Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace

By Lawrence Lessig | Go to book overview
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ELEVEN
privacy

THE CONCLUSION OF PART 1 WAS THAT CODE COULD ENABLE A MORE REGULABLE CYberspace and that this is cause for concern. The conclusion of the last chapter was that code could enable a more regulable regime of intellectual property, and again, that this is cause for concern. In both cases, code resets a traditional balance between freedom and constraint, and we need to ask whether the new balance is consistent with our tradition or with how we want the space to be.

With "privary," the story is a bit different. Here the code has already upset a traditional balance. It has already changed the control that individuals have over facts about their private lives. The question now is: Could code re-create something of that traditional balance? I argue that it can. 1

There's a story from early MUD history that will introduce this debate about privacy. 2 You recall that MUDs are text-based virtual realities where people build characters and those characters come to represent who their creators are. In the early history of MUDs the community of MUDers was relatively small, and certain characters became well known across MUD communities. Famous characters became known to everyone.

There is a behavior in MUDs and MOOs called "tinySex"—text-based virtual sex in which (at least) two people talk through a sexual encounter. Sometimes this talking is just talk. Sometimes something more is going on. But in any case, tinySex is a significant part of the history of MUDs, as its cognates are in other parts of cyberspace and in real space as well. 3

In an early and prominent MUD, there appeared a character who was particularly interested in tinySex, and especially in tinySex with famous MUD characters. This character (a man in real space) "was" a woman, and he proceeded to "seduce" (tinySeduce?) a string of famous characters. Off they would go to some "private room" and engage in a tinySex affair. Many famous MUDers were seduced by this character, who engaged in quite a bit of tinySex.

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