Current Issue

Volume 76, Number 1

April 2001

Siren Songs and Amish Children: Autonomy, Information, and Law

Yochai Benkler

Professor of Law, New York University. LL.B., 1991, Tel Aviv University; J.D., 1994, Harvard University.

New communications technologies offer the potential to be used to promote fundamental values such as autonomy and democratic discourse, but, as Professor Yochai Benkler discusses in this Article, recent government actions have disfavored these possibilities by stressing private rights in information. He recommends that laws regulating the information economy be evaluated in terms of two effects: whether they empower one group to control the information environment of another group, and whether they reduce the diversity of perspectives communicated. Processor Benkler criticizes the nearly exclusive focus of information policy on property and commercial rights, which results in a concentrated system of production and homogenous information products. He suggests alternative policies that promote a commons in information, which would distribute information production more widely and permit a greater diversity of communications.