Subject: Re: Book plug: Lessig, "Code"
From: <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Sun, 2 Jan 2000 18:33:54 -0800
Sun, 2 Jan 2000 18:33:54 -0800
On Tue, Dec 28, 1999 at 10:41:46AM -0800, kmself@ix.netcom.com wrote:
> I'd like to recommend Lawrence Lessig's  Code and other laws of
> cyberspace .  I'd put it on par with last year's  Inforules  -- one of
> the most intelligent and interesting books covering topics involving
> the Internet.

For those who'd like to get a pretaste for the book (or can't or won't
be moved to buy it), there's an online article which covers much of the
open source/free software related material from the book, as well as the
central tenet of the regulability of the Internet being an aspect of its
architecture.

Find it here:  http://cyber.harvard.edu/works/lessig/BerkPub.pdf
With more related informaton available here:
http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/BCLT/courses/fall99/cybersyllabus.html

    In fact, this power of government depends upon a feature of the 
    code application space code that has only recently become salient. 
    This feature is its ownership. Whether government can regulate code 
    depends in part upon who controls that code. If the code is 
    closed -- controlled by private for-profit organizations -- then
    government's power is assured. But if the code is open -- outside 
    of the control of any particular private for-profit organization -- 
    then the government's power is threatened. The more application space 
    code is open code, the less government can regulate that code.

    The reason is straightforward. Open code is software in plain view. It
    is software that comes bundled with its source code as well as its
    object code. Object code is the code that the computer reads. If you
    display it on your machine, it will appear as gibberish. But source
    code is code that programmers can read.  It is this code that allows
    a programmer to open an open source software project and see what
    makes it tick. By being able to see what makes it tick, open source
    software makes transparent any control that the code might carry. For
    example, if the code carries a government-mandated encryption
    routine, that routine will be apparent to open source coders. And
    because it is apparent, open source coders can then choose whether
    or not to adopt that portion of an open code project.  For by its
    nature, and by the promises that it comes bundled with in the
    form of licenses, any open code software project remains available for
    adopters to modify or improve, however the adopters think best.

And also

    [....M]y argument is not that a world with open code, or mostly open
    code, couldntt be regulated. In my view, there could be relatively
    small shifts in the architecture of the Netin the functionality
    built into the application spacethat would fundamentally enable
    state regulation, even if that application space were open code.30 If
    the Internet became "certificate rich" -- meaning that many people
    carried and used digital certificates 31 while "on" the Netlocal --
    government's power to regulate the Net could fundamentally increase,
    whether or not the basic certificate ar-chitectures were open or
    closed code.

...which raises an interesting personal debate as to whether or not I
should be PGP signing my personal email messages....

-- 
Karsten M. Self (kmself@ix.netcom.com)
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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