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Against ISP Liability

4 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2005  

Jim Harper

The Cato Institute


In "Holding Internet Service Providers Accountable" (Regulation, Winter 2004), Douglas Lichtman argues for making Internet Service Providers (ISPs) liable for the propagation of Internet pathologies like worms, viruses, and other malicious computer code. His hope is that placing liability on ISPs will give them the incentive to protect Internet users. Protecting users is a noble goal and Lichtman has given this problem a good deal of thought. But his argument for ISP liability has a fundamental flaw: it places efficiency ahead of justice. The Internet is a medium, not a thing, and the supply of access to it is peculiarly unsuited to a liability rule like Lichtman proposes.

Keywords: ISP, ISPs, liability, Internet, Internet pathologies, Lichtman, Internet Service Providers

JEL Classification: O31, O32, O33

Suggested Citation

Harper, Jim, Against ISP Liability. Regulation, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 30-33, Spring 2005. Available at SSRN:

Jim Harper (Contact Author)

The Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

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