Issues in Cyberspace: Communication, Technology, Law, and Society on the Internet Frontier

By Packer, Cathy | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Issues in Cyberspace: Communication, Technology, Law, and Society on the Internet Frontier


Packer, Cathy, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Issues in Cyberspace: Communication, Technology, Law, and Society on the Internet Frontier. Jan Samoriski. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2002. 384 pp. $40 pbk.

Undergraduate Internet law courses have been introduced at numerous colleges and universities across the nation during the past five years, and most of the courses were launched without a textbook. Jan Samoriski, associate professor of communications at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has written a textbook to fill that void.

The author has undertaken a daunting task and done a commendable job on this first edition. Samoriski describes the book as "an attempt to explain and demystify cyberspace and the issues that are emerging within it." He succeeds fairly well. The strength of the book is its organization as a survey of the field that combines Internet law with the explanations of technology, economics, history, and communication theory needed to understand how the law is evolving and why. This book is appropriate for students who have not yet had a law class as well as those who have, and it's a fit for Internet law classes in all the disciplines in which they are commonly offered, including communication studies, journalism, political science, and information studies. Unfortunately, the broad scope of the book also creates some problems.

Issues in Cyberspace begins with three introductory chapters that explain the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web in terms of technological innovation, communication processes, First Amendment law, and economics. Samoriski explains the development of Internet not as the work of judges or legislators alone, but as the result of competing constituencies with conflicting agendas. This complex view is exactly what undergraduate students need to understand how Internet law has developed and to anticipate what might lie ahead.

Next are chapters covering each of the "hot" topics in Internet law, including online hate speech, protecting children from harmful content, and the regulation of spam. Each chapter combines discussions of broad issues for context; details of the specific Internet law topic; and boxed vignettes, profiles, or examples. The "Copyright and Piracy" chapter, for example, includes a brief history of copyright law and a short description of the current debate over what interests copyright law is designed to protect. The heart of the chapter outlines the major copyright cases and controversies of the Internet age, from the Betamax VCR recording case to Napster to issues of linking. …

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