How Law Made Silicon Valley

By Chander, Anupam | Emory Law Journal, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

How Law Made Silicon Valley


Chander, Anupam, Emory Law Journal


ABSTRACT

Explanations for the success of Silicon Valley focus on the confluence of capital and education. In this Article, I put forward a new explanation, one that better elucidates the rise of Silicon Valley as a global trader. Just as nineteenth-century American judges altered the common law in order to subsidize industrial development, American judges and legislators altered the law at the turn of the Millennium to promote the development of Internet enterprise. Europe and Asia, by contrast, imposed strict intermediary liability regimes, inflexible intellectual property rules, and strong privacy constraints, impeding local Internet entrepreneurs. This study challenges the conventional wisdom that holds that strong intellectual property rights undergird innovation. While American law favored both commerce and speech enabled by this new medium, European and Asian jurisdictions attended more to the risks to intellectual property rights holders and, to a lesser extent, ordinary individuals. Innovations that might be celebrated in the United States could lead to imprisonment in Japan. I show how American companies leveraged their liberal home base to become global leaders in cyberspace. I argue that nations seeking to incubate their own Silicon Valley must focus on freeing speech, and so must the United States, if it hopes not to break this new industry.

INTRODUCTION1

Nearly every company set up in a garage in Silicon Valley hopes to take over the world. There is reason for such optimism. Again and again, Silicon Valley firms have become the world's leading providers of Internet services. How did Silicon Valley become the world's leading supplier of Internet services?

Popular explanations for Silicon Valley's recent success revolve around two features. First, Silicon Valley bestrides the great academic centers of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, and sits near the artistic and intellectual hub of San Francisco. Second, the center of venture capital in the United States also happens to be in Menlo Park, California, allowing both industries to profit from each other in a symbiotic relationship. But education and money coincide in other parts of the United States as well. Why did those parts not prosper in the manner of Silicon Valley? More fundamentally, did not the Internet make geography irrelevant? Scholars answer that Silicon Valley's advantage lies in the economies of agglomeration.2 Ronald Gilson argued that California's advantage was its labor law, which he believes encourages "knowledge spillovers" and agglomeration economies by facilitating employee mobility.3 While these standard accounts do much to explain the dynamism of Silicon Valley relative to other parts of the United States, they do not explain the relative absence of such Internet innovation hubs outside the United States, or the success of Silicon Valley enterprises across the world.4

Law played a far more significant role in Silicon Valley's rise and its global success than has been previously understood. It enabled the rise of Silicon Valley while simultaneously disabling the rise of competitors across the world. In this Article, I will argue that Silicon Valley's success in the Internet era has been due to key substantive reforms to American copyright and tort law that dramatically reduced the risks faced by Silicon Valley's new breed of global traders.5 Specifically, legal innovations in the 1990s that reduced liability concerns for Internet intermediaries, coupled with low privacy protections, created a legal ecosystem that proved fertile for the new enterprises of what came to be known as Web 2.0. I will argue that this solicitude was not accidental-but rather a kind of cobbled industrial policy favoring Internet entrepreneurs. In a companion paper, Uyên Lê and I show that these aspects of copyright and tort law were not driven by commercial considerations alone, but were undergirded in large part by a constitutional commitment to free speech. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How Law Made Silicon Valley
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.