Best New Internet Law Books?

Each fall I informally survey my media law colleagues and former Ph.D. students in search of great, new books to assign for my Internet law class.  The class is a mix of UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication undergraduates who already have completed a basic media law class and graduate students.  I’m looking for books that are focused on law and policy issues and that are enjoyable to read.  The latter criterion is important because I’m trying to show students how much fun it can be to study law, especially Internet law.

These are the books reported in this fall’s survey that might fit my criteria, although I haven’t yet looked at them closely enough to assess whether they will be enjoyable to read.

  • Hector Postigo, The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright (2012).
  • Robert Levine, Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back (2012).
  • Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola, Creative License:  The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling (2011).
  • Rebecca MacKinnon, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (2012).

This is a book that was suggested that sounds good but probably doesn’t have enough law for my purposes:

  • Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman, Networked:  The New Social Operating System (2012).

These are the books I assigned last year:

  • Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu, Who Controls the Internet?  Illusions of a Borderless World (2006). (This is getting dated but provides valuable background on a number of issues.)
  • Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture:  The Nature and Future of Creativity (2004). (When my student read this they begin to get excited about studying law.)
  • Daniel J. Solove, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet (2007).
  • Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything (2011).

I also have used these books in the past, with good results:

  • Dawn C. Nunziato, Virtual Freedom:  Net Neutrality and Free Speech in the Internet Age (2009).
  • Lawrence Lessig, Remix:  Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2008).

Does anyone have any additional suggestions?  Any comments on these books?  Thanks!


3 Responses to Best New Internet Law Books?

  1. Thomas Jones November 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Books I would recommend for consideration:

    The Internet
    Internet Architecture and Innovation
    Barbara van van Schewick

    The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
    Evgeny Morozov

    The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Vintage) [Paperback]
    Tim Wu (*fundamental IP law book as well*)

    Internet Governance
    Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace
    Milton L. Mueller

    Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance (Information Revolution and Global Politics)
    Milton L. Mueller

    IP law
    Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Version 2.0
    Lawrence Lessig

    No Law: Intellectual Property in the Image of an Absolute First Amendment
    David Lange

    The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires
    Tim Wu

    Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future
    Cory Doctorow


    Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker [Paperback]
    Kevin Mitnick

    Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground
    Kevin Poulsen

    We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency
    Parmy Olson

  2. Thomas Jones November 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    So, here we have an interesting question – not the one posed directly, but rather the one posed indirectly. Allow me to explain (after I blabber for a bit).

    Of the books assigned last year, I have read all 3 of the 4 (absent Googlization). The Future of Reputation acts more as a PSA for how to use the Internet – more candidly it demonstrates that speech has consequences, as in real life, but online to a much larger scale. And similarly, said consequences may be intended or unintended, purposeful or accidental. It alludes to some legal issues, but it isnt at the forefront – this is a more socio-technological read.

    Free Culture too, inspired me to pursue law. In fact I am studying for the LSAT now, preparing for a career in “Internet Law”. While dry, as is typical of Intellectual Property books, it is probably one of the best foundations one can lay to frame the IP field, its challenges, and its (even forthcoming) evolution.

    Who created the Internet is the most prolific and pivotal books for anyone who wishes to understand the digital environment – as crucial as studying the founding of our own country for historians. This should be mandatory reading regardless of its legal sustenance. It provides the crucial, often absent, context which helps segregate the digital world from the real – something most digital natives understand, but not digital immigrants. It is as important as understanding that an IP address identifies a machine, not an identity. Context is the means by which there is an Internet Law – there is no more important foundation than this.

    Free Ride surmises the transition of markets and how they have adapted to the technology medium. I presume it also discusses laws specifically for the digital space like DMCA, etc. I would think the tone of this book would balance Lessig’s Remix, but would not present it as an authority on the topic, merely one view of the larger framework in place.

    The Digital Rights Movement overlaps Free Ride in its categorically IP nature, but is transcendent toward the hacktivist purpose, raising issues of civil liberties (most notably privacy) and ongoing contemporary issues. Depending on how this is written, it could simply be another IP book.

    Consent of the Networked dives into the civil liberties issues that revolve around the Internet as a medium, the right to publish, and therefore the right to read – even so declared by the United Nations. There is a heavy overlap with the spirit of hacktivism and Anonymous movement. Is it too a socio-technological read? Or does this bring about civil rights issues in the correct context? I dont know.

    Ah yes, so, my explanation. I should begin by stating I have read none of the books proposed. However, the problem is not what books are proposed, but rather how said books imply to define what Internet Law is.

    I have been preoccupied with this question since Professor Jones’ INLS class in 2009. What is Internet Law? The books proposed contain 2 or 3 which focus on Copyright and Intellectual Property issues. I am not convinced that IP law = Internet law.

    Books targeted toward IP are probably where the most abundance of litigation is, given the nature of copyright, and the transformative nature of the Internet. However, the empirical arguments of IP remain – as I have learned thus far (and will continue to do so) – such issues revolve around how alleged crimes of IP law occurred given the nature of the Internet medium. Oddly, and perhaps not too accurately, relating IP law to Internet law seems to be splitting hairs… or playing semantics within IP law itself. Both the question and the answer are frustrating to comprehend, let alone accept.

    But what about other areas of law changed by the Internet? Speech? Privacy? Censorship? These too are valid domains of law which the Internet has transformed. But they often are not as publicized (or weren’t prior to Anonymous and Wikileaks), or as documented as IP law – even though constitutionally explicit.

    So, what is Internet law? Is the error in its naming after the medium? What if we asked what is Cyberlaw? What is Digital law? What is Online law? Would the answer be more clear?

    Or is the error in segregating it as a different study of law? Is Internet Law simply the study of traditional law focusing on the specific medium? If so, why not simply diversify the traditional law program to incorporate the digital environment? In the legal world, is it transformative enough to have its own identity? If so, why is its identity overshadowed so much by IP law?

    I struggle with this topic immensely because even with my IT background I dont yet know if I want to base my legal studies in IP law. I think that Internet law is simply a study of traditional law issues and concepts within the digital domain, for now at least. Of course, my position on the topic is always one good book away from changing.

    Empirically I think the list of books is too IP heavy for Internet law. Within the context of how transformative the Internet has been, you need 1 book to set the stage (Who controls the Internet, 1 IP book, 1 civil liberties book, 1 Internet Governance book (Networks and States or Ruling the Root by my former professor, Milton L. Mueller ), and one contemporary book – perhaps one which covers Anonymous or the behavior of Hacktivism.

  3. Stephanie Brown October 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    I love Lee Rainie & will buy his book for the Park Library. Davis Library owns it, but it is checked out. Levine’s book is at Davis and the UL, as is MacKinnon’s. None of us has Postigo’s book, so I might buy that too. Always love good book recommendations!

Leave a Reply