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4.0 out of 5 stars Like Lessig, but in a very broad context, 29 May 2006
This review is from: The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (Hardcover)
First off, if you're looking for a nice introduction to what happens when law meets the internet, this is not your book. If this is your first dip into the debate, you're looking for Code or The Future of Ideas, both by Lawrence Lessig. Like those books (especially TFOI) it's big on the idea of the internet as a wonderful platform for free expression and innovation, both economically and socially motivated. Like them, it stresses the importance of openness and the commons in maximising the internet's potential and so wants open spectrum, open code and less hasty and restrictive intellectual property law. Unlike them, it can be very heavy going at times.

That's not really a criticism, because Benkler's written something much more self-consciously theoretical than most of the other cyber-law stuff you'll find on the market. His big idea is that the really fundamental change that the internet brings is social production - the fusion between social instincts, altruism and OCD that leads people to work on Linux, contribute to Wikipedia and write product reviews on Amazon. He then looks at what exactly this changes for economic production, democratic participation, cultural freedom and development, and argues that we need to do more to recognise and protect the benefits that it brings.

If did have a criticism, it would be that the book formalizes and thus labours what may seem like rather obvious points after the third variation. On the other hand, that's the nature of the beast if you're looking for a thorough academic treatment of these issues. The issues addressed are hugely important for anyone interested in economics or politics in the information age, and this is the most definitive treatment of them so far. Probably not one for the airport lounge, though.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Nov 2007 16:39:41 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
great review - spot on - it's a technical legal text (though for one of those, beautifully written) and it addresses a set of legal imperatives as urgent, important and revolutionary as its title (with its clear reference to Adam Smith's groundbreaking work) implies.
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