Private Legal Systems: What Cyberspace Might Teach Legal Theorists

43 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2011

Date Written: January 1, 2007


One of the most pervasive and recurrent issues that legal theory has had to deal with is the very concept of law. And one of the most puzzling questions that cyberspace lawyers have been facing is where and in which form law is to be found on the Internet. This essay seeks to build a bridge between these two issues. The main argument is that, on the Internet and more specifically in the context of eBay (the online marketplace) and with regard to certain aspects of domain names, private spheres of normativity may be found that deserve to be considered as the epitome of private legal systems more so than the lex mercatoria. These systems provide fertile ground to test some of the most classical issues regarding the concept of a legal system and thereby to reflect on the essential features of law. This Article is thus a discussion of legal pluralism based on examples provided by the Internet. These particularly revealing examples are used to shed some light on issues such as the distinction between social and legal norms, the autonomy of a legal system, and law’s supposed features of supremacy, territorial exclusiveness and comprehensiveness.

Keywords: cyberspace, transnational law, private legal systems, ebay, UDRP, concept of law

Suggested Citation

Schultz, Thomas, Private Legal Systems: What Cyberspace Might Teach Legal Theorists (January 1, 2007). Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 10, No. 151, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Thomas Schultz (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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