is an exceptionally rational and compelling account of the most explosive and controversial issues surrounding freedom in cyberspace. Author Mike Godwin is the well-known outspoken activist for online civil liberties and counsel to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He's been directly involved in many of the news-making cases and offers cogent analysis of very thorny situations, such as:
- Time magazine's infamous "Cyberporn" issue, which featured a flawed study and which many believe was at least a partial cause for passage of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (later overturned);
- the case of Jake Baker, a college kid who distributed his stories about rape and torture in newsgroups, which resulted in his computer being confiscated by police;
- the Church of Scientology's line in the sand regarding intellectual property and the backlash against Scientology in online debates;
- the libel conflicts experienced by Net journalists Matt Drudge and Brock Meeks; and
- Philip Zimmerman's (the programmer who developed the encryption tool Pretty Good Privacy [PGP]) fight with the Clinton administration to allow the use of encryption software.
Godwin is a natural teacher, carefully describing each event and explaining the issues surrounding it. Unlike many writers, he shows that he thoroughly understands the arguments for restricting speech. He then methodically takes the arguments apart, covering what is normally boring legal theory and explaining it in a lively manner so that readers are drawn into the story.
This book differs from other books on the topic in two ways: it's entertaining and it's a personal account. It's obvious that Godwin enjoys telling his stories, and he passes his enthusiasm on to readers. Readers also get a sense of Godwin's personal involvement as he describes his role in exposing the erroneous study that was the basis of Time magazine's "cyberporn" scare. In his chapter on the court decision that overturned the Communications Decency Act of 1996, it's clear that Godwin's work for the EFF is not just his job, but his passion. --Elizabeth Lewis
From Publishers Weekly
With an unusually broad view of free speech, lawyer and advocate Godwin, counsel to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, brings his opinions to bear on a slate of Net-related First Amendment cases and policy issues. Citing examples ranging from the landmark Compuserve ruling, in which the court found that an Internet service provider was akin to a bookstore and not a publisher in its culpability for disseminating offensive speech, to the LaMacchia incident, a software piracy case that was ultimately dismissed, Godwin argues for less government intervention, displaying a Panglossian view of the Net's potential. In doing so, he frames nicely some of the issues raised by the encounter of the 200-year-old Bill of Rights and the cutting-edge Internet. But through much of his book Godwin sounds defensive, and his polemics often trump nuanced analysis. By the time he gets to discussing the notorious Time magazine expose on cyberporn, criticizing the magazine for buying into hype, his arguments have become predictable?or flimsy, as when he implies that the Net poses no new risks with its dissemination of dangerous information, such as bomb-making instructions, because libraries have carried such information for years. Godwin's book is a thoughtful examination of an important subject, but its thoughts seem too often filtered through rose-colored screens. Editor, Tracy Smith; agent, General Median.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.