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Ten Years Of Code: A Reassessment Of Lawrence Lessig’s Code And Other Laws Of Cyberspace

Publication Date: 
May 04, 2009
Cato Unbound

Cato Unbound discusses 10 years Professor Lawrence Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace:

Lawrence Lessig’s Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace is widely regarded as one of the foundational texts of Internet law. A book this important will always draw both defenders and critics, and Lessig himself has gone as far as to produce a free, open-source revision of the text, entitled Code Version 2.0. (We’d be remiss if we failed to point out that Lessig helped pioneer the very idea of “open source” distribution.)

In the original Code, Lessig was at pains to distance himself from cyberlibertarians; although he championed a relatively permissive regulatory regime for the Internet, Lessig insisted on the importance of politics in shaping this new area of human action. He warned that without carefully constructed regulations, corporate and other special interests stood to capture the online experience — with results that would be anything but free. His provocative final chapter was entitled “What Declan Doesn’t Get”; it called out journalist Declan McCullagh as just the type of over-optimistic cyberlibertarian who didn’t appreciate these growing threats.

In 2009, Code turns ten years old, and it is just as relevant as ever. It seemed fitting, then, to invite Declan McCullagh to help re-assess what Lessig and others were predicting at the time. We’ve invited Internet law experts Jonathan Zittrain and Adam Thierer to comment as well; each has a somewhat different perspective on the future of the Internet and how best to preserve its free and creative character. And the discussion wouldn’t be complete without Lawrence Lessig himself, who will respond to his critics and offer his own assessment of where things stand, ten years after his remarkable book.