Check out John Stanley and Ernie the Attorney via The Shifted Librarian for some thoughts about the legal system and the Internet. As Mr. Stanley writes:
A cyber Code of Hammurabi will not suffice. There was no artificial intelligence in Babylon. Another Magna Carta will be required, another Grotius, another Blackstone. Within the body of law that does not yet exist Dred Scott and Marbury v. Madison may seem trivial or quaint.
To interpret the music of the spheres where computers and the law intersect requires an ability to read the score and hit a moving target. It is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff when the wind is blowing at the speed of light.”
Pardon me, but this is ridiculously overblown, and really kind of a surprisingly juvenile approach to the law to be coming from a bunch of lawyers. Law exists to resolve disputes, rarely to anticipate them. In most cases, first law that resolves a dispute doesn’t come from a legislature, it comes from a court; that’s why/how the law is a living thing.
Furthermore, law that comes from a court, in the vast majority of cases, is based on precedent, which is little more than a fancy word for prior experience. To suggest that we need “another Magna Carta” is to suggest that the Internet is beyond the experience of those who are creating it. This, of course, is nonsense.
To quote myself from the July 1995 NetGuide, “Nothing happens online that doesn’t happen in the real world.” Though the Net adds some fascinating questions to a ton of areas — particularly the notions of “ownership” and “location” — The Net is nothing like uncharted territory. To suggest that it is somehow otherwise is to invite all sorts of unpleasant mischief.
The Net changes everything. The Net changes nothing.