Sunday, February 12, 2006

First Monday Internet Journal Issue on Law and Cyberspace

First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the study of Internet issues, has just published its February 2006 issue on the topic of Law and Borders: The Rise of Law in Cyberspace, Ten Years Later

Content of the issue:
  • Law and Borders: The Rise of Law in Cyberspace (article originally published in May 1996): "Territorially-based law-making and law-enforcing authorities find this new environment deeply threatening. But established territorial authorities may yet learn to defer to the self-regulatory efforts of Cyberspace participants who care most deeply about this new digital trade in ideas, information, and services. Separated from doctrine tied to territorial jurisdictions, new rules will emerge, in a variety of online spaces, to govern a wide range of new phenomena that have no clear parallel in the nonvirtual world. These new rules will play the role of law by defining legal personhood and property, resolving disputes, and crystallizing a collective conversation about core values."
  • The Great Debate — Law in the Virtual World: "Law, too, consists of self–replicating information–sets, each with a 'meta–narrative' that must be continuously repeated and believed in order for a legal regime to continue to exist. While the boundaries between conduct off–line and on– will undoubtedly affect the extent to which distinct legal regimes can develop, we lack a coherent theory of exactly how that process works, and the kinds of boundaries that might foster, and the kinds that might discourage, the drifting apart of the legal stories we tell each other online from the legal stories that local geographic communities tell each other. So while it is clear that the boundaries between cyberspace and realspace are changing over time, it is much less clear how the changes will affect the development of these competing narratives. In some ways the boundaries are becoming more and more permeable each day; Web browsers in our telephones linked to our iPods, Google Desktop, VOIP, and any number of other applications have us jumping back and forth across that boundary innumerable times every day."
  • Virtual Borders: The Interdependence of Real and Virtual Worlds: "It is easy to make an attractive argument that law should stay away entirely from virtual worlds [such as online games]. Virtual worlds are such distinct places that real–life law shouldn’t apply; what happens in virtual worlds doesn’t affect the real world in ways that justify legal intervention. It is also easy to make an attractive argument that law should forbid out–of–world sales of in–world items. Virtual worlds are not such distinct places that real–life law shouldn’t apply; what happens in the real world affects virtual worlds in ways that justify legal intervention. As might be guessed, it is rather harder to make both these arguments at once."
  • Dispute Resolution Without Borders: Some Implications for the Emergence of Law in Cyberspace: "While law is struggling to impose order on an online environment that is complex and ever changing, new methods of dispute resolution have emerged that rely on information processing and that, in addition, provide a level of security and stability. Alternative dispute resolution in the physical world is an alternative to litigation but ODR [online dispute resolution] in the online world is an alternative to law in a broader sense and is, along with resolving disputes, performing some public functions such as lowering the risk level of participating online. Mediation and arbitration are labor–intensive activities but the online versions include new options and, in a sense, have been reconfigured by exploiting the information processing capabilities of the digital environment.."
  • The Life of the Law Online: "Our geographical, sovereign law may be well suited for regulating physical things and protecting us from real world threats. It will undoubtedly persist in its own appropriate environmental niche. But, even in that context, we would do better to treat it as an organism, rather than a mechanism — viewing it as a complex whole, disallowing efforts to redesign it from outside, discrediting efforts to analyze it by reductionist means. In any event, we must recognize that our current legal organism, transplanted online, will not prosper. As we interact globally over the Internet, we create a new non–local citizenry, a netizenry, occupying many different kinds of online spaces that both need and can create rules of their own. The new global metabolism will produce new forms of social order that use fundamentally different forms of repair, goal setting and legitimation. Our old meta–meta–story of citizen consent to a social contract empowering a territorially local government just won’t work in this new context. But new repair mechanisms, new complex systems, new forms of social order will arise."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:56 am

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