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Technology and laws

In an good post by Nicholas Carr on “dark markets”, Doug Lay posts the following interesting comment:

This sounds like the sort of half-thought-out homily that Hollywood uses to convince gullible Congresscritters to support DRM legislation.

Let’s look for *legal* means to address illegal, predatory behavior, and not pretend we can hit the “rewind” switch on technology, thanks very much. Note that it appears the predators in this story either have already been brought to justice, or are peeing in their pants wondering if they will be traced through their credit card accounts.

This kind of argument – that existing laws are sufficient to police new technologies – is one that’s common amongst technology advocates, and it’s a valid argument in many cases. The job of a legislature is to make laws, after all, so it’s no surprise that legislative bodies see the creation of new laws as the ideal solution to all new issues.

However, what Doug and other such advocates ignore is that technological change is one of the few areas where we have actually required new laws the past, and especially so when the new technology involved delivers significant new powers to the populace. Advances in the printing press directly caused the development of intellectual property law, as it enabled cheap copies of books to be made. The invention of the car required the creation of laws for driving tests and speed limits.

I’m not arguing for the licensing of computers, of course. But what is clear is that if you believe that the internet is a truly powerful technology that delivers new capabilities into the hands of users, you shouldn’t be surprised if it also requires new law. Disruptive new technologies usually do.

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  • http://profile.typekey.com/NoMoreJihad/ NoMoreJihad

    And what new laws are you proposing, precisely? I think a more accurate defense of the “existing laws will cover the situation” is that any new laws should incorporate the spirit of old laws — which is to say — first respect the freedoms on which the prior laws were based. Things like the DMCA were so at odds with the traditional arc of American law, no wonder people aren’t interested in passing new laws.

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