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Lessig on Control

By Christopher Moore | May 24, 2006

In last week’s Globe & Mail (online here), internet freedom guy Lawrence Lessig was advising online gambling operators. They had better become legally compliant, he was telling them. Because the technology is such that uses are going to be measured, and the public supports controls on gambling. Which means, if the online gambling operators try to avoid measurement and control, law enforcement will hunt them down. What they should focus on, apparently, is working for laws that allow regulated online gambling to continue.

Sounds sound to me. The law professor has always seemed to accept that if people say to hell with the law online, the law will surrender to them. He’s had a hard time getting beyond that romantic notion, cutting-edge in the 1990s but now old and out of touch, that the law is not going to apply in cyberspace.

His advice to the gambling industry advice suggests he’s coming around. The law does apply. Things do get measured, and it’s counterproductive to seek to cover up one’s online activities.

Access and licensing, he seems to be proposing for the online gambling world. It’s where music downloading and digital uses of copyright ought to be going too. Lessig has long lamented the legal pursuit of Napster, Kazaa and their ilk. He’s raged against record companies that take legal action against downloaders. But controls that allow those who provide value to be rewarded for what they provide are fair, feasible and need not threaten a culture based on access. I wish he’d say so.

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