A Conversation with Pierre Trudel: Issues and Dimensions of Internet Regulation

Montreal Media Policy Group and Media@McGill are proud to present a public talk by Pierre Trudel on internet regulation.
January 24, 2008
Thomson House | 3650 McTavish, Montreal
Regulate the internet! Passions are stirred up every time this possibility is discussed. We hear repeatedly that the internet cannot be regulated! Yet, for more than a decade in US- where regulation is not exactly a natural reflex- hundreds of bills related to the internet have come before the House of Representatives and the Senate. Many of these have been adopted. In 1996, Fordham Univeristy’s Joël Reidenberg observed that the internet is a space regulated by technique; that is to say by the cumulative effect of the technological choices that are imposed on online activities. This theme was picked up by many others including Larry Lessig in his import work “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace”. The title of this book underlines the fact that a combination of rules governs the activities that take place in cyberspace.
Internet regulation and the activities that it involves can be approached as the combination of the rules and mechanisms that augment or diminish risk for users and other actors. In this network, regulators and actors are in a position to increase or reduce risk for themselves or for others. Technology induces situations that augment or diminish risk. The same is true of national law. Net actors envisage the technical constraints and possibilities as well as the laws that are susceptible to being applied to their own activities as forms of risk to be managed. Active regulation in cyberspace is essentially the result of strategies of risk management on the part of these actors and regulators. Such regulation can emanate from all actors; including states.
On the internet, as everywhere, regulation is clearly not an end in and of itself: it reflects needs that can be different from one country to another or from one era to another. For example, the concern that creative work that is created here, by artists from here should be present in the mediascape is found in Canada even though it is not a question that is asked in the US. But, once it is agreed that it is necessary to provide some balance in the conduct of activities that take place online, the question is no longer whether or not the internet can be regulated, but instead, by whom is it being regulated and how?
Pierre Trudel is full professor at the Centre de recherche en droit public (CRDP), Faculté de droit de l'Université de Montréal. He has held the L.R. Wilson Chair in droit des technologies de l’information et du commerce électronique since 2003. He is visiting professor at Université Laval (Québec), Paris II (Panthéon-Assas) et Namur (Belgique). He teaches in the areas of civil law, intellectual property law, information law, broadcasting law and cyberspace law.
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