LAW and Cyberspace
What a weird pairing. I've chosen to ignore all pedagogical guidance and forge ahead on this question myself. I first encourage everyone to read Michel Foucault's essay, "What is an Author?", partially excerpted here.
Consider what authorship means on this wiki. Does it generate identity? Can law function without discrete identities?
Readings & Assignments for Week 2
Law School Students
"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
âThat ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."
"We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment. ...
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. ...
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. "
- Tau Teh Ching (57)
A realm is governed by ordinary acts,
A battle is governed by extraordinary acts;
The world is governed by no acts at all.
And how do I know?
This is how I know.
Act after act prohibits
Everything but poverty,
Weapon after weapon conquers
Everything but chaos,
Business after business provides
A craze of waste,
Law after law breeds
A multitude of thieves.
Therefore a sensible man says:
If I keep from meddling with people, they take care of themselves,
If I keep from commanding people, they behave themselves,
If I keep from preaching at people, they improve themselves,
If I keep from imposing on people, they become themselves.
- Write a game or other animation of your choice in Scratch. Post your completed game on our course wiki in the Scratch Gallery. [Due date: 9/24 (note the early time, to give others a chance to try out your game!)]
- Download and play at least two other studentsâ games. [Due date: 9/25]
- In your journal write an entry about your experience programming and your experience playing other studentsâ games. Address the question of the relationship of code to law in your game. Were there laws that you felt constrained by in writing your code? Were there laws that you used code to enforce? How about in the other studentsâ games? Were there rules that you wished were enforced? Rules that you wished werenât enforced? [Due date: 9/25]
Extension School Students
- Write a journal entry in your Moodle Journal responding to the lecture and readings for this week.
- (Thursday, 9/21 21:00 GMT-5) Second Life scavenger hunt .
- This is a synchronous participation assignment! Look in your email to find out which group you are in, or contact mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summaries & Notes from Readings
In his introduction, Benkler refers to "social production." What is this phenomenon and what does it have to do with networks? What if anything (stupid qualifier) about it concerns The Law?
What is social capital? Will new networks such as the internet, and the emergence of viable open source alternatives, render this idea useless as a competitive advantage? Availability of internet access, by world region (a little out of date)
The SETI@Home Project. 3 million computer users contribute their computers to seeking extraplanetary life. If successful in its ultimate goal, this program could easily make its owners by far the wealthiest people who have ever lived. Who "owns" the possibility of discovering alien life? What would John Locke say? U.S. Copyright Law?
In his introduction, Benkler also discusses 'affordances' - the idea that "technology sets some parameters of individual and social action". It is worth considering the application of this idea to the influence of law on what is achieved in cyberspace. Examples and events that may be relevant to this include: