Law & Technology

I am teaching a seminar on law and technology next semester, and I’m looking for a book or an article that addresses–at a relatively high level of generality–the disruptive impact of technological change on doctrine. (Or perhaps an excellent case study of how this occurred in a particular area).  Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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11 Responses

  1. You might find some ideas and references here, an online discussion by various experts on “human autonomy, technology, and law” held at Jurisdynamics last year (Feb. 2–March 5, 2009):

    And you might want to browse through the list on technology (2. Technology) from my bibliography for science and technology found here:
    (click on ‘science and technology’in the first sentence)

  2. Joe Miller says:

    The Introduction to Lessig’s Free Culture talks about the Causby case, and the change in property law (takings doctrine, specifically) wrought by the advent of airplane technology. (The whole book is available on line as a pdf, here: ) Even if this isn’t the best reading for it, it seems like a good possibility – the disruptions in doctrine brought by the advent of widespread airplane use. ( I suppose many questions arose, in a similar vein, with the advent of widespread train use.)

  3. Joe Miller’s reference inspired me to find something specific, so I’ll add this, which has a nice comparative U.S./E.U. dimension to its discussion: Bix, Brian and Winn, Jane K., “Diverging Perspectives on Electronic Contracting in the U.S. And the E.U.,” Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 54, pp. 175-190, 2006; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-15. Available at SSRN:

    Here’s the abstract:

    “Electronic Contracting – understood broadly to include both the Internet downloading of free or purchased software and the use of rolling contracts (shrink-wrap or terms in the box) in the sale of computers or the lease of software – has raised problems, based in part on the novelty of the transactional forms, and in part on the now-standard issue of unread terms in standardized contracts. This article, part of a conference relating to the legal regulation of new property and new technologies, offers an overview of the distinctly different approaches to Electronic Contracting of the U.S. and the European Union. The American legal system has tried, at times awkwardly, to fit the new transactions into existing doctrinal categories, leaving protection of consumers primarily to market mechanisms. The E.U. has responded through significant governmental intervention, at least for consumer contracts: expressing requiring some terms in consumer transactions, while prohibiting many others.”

  4. Bruce Boyden says:

    I’m not sure I have the solution you’re looking for, but for my Internet Law class, where I assemble my own materials, I assign excerpts from two pieces that talk about a little bit of legal doctrine, but at a generally high level: Frank H. Easterbrook, Cyberspace and the Law of the Horse, 1996 U. Chi. Legal F. 207, 207-210; and Orin S. Kerr, Seeing It Both Ways, Legal Affairs, July-Aug. 2003. I also like to assign the discussion from H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law 121-32 (Oxford Univ. Press 1961), of the “open texture” of law, because it makes the point about the potential for changed circumstances to make interpretation of a statute difficult without even referencing the Internet — you can talk about whether ambulances, toy motor cars, mopeds, etc. (some of which may have been invented after the local ordinance was passed) are “vehicles” banned from the park. Another article I’ve used once as an introduction is Jonathan Zittrain, Without a Net, Legal Affairs, Jan.-Feb. 2006, which is an early version of the argument he makes in The Future of the Internet.

  5. Dave Heal says:

    Chapter 4 of the Bellia/Berman/Post textbook on Cyberlaw starts out with a brief section on the effects of technological change on legal rules and then uses changes in surveillance technology as a kind of case study. It basically runs through the big 4th Amendment cases (Olmstead, Katz, Kyllo). It might be a bit more cursory than you’re looking for and doesn’t contain lots of analysis, but the progression from Olmstead to Katz is pretty stark and does a good job of illustrating the basic idea.

  6. Ken says:

    I think genetic science is the realm with the most complex and unclear legal issues right now. Here is an abstract and reference from Science a few years ago that highlights the ongoing issue, which I think has not come any closer to resolution.
    Science 11 March 2005:
    Vol. 307. no. 5715, pp. 1566 – 1567
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1105162

    Policy Forum
    Patents on Human Genes: An Analysis of Scope and Claims
    Jordan Paradise, Lori Andrews, Timothy Holbrook
    There is significant domestic and international opposition to gene patents based on the fact that gene patents deter medical research and health care, as well as the policy position that genes are an inherent product of nature. Yet, equally troubling is the fact that gene patents have been issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that are problematic with respect to existing federal patent law. The authors of this Policy Forum describe their study, which examined issued gene patents covering a variety of genetic diseases and described ways in which many claims fell short of USPTO patentability requirements.

    The authors are with the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law, 565 W. Adams, Chicago, IL 60661, USA.
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail:
    The editors suggest the following Related Resources on Science sites:
    In Science Magazine
    Problems in Patenting Human Genes
    Kate H. Murashige;, Joseph J. Rolla;, Jordan Paradise, Lori B. Andrews, and Timothy Holbrook (24 June 2005)
    Science 308 (5730), 1868. [DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5730.1868]

    A Consumer Perspective on Forensic DNA Banking.
    S. F. Terry and P. F. Terry (2006)
    J. Law Med. Ethics 34, 408-414

  7. Tuan says:

    The classic discussion in the First Amendment field would be Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom.

  8. Vladimir says:


    Stuart Banner has a gem of a book, “Who Owns the Sky?,” that should be perfect for your needs. It deals with the seemingly disruptive effects of airplanes on property law. How could an airplane fly over someone’s land, without permission, given that property extended to the end of the atmosphere? Long story short, what looked like a fertile new field of law, brought on by a devastatingly new and disruptive technology, in the end didn’t emerge.

  9. Gerard Magliocca says:

    Thanks! These are great suggestions.

  10. greglas says:

    There’s less out there in the legal literature than you might think. I’m writing a book that touches on this question — I used the airplane as an example (the automobile is a great example too). I actually had not seen the Banner book and am looking forward to checking that out.

  11. Tony says:

    Congrats, I hope it goes well. My school is offering something similar next semester and I’m looking forward to it.