This meme, with additional links, comes from Chapter 1, Part 2 of Code v.2, the collaborative online sequel to Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace by Lawrence Lessig.In cyberspace we must understand how code regulateshow the software and hardware that make cyberspace what it is regulate cyberspace as it is. As William Mitchell puts it, this code is cyberspace’s “law.”5 Code is law.
This code presents the greatest threat to liberal or libertarian ideals, as well as their greatest promise. We can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental, or we can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to allow those values to disappear. There is no middle ground. There is no choice that does not include some kind of building. Code is never found; it is only ever made, and only ever made by us. As Mark Stefik puts it, “Different versions of [cyberspace] support different kinds of dreams. We choose, wisely or not.”6
- See William J. Mitchell, City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), 111. In much of this book, I work out Mitchell’s idea, though I drew the metaphor from others as well.
Ethan Katsh discusses this notion of software worlds in “Software Worlds and the First Amendment: Virtual Doorkeepers in Cyberspace,” University of Chicago Legal Forum (1996): 335, 338.
Joel Reidenberg discusses the related notion of “lex informatica” in Lex Informatica: The Formulation of Information Policy Rules Through Technology PDF/HTML, Texas Law Review 76 (1998): 553.
I have been especially influenced by James Boyle’s work in the area. I discuss his book in chapter 9, but see also Foucault in Cyberspace: Surveillance, Sovereignty, and Hardwired Censors, University of Cincinnati Law Review 66 (1997): 177.
For a recent and powerful use of the idea, see Shapiro, The Control Revolution.
Mitch Kapor is the father of the meme “architecture is politics” within cyberspace talk. I am indebted to him for this.
- Mark Stefik, “Epilogue: Choices and Dreams,” in Internet Dreams: Archetypes, Myths, and Metaphors, edited by Mark Stefik (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), 390.
- The Code Is the LawThe single most significant change in the politics of cyberspace is the coming of age of this simple idea: The code is law. The architectures of cyberspace are as important as the law in defining and defeating the liberties of the Net.
- Code is LawOn Liberty in Cyberspace
- The Laws of the Virtual WorldsVirtual worlds - online worlds where millions of people come to interact, play, and socialize - are a new type of social order. In this Article, we examine the implications of virtual worlds for our understanding of law.
- Manipulating the Governance Characteristics of CodeThis paper examines three universal governance characteristics that policymakers may use to ensure code comports with societal concerns. The characteristics that are studied are transparency, defaults, and standards.
- The Withering Away of Property: The Rise of the Internet Information CommonsThis article argues that, contrary to the predictions of enclosure, a flourishing commons exists in respect of information that is communicated via the Internet. The commons, however, remains a relatively under-theorized concept in political and legal theory. This article explores the meaning of 'the commons' and its relationship to property and advances it as a useful explanatory tool for describing free information environments in cyberspace.
The Privatization of the Internet’s Backbone Network (PDFHTML),
"Scholars have neglected the privatization of the Internet's backbone network, despite the obvious significance of the U.S. Government turning control over a powerful new communication technology to the private sector. This paper describes the transition from a government sponsored backbone network to multiple commercially owned backbone networks. We also analyze the implications of the privatization upon the Internet’s governance, competition, and performance."GoverningWithCode.org