Friday, December 22, 2006

Computer Crime Paper

Here's the introduction to my Computer Crime Paper:

I. Introduction.

a. The Internet.

I spend a great deal of my life in a realm that I neither understand nor want to, a realm where social interaction is bizarre, communication odd and inefficient, where 99% of the information acquired is thoroughly corrupted, suspect, or simply irrelevant, and danger seems to lurk in a billion shady nooks.

Luckily, exiting this realm is easy. One merely opens a computer, finds a wireless network, and connects to the Internet, where things make sense.

Like the archaic realm of reality, the Internet is interesting, mainly because we have to share it with a billion other people, some nasty, some nice, and the majority with simply abhorrent grammar. And in virtual reality, as in real meat-and-potatoes reality, the trick is figuring out how to get along with those people. Theories of how to do this are plentiful. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, Moses laid down some suggestions on how to deal with one’s brothers. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Cain had another, slightly more direct, idea.

Regardless, we’ve had 100,000 years to figure out how to get along with one another, and minus the Crusades and a couple of world wars, we’ve pulled it through. But the Internet is fresh and new, and the race has had little more than a decade to explore, navigate, and mozilla it. And there was nothing on the Decalogue about trolls.
So it’s no huge surprise that we turn to the old world to explain the new. If you want to know how to treat email, you look at how we treat real, tangible mail. eBay is an auction house, Travelocity is a travel agent, homepages are homes. We compare and contrast, we analogize, we’re loose with our “as if’s” and “effectively’s.” Sometimes the comparison resonates, and sometimes it’s, to be generous, an awkward fit.

This paper probes one such analogy. I seek nothing less, and certainly nothing more, than a Lockean theory of cyber-property. I do not propose to settle the great philosophical debates of Western culture, nor do I aspire to solve the enigma of law, and I have neither the time nor ability to discern the natural order of the entire Internet and propose its ethical implementation. I will not even pretend to develop a fully-fleshed theory of property—this theory pays no mind to Rawls’ maximin, it may or may not perfect the greatest good for the greatest number, and if it should lead us to the final communist anarchy of Marx, I shall be, at the very least, somewhat surprised.

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