Saturday, May 01, 2010

Is the World truly flat?

The relatively short book by Jack Goldsmith and Tim WuWho Controls the Internet? Illusions of Borderless World” is absolutely a MUST for all who speculate, philosophize and ponder about Internet. It should also be read by all who hold quite naive concepts about globalization — or are sometimes against it.

In essence, it demonstrates, that contrary to popular views, Internet IS controlled by nations states and their policies. What is more, the authors argue, that this control is not only bad thing, not only it is not a censorship, but it is the imposition of law, which benefits the Internet.

The book devotes a lot of thoughts to the initial revolutionary movement for the freedom of cyberspace — the freedom from nation states governments. The analysis of John Perry Barlow famous declaration, in the framework of new, post-territorial order is amazing. We all still think of John's declaration and his EFF movement as ours ! While thinking this way we almost overlooked the DNS struggle, a fight of famous Jon Postel („If the Net does have a G-d,” wrote the Economist (1997), „he is probably Jon Postel”) with US government over the control over DNS. Not long time ago, in 1998, Jon tried to detract the impact of US government on the DNS system — but fe failed and the control was resumed, and is such to this days. We sometimes tend to forget it. Is that really bad ? Who knows ?

Technically, even with wireless and 3G networks — they are technically very (geo) localized, so not only with naming, but also with transmission — we are bound within boundaries — the fact we so often tend to forget ...

But the most interesting parts of the book deal with legal aspect of the net. From the initial successful French litigation against Yahoo (for allowing of nazi memorabilia to be sold online by Yahoo), to the incredible Dow Jones vs Gutnick case (won by Joseph Gutnick) we have a spectrum of cases that prove the one simple thing — despite seemingly „borderless” world of Internet — when it comes to content — it is in fact confined to state borders and their laws !!!

The analysis of music distribution on the net, from revolutionary Napster, through lawless Kazaa to Apple iTunes — shows the evolution toward the respect of copyright and its associated laws.

The same conclusion can be drawn when we read about eBay. Here the discovery of the positive effect of legal means of coercion against fraud and indecent hucksters is even more obvious. The facts about WHERE eBay does business are even more striking — it does not in Russia !
One can easily conclude why...

On more general level — when it comes to ecommerce itself — we observe that Internet did not remove the middleman — it just changed its kind !

The book is somehow paradoxical — it shows how important is localization for Internet, how important are physical, cultural and legal borders — but it says it is positive !

The ramifications of this book themes go somehow in a different directions than those of „The World is Flat” or „Lexus and the Olive Tree” — I guess I must again rethink it all....

Before reading it — I probably could argue against. But today....

What do YOU think ?

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