Cyberdemons: Regulating a Truly World-Wide Web

In the decade leading up to the twenty-first century, the number of Internet-related legal disputes grew exponentially. This growth continues into the new millennium, introducing old problems in a new context. For instance, in the field of copyright, Eric Eldred, the operator of a website dedicated to posting literary works already in the public domain, challenged the Copyright Term Extension Act (“CTEA”). The CTEA blocked his plans to post works copyrighted in 1923, works which under the previous statute would have entered the public domain in 1999. Looking to trademark law, the field has become obsessed of late with providing a quick and easy way for trademark holders to regain domain names from cybersquatters without “paying them off.” In the First Amendment arena, the Internet continues to present challenges to the concept of a community standard of decency in obscenity jurisprudence. The Ninth Circuit recently pushed the boundaries of jurisdictional law, in an interesting example of the courts keeping pace with the times, when it ruled that plaintiffs could deliver service of process by e-mail when the defendant resides outside the country, if the plaintiff obtains a court order allowing service of process by e-mail under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3). Amid these decisions, Stuart Biegel attempts to craft a model of when and how regulators should go about attempting to bring order to the perceived anarchy of cyberspace. Biegel begins by noting “the commonly accepted notion that no one is in charge” of the Internet (p. 3), then goes on to debunk this notion by listing a number of agencies and groups that attempt to exert some level of control over the Net and “Netizens.” He then compares perceptions of Internet regulation to popular notions of the law in the American Old West, demonstrating how both differ significantly from reality.