The Law and Economics of Internet Norms

Posted: 2 Mar 1999

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 1999


A number of scholars have suggested that the law should defer to social norms on the Internet, either by abdicating its role entirely to cyberspace self-governance, or by carving out particular roles for nonlegal rulemaking. I challenge these assertions. I argue that Internet norms are elusive and rapidly changing, and that in most cases there is nothing like the consensus required for norm creation. I contend that Internet norms are likely to be inefficient, particularly when they are enforced by the underlying threat of exclusion from the network itself. Finally, I suggest that neither Net "vigilantes," judges, nor code itself can be relied upon to identify and enforce Internet norms with an appropriate sensitivity to efficiency and policy concerns.

Suggested Citation

Lemley, Mark A., The Law and Economics of Internet Norms (February 1999). Available at SSRN:

Mark A. Lemley (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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