Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace

By Lawrence Lessig | Go to book overview

PART THREE

applications

Nature doesn't determine cyberspace. Code does. Code is not constant. It changes. It is changing now in a way that will make cyberspace more regulable. It could change in a way that makes cyberspace less regulable. How it changes depends on the code writers. How code writers change it could depend on us.

If we do nothing, the code of cyberspace will change. The invisible hand will change it in a predictable way. To do nothing is to embrace at least that. It is to accept the changes that this change in code will bring about. It is to accept a cyberspace that is less free, or differently free, than the space it was before.

But then, how should the future develop? What values should the space have? I've emphasized the need for choice but have done little to show what that choice should be.

In this part, I practice that choice. I begin with a technique that is familiar to American constitutionalists in cases where constitutional law confronts changed circumstances. This technique, which I call translation, decides the present in terms of the past. Its aim is to choose in a way that is faithful to the choices of the past, to translate the commitments of the past into a fundamentally different context. Just as a language translator constructs a text that is different from the source but has the same meaning as the source, so too does the constitutional translator construct an application that, though different from the original application, has the same meaning in the current context as the original did in its context.

Translation will guide in important cases. It will show us how we can go on, consistent with traditions we respect. But in the cases I focus on most extensively, trans

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