[governance] If web-platforms are "criminally responsible for

Roland Perry roland at internetpolicyagency.com
Thu Mar 4 05:13:54 EST 2010

In message <4B8EC258.3030507 at polito.it>, at 21:11:04 on Wed, 3 Mar 2010, 
J.C. DE MARTIN <demartin at polito.it> writes
>I was mainly thinking of the many politicians that in Italy and France 
>(and perhaps elsewhere) claim that the Internet is a lawless place, 
>that "Internet is like the Far West" and that, of course, "we must put 
>an end to such unlawful situation". Hence, the HADOPI law and other 
>enlightened proposals.
>A reaction to that is to remark that it is simply not true: all the 
>provisions of the civil and criminal code, in fact, apply online as 
>they apply offline. There may be issues with enforcement, but certainly 
>not with lack of laws and rules - at that (national) level.

While I agree that "normal" laws also apply to the Internet, these often 
prove to be worthless when victim, perpetrator and service provider are 
in three different jurisdictions - which is more serious than a simple 
problem with "cross border enforcement", because sometimes the law 
itself differs in these three places.

There are also significant issues of interpretation, eg when local laws 
ban things such as "advertisements" (perhaps for tobacco or 
child-adoption) and although advertisements in newspapers and on TV are 
usually clear cut, online there is quite some debate about it (even for 
example saying that a domain name could be an advertisement):


[Please let us not discuss the merits of such bans and interpretations, 
but they do exist].

And some issues don't seem to be well covered by existing laws - I heard 
about one today, where 'hackers' have attacked a gaming site and 
"stolen" virtual items such as extra weapons and personas that the 
gamers had bought from the hosting company. Good luck in getting anyone 
to easily determine responsibility for a remedy in this case.

In the face of all this doubt and uncertainty, it's little wonder that 
legislators try to dream up new laws; although they rarely pause to 
think whether laws are very successful in changing behaviour.
Roland Perry
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