Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

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Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace
Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (book) cover art.jpg
Author Lawrence Lessig
Publisher Basic Books
Publication date
Pages 297
ISBN ISBN 0-465-03912-X
OCLC 43836713
Followed by The Future of Ideas

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace is a 1999 essay by Lawrence Lessig. It has evolved into a partially wiki-written book Code v2 under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.[1]

Main topic[edit]

The primary idea of the essay, as expressed in the title, is the notion that computer code (or "West Coast Code", referring to Silicon Valley) may regulate conduct in much the same way that legal code (or "East Coast Code", referring to Washington, D.C.) does.[2] More generally, Lessig argues that there are actually four major regulators—Law, Norms, Market, Architecture—each of which has a profound impact on society and whose implications must be considered.

In detail[edit]

The essay includes a discussion of the implications for copyright law, arguing that cyberspace changes not only the technology of copying but also the power of law to protect against illegal copying (125–127). It goes so far as to argue that code displaces the balance in copyright law and doctrines such as fair use (135).[3] If it becomes possible to license every aspect of use (by means of trusted systems created by code), then no aspect of use would have the protection of fair use (136). The importance of this side of the story is generally underestimated and, as the examples will show, very often, code is even (only) considered as an extra tool to fight against "unlimited copying".

The book introduced the pathetic dot theory.

Other books[edit]

The Future of Ideas is a continuation of this part of the book; where Lessig argues that too much long term copyright protection hampers the creation of new ideas based on existing works, and advocates the importance of existing works entering the public domain quickly.[4]

See property, idea, copyright, and intellectual property articles for discussion about idea as property.

In March 2005, Lessig launched the Code V.2 Wiki to update the book with current information, which he then adapted into a second edition of the book, Code: Version 2.0, in 2006.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Code V2
  2. ^ "Digital Commerce; Settlement talks in the Microsoft case hinge on a question: Are the laws of government or software supreme?". The New York Times. December 6, 1999. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  3. ^ Mann, Charles C. (December 15, 1999). "The Unacknowledged Legislators of the Digital World". Digital Culture. The Atlantic. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Jesdanun, Anick (January 6, 2002). "Net legal scholar warns of threats". The Telegraph-Herald. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Related concepts[edit]

  • Architectures of Control - looking at the embedding of 'code' in physical products and systems to control users' behavior