Enforcing Law Online

18 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2006 Last revised: 17 Mar 2018

See all articles by Orin S. Kerr

Orin S. Kerr

University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Date Written: 2007


This is a book review of an entertaining and engaging new book by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu, "Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World". Professors Goldsmith and Wu have written a short and accessible work that makes a straightforward and persuasive argument about the enforceability of law over the Internet. The book's brevity and anecdotal approach means that it overlooks a lot of detail; the dynamics of Internet regulation are more complicated than this short volume suggests. Whether this is a blessing or a curse depends on the reader's taste. It makes the book a fun read, but it also keeps the authors from grappling fully with the dynamics of the topics they cover. Either way, Who Controls the Internet is an important addition to the literature that deserves to be widely read.

This review begins with a summary of the book, and next discusses the cyberutopian vision of the Internet that it targets. It then considers what seems to be the deeper question underlying the book: When can law successfully regulate the Internet? It suggests that the effectiveness of a legal regime designed to regulate Internet transactions will depend heavily on four factors: who the law regulates, the cost and political viability of enforcement strategies, how much compliance is needed for the law to achieve its goals, and which side is winning the technological arms race at any given time.

Keywords: Internet enforcement code

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K14, K19, K30, K39, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Kerr, Orin S., Enforcing Law Online (2007). 74 University of Chicago Law Review 745 (2007), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=942859

Orin S. Kerr (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley School of Law ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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