Law legitimizes power in relationships between individuals and states. It is the means by which we allocate property, decide on risk and responsibility and determine our relationship with government. However, it is not the only – or most important – way in which we regulate the Internet. The Internet is a space built on software code, and an international ‘cyberspace’ also, which presents two challenges to law: how to regulate code, and how to regulate internationally. That by no means makes the Internet ungovernable or ‘unregulable’ – it does make it more complex and requires more international coordination. However, arguably the same applies to other ‘global public goods’ – international environments in which the good produced is not privately available, non-excludable and not diminished by this ‘unauthorised’ public sharing – such as the environment, financial markets and the legal system itself.
This seminar discusses law’s effect on the Internet by its policy goals: to allocate rewards to participants, to decide on the allocation of power between states and individuals, and to distribute risk and reward in the use of the Internet. It finishes by describing innovative legal doctrines to better enable the continued development of the Internet, such as Science Commons and Creative Commons for intellectual property, and unlicensed mesh wireless networks for connectivity.