The Law and Economics of Internet Norms
Posted: 2 Mar 1999
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.
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