The Song Remains the Same: What Cyberlaw Might Teach the Next Internet Economy
72 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2016 Last revised: 8 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 7, 2016
The next stage of the digital economy will involve trillions of networked devices, across every industry and sphere of human activity: The Internet of the World. Early manifestations of this evolution through on-demand services such as Uber and Airbnb are raising a host of serious legal questions. The stage seems set for a decisive battle between regulation and innovation. Yet this perspective is mistaken. In the end, the emerging businesses will welcome government engagement, and regulatory actors will accept creative solutions to achieve their goals. Why expect such a resolution? The exact same story played out twenty years ago, in the early days of the commercial internet.
Contemporary debates recapitulate a familiar error: the artificial division of virtual and real-space activity. Now as in the past, this “digital dichotomy” feeds both excessive skepticism about legal protections, as well as excessive concern about the threats from technology-based innovations. The history of cyberlaw shows the importance of overcoming such perspectives, and recognizing the potential of government as an enabler of innovation.
Keywords: internet law, on-demand economy, sharing economy, internet of things, cyberlaw
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