Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age

Mike Godwin, Author, Godwin, Author
Mike Godwin, Author, Godwin, Author Crown Business $27.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8129-2834-1
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With an unusually broad view of free speech, lawyer and advocate Godwin, counsel to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, brings his opinions to bear on a slate of Net-related First Amendment cases and policy issues. Citing examples ranging from the landmark Compuserve ruling, in which the court found that an Internet service provider was akin to a bookstore and not a publisher in its culpability for disseminating offensive speech, to the LaMacchia incident, a software piracy case that was ultimately dismissed, Godwin argues for less government intervention, displaying a Panglossian view of the Net's potential. In doing so, he frames nicely some of the issues raised by the encounter of the 200-year-old Bill of Rights and the cutting-edge Internet. But through much of his book Godwin sounds defensive, and his polemics often trump nuanced analysis. By the time he gets to discussing the notorious Time magazine expose on cyberporn, criticizing the magazine for buying into hype, his arguments have become predictable--or flimsy, as when he implies that the Net poses no new risks with its dissemination of dangerous information, such as bomb-making instructions, because libraries have carried such information for years. Godwin's book is a thoughtful examination of an important subject, but its thoughts seem too often filtered through rose-colored screens. Editor, Tracy Smith; agent, General Median. (Aug.)
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