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Code: And Other Laws Of Cyberspace Hardcover – November 30, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (November 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046503912X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465039128
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,387,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hiroo Yamagata on April 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
This book, "Code," is one of the most important books I've read in a long time. His thesis, that "Code Is Law," that the "coders" have become de facto lawmakers, and that we, as a society, MUST understand the importance of the Internet's architecture, is presented in a very clear manner. Lessig has a real gift for taking complex legal/political arguments and making them clear for the lay person.
As a law student, I find it very easy to get lulled into the belief that the major legal and policy decisions have already been made. Such a belief would probably always be mistaken, and it's totally mistaken now. In the next few years, major decisions (with stunning Constitutional and social consequences) will be made. Who will make these decisions, and what the substantive content of these decisions will be, are open questions.
The Internet has great potential -- for both good and bad. What the Internet will look like in a decade, how free it will be, how intrusive it will be, will depend entirely on decisions being made now. This book takes the confusing world of Internet controversies and pulls them together to make a compelling and persuasive call to AWARENESS.
I recommend this book very highly.
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Format: Hardcover
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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