IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The Law and Economics of Internet Norms

Listed author(s):
  • Lemley, Mark
Registered author(s):

    Private ordering is in vogue in legal scholarship. Nowhere is this clearer than on the Internet. Legal scholars who study the Internet talk freely about new forms of governance tailored to the specific needs of the Net. Only rarely are these "governance" models ones that involve a significant role for government as classically envisioned. Some scholars see international law, with its emphasis on political and moral suasion rather than legal authority, as the appropriate way to govern what is after all an international phenomenon. Many others, though, look to contracts as the preferred model for governing cyberspace. These models generally rely in the final analysis on a supreme legal authority to establish the initial property entitlements and enforce the contracts that govern the Net. The property-contract model is perhaps better thought of, then, as quasi-private ordering. But the common goal of these quasi-private ordering advocates is to decentralize governance and return control to the people, or at least the people who write the contracts. Contemporaneous with the rise of contracts as a mechanism for Internet governance, another group of legal scholars has explored the existence of what might be thought of as true private ordering: the social relationships that individuals and groups form that operate outside of the law. In this essay, I take a skeptical look at the idea that law should give deference to private norms on the Net and suggest a number of reasons why one might prefer public to private ordering on the Net.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt53m6v36j.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 12 Mar 1999
    Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt53m6v36j
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Boalt Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720

    Fax: (510) 642-3767
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt53m6v36j. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.