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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contested rights in cyberspace Song, Longmei


Ongoing development in the Internet technology and usage has brought controversies over the definition and scope of different private rights in connection with the use of the Internet. While relevant legal reforms and academic commentaries have mainly focused on institutional reform or micro-behavioral regulation, this thesis attempts to examine information rights in a bigger picture, by questioning the rationales and values that underpin current major regulatory regimes. Privacy right and copyright, two relatively well defined fields in most liberal democratic nations, now are subject to diverse contests as a result both of the traditional dichotomy of the public and the private power in neoliberal regimes and of the control battle in which technology colludes with law to change the established equilibrium in the real world as well as in the cyberspace. Despite the varying regulatory preferences between the United States ("bottom up") and the European Union ("top down"), the prevalence rhetoric of private ordering - that cyberspace should avoid coercive rules laid by sovereign governments and welcome a laissez-faire network of contracts and customary norms - covers the factual assumptions of these norms. The central question dealt by the thesis is: how much control should we allow over information, and by whom should this control be exercised? The thesis examines the major decision-makers and stakeholders in the information market; it also analyzes the dynamic process that enforces and legitimizes such decisions. The thesis takes side with technorealism that advocates rights consciousness, as most information-related rights are now being regulated in a more surreptitious way than before. If we are to have alternatives to the digital libertarianism, we will have to contribute our own input to the process of shaping and re-defining rights in cyberspace as well as in the real world. On the other hand, it calls for a right level of abstraction. We need to reconceptualize information privacy and copyright in cyberspace because doing so brings better understanding of the power structure of current Internet regulation, which in turn directs popular attention to focus on the ends rather than the means of regulation.

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