Internet Public Library: Pathfinders

Topics in Internet Law

This Pathfinder is no longer being actively maintained by the Internet Public Library.

This pathfinder treats the law of or about the Internet, as opposed to law or legal-research sources available through the Internet.

“Internet Law” or “Cyberlaw” topics include (click on topic to zoom to it, or scroll down for general resources).

It is important to note that these areas have a strong tendency to overlap or blur together (perhaps this is both a strength of the Berkman Center style definition, below, and an argument that such a thing as “Cyberlaw” or “Internet Law” does exist)

Defining ‘Internet Law’

  • UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy

    The UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy subdivides its topic into “Cases, Statutes &Topical Highlights” into seven areas: E-Commerce, Freedom of Expression, Intellectual Property, Privacy and Encryption, Jurisdiction and Transborder Issues, Safety Issues, and Equity.

  • Berkman Center for Internet and Society
    The Berkman Center takes a very different approach and conceptually defines “Cyberlaw” as related to the cluster of fields in which “…software architecture can determine and constrain behavior much as traditional laws do in our communities” — i.e. adopting Lawrence Lessig’s concept of “Code”.

In compiling this pathfinder, I have tried to avoid being overly topical in the sense of focusing on specific issues of the moment. For example, while I write Senator Fritz Holling’s copy protection bill is a hot topic and the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear Eldred v. Ashcroft (formerly Eldred v. Reno), but because information on these types of things can be easily found from most or all of the sources in my Intellectual Property section, I have included no directreferences to current news articles or specific links to lower court cases. Obviously some specific legislation merits attention (e.g UCITA and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act) but even with these I have tried to avoid highly specific sources that are exceedingly likely to dissapear or to become outdated with near-term developments.

Also, because of the scope of this pathfinder, I have selected a lot of ‘pathfinder’ type resources for inclusion while deliberately avoiding the citation of many specific papers, cases, statutes, etc. It is my hope that this source can best serve as a sort of “pathfinder to pathfinders” in this exceedingly broad topic.

Sources on Internet Law

These are sources that cover ‘Internet Law’ generally, or as a coherent legal subject. Specific topical treatments are addressed in the sections below.

While it was once (even when this pathfinder was first created) much more helpful to talk about ‘Internet law’ in a general sense, the dilution of the Internet into many areas of public life has made it much easier to talk instead about several certain areas of law and regulation that are impacted by the Internet and related technologies. Nevertheless, some general treatments exist, and some scholars and others continue to focus on the Internet and Cyberspace as the unifying theme in their work.

Academic institutes

  • Berkman Center for Internet &Society
    Harvard’s “Berkman Center for Internet &Society is a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development.” The faculty and fellows of the Berkman Center also include extremely influential figures, like Lawrence Lessig and Jonathan Zittrain, on the law, policy, and technology front.

  • Cyberspace Law Institute

    This organization’s web-site (maintained by co-director David Post, a professor at Temple Law School) presents many papers and other resources about Cyberspace law.

  • The Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology
    Oversees Stanford’s Technology Law curriculum, with specific areas of focus upon General Technology Intellectual Property Life Sciences Information Sciences

  • Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society
    Stanford Law School’s public interest technology law and policy program

  • UCLA Online Institute for Law and Policy
    Also presents lists of cases and statutes grouped into issues of Freedom of Expression, Intellectual Property, Privacy and Encryption, Jurisdiction, Safety, and finally Equity.

Activist and Professional/Trade Organizations

Cyberlaw-focused Law Journals
There are a number of academic, scholarly, law journals that focus upon Internet or technology-related issues. Many (or even most) of these were founded around 1995, and a number continue in publication. While it may be difficult to locate specific articles without a journal index (for which you will need to consult a librarian) many of these journals present both articles and tables of contents online. A browse of some of the online tables of contents of current and recent issues of some of these journals can be useful for current awareness in the Internet-law area. I have included explanatory notes only where the journal is not a law-school published, student-edited journal from an American law school the name of which is clear from the title of the journal.

Return to topics list.

Digital Intellectual Property (IP)

Digital technology and Internet communications have enabled almost cost-less duplication and dissemination of music, movies, text, or any other media that can be reduced to (and transmitted as) bits of computer code. The result is that intellectual property law, copyright in particular, has been placed under a great deal of pressure. The owners of IP rights in digital media want to prevent wholesale piracy — yet many others fear a new regime in which the owners of IP can use technology itself to hard-code protections against copying, without the balances of traditional copyright law.

The IP issues overlap very strongly with the internet commerce issue, so you may want to browse the sources listed in both sections of this bibliography.

  • Digital Future Coalition
    An organization “committed to striking an appropriate balance in law and public policy between protecting intellectual property and affording public access to it” that has a membership composed of major non-profit and for-profit groups on various “sides” of the issues.

  • Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure
    The influential (and controversial) 1995 “white paper” report of the Clinton Administration’s Information Infrastructure Task Force.

  • James Boyle’s Home Page
    This home page of a Duke law professor is set up as a very useful gateway resource for information on digital IP, including his own writings and linking to those of others.

  • Larry Lessig’s Home Page
    While influential in other areas of Cyberlaw, much of Lessig’s work relates especially strongly to intellectual property.

  • Jessica Littman’s Home Page
    The author of the book Digital Copyright, Littman is an influential scholar of the intersection of technology and intellectual property.

  • Pamela Samuelson’s Home Page
    Samuelson is another professor who has been very widely influential in Internet Law, but especially so in its intellectual property aspects. Many of her papers and articles are available online through this site.

  • United States Copyright Office
    The United States Copyright Office web page presents information not only about U.S. Copyright law, but also about the World Intellectual Property Organization and the international treaties and conventions that affect this area.

  • Copyright and Fair Use for Librarians

    A dated, but well-presented, pathfinder.

  • World Intellectual Property Organization
    The main world-level body for intellectual property law, WIPO administers the Berne Convention and other IP-related treaties.

Copyright Licensing

    Harry Fox
    Music and Entertainment licensing agencies.

  • “Copyleft”/GNU Public License
    Alternative licensing regime with its origins in the open-source software movement.

  • Creative Commons
    Forthcoming experimental alternative management system for rights in intellectual property, developed by academics unhappy with the increasingly inflexible protections available to copyright-holders, aimed to provide “…flexible, customizable intellectual-property licenses that artists, writers, programmers and others can obtain free of charge to legally define what constitutes acceptable uses of their work.”

  • Copyright Clearance Center
    CCC, the “…the largest licenser of text reproduction rights in the world, was formed in 1978 to facilitate compliance with U.S. copyright law.”

Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, and the Eldred case.

It will probably be most helpful to check for new links and sources on the general resources in the IP section (especially the organization home-pages), because of the news-heavy topic. Also see the IPL’s U.S. Law pathfinder for information on searching federal court cases.

“Pathfinders” and Link Lists to Intellectual Property Law
Lists or finding aids especially strong on resources with Internet/technology-related focus have been selected.

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The commercial law of the Internet. Because most property at stake in cyberspace is intellectual property, the overlap or tension between this area and IP Law is strong and challenging.

Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA)
UCITA is being promulgated as uniform state law, meaning that it (like the Uniform Commercial Code by which it was inspired) is designed to be state, not federal, law but to be uniform across as many states as possible. Because UCITA is percieved as strengthening the contract position of those who license software or other digital content, it has been very controversial. UCITA is basically commercial contract law to cover contracts in electronic commerce, although the subject matter of those contracts and commerce is very often intellectual property.

  • UCITA Online

    Strongly pro-UCITA page maintained by commercial lawyer Carol Kunze.

  • National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws
    NCCUSL is the organization that has drafted and proposed the UCITA to the various state legislatures. Select “Computer Information Transactions Act” in the “Select an Act Title” pull-down menu.

  • Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions
    AFFECT is an umbrella group of opponents of UCITA, including the major librarian organizations (ALA, SLA, AALL), the Association for Computing Machinery, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and many others, including large corporations that are users of licensed software and content.

  • American Library Association

    The ALA’s Washington office has an extensive page of current-awareness links about UCITA.

  • Association of Research Libraries
    The ARL has a very extensive page of UCITA links.

  • Software &Information Industry Association
    Pro-UCITA page from the software publisher’s association.

For other e-commerce issues (e.g. taxation and the Internet), see especially the UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy, at http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/iclp/csth.html and the law reviews linked in the general section.

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Privacy topics that are related to Internet technology range from: government surveillance of email, Web activity, or telecommunications; to marketer’s monitoring or profiling of customers; to individual snooping; to identity theft and some forms of ‘hacking’. Rather than comprehensively deal with the sources on any of these topics, I have attempted to include enough resources to provide second-tier links for most privacy topics.

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Free Expression

Issues of free expression and the Internet range from questions of the status and application of First Amendment concepts such as “obscenity” and “community standards” in cyberspace to the politically and technically difficult issues of internet ‘filtering’ technology.

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Jurisdiction in Cyberspace

Because the parties to any sort of online transaction online can be located, physically, in any location and are only brought together “virtually”, the Internet has significantly challenged traditional notions of territorial jurisdiction. This is an important twist in many fields of Internet law (for example with free speech and censorship issues) but has also been treated as an important topic in its own right.

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Internet Governance

The last topic in this pathfinder, and one which perhaps spans across all of the others, is the topic of the “government” of the Internet itself – how the rules, protocals, and conventions that goven Cyberspace interact with the better-understood realms of law and policy.

  • New York Times Archive on Internet Governance
    Registration (for the New York Times on the Web) required, but a very extensive collection of articles related to domain-name allocation and many other issues.

  • Domain Names and IP Allocation
    • Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers
      “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit corporation that was formed to assume responsibility for the IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment, domain name system management, and root server system management functions previously performed under U.S. Government contract by IANA and other entities.”

      ICANN has a board of directors, that is elected from “the Internet community” — the composition of ICANN has been a matter of some controversy.

    • ICANN Watch
      Forum for discussion and resources related to domain-name management.
  • Standards
    While not law in a conventional sense, agreed-upon industry and practice standards do have much to do with the governance and functional regulation of the Internet – if only through the economic effects of lock-in and economies of scale. There is not space in this pathfinder to delve into sources for proprietary standards or to go into specific, technical, open standards. Here are links to two major standards bodies, however:

This pathfinder created by Andrew Larrick, based on an existing structure by Gavin Fearey.