Regulating 'Spyware': The Limitations of State 'Laboratories' and the Case for Federal Preemption of State Unfair Competition Laws

70 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2005  

Peter S. Menell

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Abstract

Drawing on Justice Brandeis's oft-cited observation that states can serve as "laboratories" of policy experimentation, this Article develops a framework for assessing the allocation of governance authority for regulating Internet activities. In particular, it focuses on whether states should be free to experiment with regulatory approaches or whether the federal government should have principal, if not exclusive (preemptive), regulatory authority over Internet-related activities. Using recent efforts to regulate spyware and adware as a case study, the analysis shows that the lack of harmonization of, and uncertainty surrounding, state unfair competition law produces costly, confusing, multi-district litigation and pushes enterprises to adhere to the limits of the most restrictive state. Such a governance regime unduly hinders innovation in Internet business models. On this basis, the Article favors a uniform federal regulatory system and pre-emption of state statutes and unfair competition common law as applied to spyware and adware. The final section of the Article extrapolates from this study of spyware and adware regulation to the larger context of Internet governance.

Keywords: spyware, adware, unfair competition

JEL Classification: M37

Suggested Citation

Menell, Peter S., Regulating 'Spyware': The Limitations of State 'Laboratories' and the Case for Federal Preemption of State Unfair Competition Laws. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Vol. 20, p. 1363, 2005; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 803604. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=803604

Peter S. Menell (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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