The Grey Chronicles


Cyberspace and Code v.2.0

Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Version 2.0Concluding the post on Lawrence Lessig’s Code version 2.0 (2006), this post attempts to highlight the gist of the book with regards to cyberspace. Previous two posts dealt with my annotations on blogging and privacy. The domain of both these topics are in cyberspace. The book was originally written ten years ago, revised in 2005, but still these topics are the prevailing subjects in cyberspace.

“Real space is the place where you are right now … a world defined by both laws that are man-made and others that are not. «Limited liability» for corporations is a man-made law. It means that the directors of a corporation (usually) cannot be held personally liable for the sins of the company. Limited life for humans is not a man-made law: That we all will die is not the result of a decision that Congress made. In real space, our lives are subject to both sorts of law, though in principle we could change one sort.” (Lessig, 2006: 11)

Annotations : Laws are important in our lives, especially if they are done to the letter. Changing them when time and events require is part of it. In the Philippines, there are a lot of good laws, but unfortunately what its lacks is proper implementation. In cyberspace, the Philippine government have enacted laws to protect its citizens from inadvertently using this technology to their undue advantage. Moreover, according to Article19 and the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility [CMFR] (2005) there are still much to be desired, especially on media freedom.

“One of the defining features of modern life is the emergence of technologies that make data collection and processing extraordinarily efficient. Most of what we do—hence, most of what we are—is recorded outside our homes. … Both private and public monitoring in the digital age, then, have the same salient feature: monitoring, or searching, can increase without increasing the burden on the individual searched.” [Emphasis added.] (Lessig, 2006: 22—23)

Annotations : This is also the topic of the previous post on privacy.

“«Regulability» is the capacity of a government to regulate behavior within its proper reach. In the context of the Internet, that means the ability of the government to regulate the behavior of (at least) its citizens while on the Net. … To regulate well, you need to know (1) who someone is, (2) where they are, and (3) what they’re doing. But because of the way the Internet was originally designed, there was no simple way to know (1) who someone is, (2) where they are, and (3) what they’re doing. Thus, as life moved onto the Internet, the regulability of that life decreased. The architecture of the space—at least as it was—rendered life in this space less regulable.” [Emphasis added.] (Lessig, 2006: 23)

Annotations : By far, a very good resource on the debate on this regulability in Philippine scenario is The Philippine Quarterly IT Law Journal (2004). Of course, there might be other resources, but this journal would suffice for the time being . In the event that additional publications, i.e., readily available on the Internet, be accessible to this writer, this would be posted here.

“The first imperfection is information about users … The second «imperfection» is information about geography … And finally, the third «imperfection» is information about use. … These three «imperfections» tie together: Because there is no simple way to know who someone is, where they come from, and what they’re doing, there is no simple way to regulate how people behave on the Net. If you can’t discover who did what and where, you can’t easily impose rules that say «don’t do this, or at least, don’t do it there.» Put differently, what you can’t know determines what you can control.” [Emphasis added.] (Lessig, 2006: 36)

Annotations : Or simply stated, cyberspace users are everywhere, and only an IP address is identifiable. The Internet’s reach is worldwide, even if other locations are still not connected to it, but the Internet is globally pervasive. There is also no way, yet, of precisely knowing what people do with it—beyond browsing, e-mailing, chat, etc., or how they use the information gathered from it.

“[F]our constraints regulate this pathetic dot—the law, social norms, the market, and architecture—and the «regulation» of this dot is the sum of these four constraints. Changes in any one will affect the regulation of the whole. Some constraints will support others; some may undermine others. Thus, «changes in technology [may] usher in changes in . . . norms,» and the other way around. A complete view, therefore, must consider these four modalities together.” [Emphasis added.] (Lessig, 2006: 123)

“The constraints are distinct, yet they are plainly interdependent. Each can support or oppose the others. Technologies can undermine norms and laws; they can also support them. Some constraints make others possible; others make some impossible. Constraints work together, though they function differently and the effect of each is distinct. Norms constrain through the stigma that a community imposes; markets constrain through the price that they exact; architectures constrain through the physical burdens they impose; and law constrains through the punishment it threatens.” [Emphasis added.] (Lessig, 2006: 124)

Annotations : This Lessig’s dot could be applied to anything—human or not. Human, in terms of behavior, and an issue, such as his example: smoking. He used this model to describe the regulation of behavior in cyberspace:

Law regulates behavior in cyberspace. Copyright law, defamation law, and obscenity laws all continue to threaten ex post sanction for the violation of legal rights. … Norms also regulate behavior in cyberspace. … [A] set of understandings constrain behavior, again through the threat of ex post sanctions imposed by a community. … Markets regulate behavior in cyberspace. Pricing structures constrain access—such as areas of the Web are beginning to charge for access, as online services have for some time—and if they do not, busy signals do. … Finally, an analog for architecture regulates behavior in cyberspace—code. The software and hardware that make cyberspace what it is constitute a set of constraints on how you can behave. … password before you gain access … encryption … protocol.” [Emphasis added.] (Lessig, 2006: 124—125)

Annotations : I had once blogged here about my signature, which states “More often than not, the best things in life are not for free.” This is also applicable to the originally free, meaning costing nothing, Internet. If you want reliable or undeniably certain facts from some Internet sites, you have to pay for it. Take for example, steel prices. Maybe you could get an archive of steel prices dating back several years before now, but for current prices, you might be required to pay for it! There are certain business intelligence sites which might offer some snapshots of the current steel prices, but if you want, say a time-series of such data, you really have to be either a subscriber or a credit-card holder to get what you want.


ARTICLE 19 & CMFR (2005). Freedom of Expression and the Media in the Philippines. London: ARTICLE 19 & Makati: Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility [CMFR]. December 2005. pp. 47—68. back to text.

Lessig, Lawrence (2006). Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Version 2.0. New York: Basic Books, Perseus, 2006. pp. 236—244. back to text: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8.

Soriano, Jaime N. [ed] (2004). The Philippine Quarterly IT Law Journal. Pasay: Arellano University School of Law E-Law Center and IT Law Society , 2004. back to text.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts herein do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions. Read the full version of self-imposed rules for this blog: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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