Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace

By Lawrence Lessig | Go to book overview

EIGHT
the limits in open code

I'VE TOLD A STORY OF HOW REGULATION WORKS AND OF INCREASING REGULABILITY— of changes in the architecture of the Net that will better enable government's control. These changes, I have argued, will emerge even if government does nothing. They are the by-product of changes made to enable e-commerce.

That was part 1. In this part, I've upped the stakes. My aim has been to give a deeper account of the values built into a particular architecture of the Net, and thus a deeper understanding of the ways in which government might act to shape those values.

But now the story changes. I want to introduce a complication on this road to regulability. While relatively new in Internet time, this complication promises (or threatens) to bring about an important change in the character of the Net and the feasibility of regulating it.

This complication is free software, or open source software or, more simply, open code. 1 Put too simply, everything I have said about the regulability of behavior in cyberspace—or more specifically, about government's ability to affect regulability in cyberspace—crucially depends on whether the application space of cyberspace is dominated by open code. To the extent that it is, government's power is decreased; to the extent that it remains dominated by closed code, government's power is preserved. 2 Open code, in other words, can be a check on state power.

This is a lot to convince you of in a single chapter—especially since the conclusion will seem to be an important reversal on much that I have argued so far. To see the point, we must back up and understand a bit more about the nature of the code space that government might regulate and the nature of the actors who might control that space.


CODE ON THE NET

I've spent lots of time talking about the code of cyberspace. For those who know something about code in cyberspace (and who are still with me here), what I've said

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Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • Part One - Regulability *
  • One Code Is Law *
  • Two - Four Puzzles from Cyberspace *
  • Three - Is - I S M *
  • Four - Architectures of Control *
  • Five - Regulating Code *
  • Part Two - Code and Other Regulators *
  • Six - Cyberspaces *
  • Seven - What Things Regulate *
  • Eight - The Limits in Open Code *
  • Part Three - Applications *
  • Nine - Translation *
  • Ten - Intellectual Property *
  • Eleven - Privacy *
  • Twelve - Free Speech *
  • Thirteen - Interlude *
  • Fourteen - Sovereignty *
  • Part Four - Responses *
  • Fifteen - The Problems We Face *
  • Sixteen - Responses *
  • Seventeen - What Declan Doesn't Get *
  • Appendix *
  • Notes *
  • Index *
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