read more
Published on October 21, 2002 by Nick
3.0 out of 5 stars Let's wait for version 2.0
The book does provide a number of insights that the other reviewers applaud. Amongst other things, his conclusion is that changes in Internet architecture will result in more... Read more
Published on July 18, 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Bugfix needed?
Lawrence Lessig - a professor at Stanford Law School - is one of the first legal scholars to step into the risky business of publishing a booklength, bestseller argument for... Read more
Published on May 22, 2001 by Mikko Valimaki
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Books on Related Topics (learn more)
CODE by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh
Code by Lawrence Lessig

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