EW IV: Philosophy and Law   no comments

Posted at 10:49 am in Uncategorized

This week I had a look at David Bainbridge,  Introduction to Computer Law, and Godwin, Cyber Rights. The Bainbridge is terrifically dull – he’s a professor of law and business and it really comes across in the text. I did find this vaguely useful, in the sense that now I realise why I will never be a lawyer. Anyways, he does make some useful commentary on the issue of freedom of expression, which is what I think I am going to be approximately focusing on for my coursework. He goes through a few case studies of real trials and discusses the outcomes which might be interpreted as being problematic in different ways. I think what Bainbridge is saying is that there isn’t really much precedent for questions of freedom on the internet yet – there’s only a limited number of real life trials that have happened and the results aren’t necessarily consistent.

The other book by Godwin, Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age, is much better, and I would recommend it. As the title suggests, it is advocationist in nature right from the start. Godwin thinks that freedom on the web is something that should be defended, and we should be much more worried about the consequences of restricting people rather than the consequences of not restricting people. Godwin is himself a lawyer, and discusses a large number of case studies on the issue of rights on the internet, particularly as related to free speech. He also argues that the web is really quite different from the other inventions of communication that came before. On page 75 he says

“The constitutional justification for special regulation of broadcast content – which covers radio, television, and cable and includes regulations like time-based restrictions (such as limiting material for mature audiences to distribution at certain times) -has been twofold. First is the concept of scarcity of resources. There is a notion that broadcasting frequences are so scarce that the government is the only institution with a global enough perspective to step in, allocate them, and govern their use for the public good. Second is the notion that broadcasting is pervasive in some fashion – that it creeps into the home in a way that makes it unique. Regardless of whether you accept these justifications for content control over the airwaves, the fact is that the internet is nothing like broadcasting in either way. Internet communication is not scarce. Every time you add a computer node to the internet, you’ve expanded its size. It is not pervasive because (with the arguable exception of spam…) you don’t have people pushing content into your home; you have people logging on and pulling content from all over the world…It is a fundamentally choice-driven medium for communication…” – p75

Written by Eamonn Walls on November 5th, 2012

Leave a Reply