Explanations for the success of Silicon Valley focus on the confluence of capital and education. In this Article, I put forward a new explanation, one that better elucidates the rise of Silicon Valley as a global trader. Just as nineteenth-century American judges altered the common law in order to subsidize industrial development, American judges and legislators altered the law at the turn of the Millennium to promote the development of Internet enterprise. Europe and Asia, by contrast, imposed strict intermediary liability regimes, inflexible intellectual property rules, and strong privacy constraints, impeding local Internet entrepreneurs. This study challenges the conventional wisdom that holds that strong intellectual property rights undergird innovation. While American law favored both commerce and speech enabled by this new medium, European and Asian jurisdictions attended more to the risks to intellectual property rights holders and, to a lesser extent, ordinary individuals. Innovations that might be celebrated in the United States could lead to imprisonment in Japan. I show how American companies leveraged their liberal home base to become global leaders in cyberspace. I argue that nations seeking to incubate their own Silicon Valley must focus on freeing speech, and so must the United States, if it hopes not to break this new industry.
How Law Made Silicon Valley,
Emory L. J.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.emory.edu/elj/vol63/iss3/3