Information technology (IT) is unquestionably having a profound effect on many aspects of the social, cultural, economic, and legal systems of planet Earth. 1 IT has enabled significant advances in global communications technologies, particularly the Internet, that make it more possible than ever before to contemplate the development of a Global Information Society. 2 Such a society may offer many benefits to humankind, but constructing policies to enable and promote this information society presents significant challenges. Among the most difficult questions now confronting legal decision-makers are these: Can existing laws successfully be applied to activities occurring via new communications media such as the Internet? Can existing law be adapted to regulate these activities? Are existing laws outmoded or inadequate? Are completely new laws needed to deal with Internet and other information technology developments?
Experience thus far addressing these questions in the European Union (EU) and United States (US) suggests that existing law can sometimes be applied with relative ease to Internet activities and that existing law can sometimes be adapted to reach Internet activities. 3 However, in some instances, new laws seem to be needed. When old laws do not fit and cannot easily be adapted, it may be necessary to go back to first principles and consider how to accomplish societal objectives in the new context of the Internet. Decisions about the law of the Internet, whether carried out by judges, legislatures, or regulators, will have an important impact on the kind of information economy that will emerge. The EU is to be commended for realizing that regulating the Internet is about more than information infrastructure and economics. 4 Deciding how to regulate the Internet is also about constructing an information society in which social and cultural values can be preserved. This article will offer some suggestions about how regulators might more wisely make policy choices to promote a Global Information Society.
For the first decade or so after the development of computer networks and