Regulating the Internet!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has a brief article today on an incredibly complicated issue that is who/what regulates the Internet. While the Internet was developed in the United States, right now it is essentially a free and open resource without an overseer of its functions other than the assignment of domain names which is done by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Government agencies have questioned its openness particularly with regard to “copyright piracy, child pornography and other lawlessness that thrives on the digital frontier”. In the past, governments have sought to restrict its use with mixed success. Right now the Internet remains fairly open but discussions among various inter government-affiliated organizations such as the Group of 8 industrialized nations and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are raising questions as to whether there is a need for greater regulation and if so, who does the regulating. For a good review of the history of this issue and one important judicial case, I would recommend Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu (2006). The authors, both professors of law, argue national governments will continue to maintain their sovereignty in the age of the Internet, largely because of economics and that Internet corporate giants such as Yahoo, Google and eBay need governmental support in order to function. It reviews the case of Yahoo, an American company, which was tried in French court for facilitating the auctioning of Nazi paraphernalia in violation of French law, the company was eventually forced to comply with local laws or risk losing the ability to operate in France.


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