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Analyzing the Production of the Law of Cyberspace
Unformatted Document Text:  11 The motivation of a firm is straightforward. Firms are driven by profit. 38 In order to make profits, firms must provide goods and services that meet consumer demand. Successful firms listen to their customers, provide them services they need and will need, and provide support when they run into trouble. In short, economic concerns are the primary motivator of firms. 39 As a result, economic concerns shape the development of code by firms. The consequence is that values that are deemed to be unprofitable are not factored into a firm’s decision-making process, even if these values are important to society. For example, consider the cookies technology, which allows web sites to maintain information on their users. When Netscape implemented this technology, it did not spend its resources developing code that would minimize the privacy concerns posed by the cookies technology. This action would not be viewed as profitable. This explains why early versions of Netscape contained no cookie management tools or even documentation about cookies. This neglect of unprofitable societal concerns by firms is understandable. However, there are steps society can take to ensure that firms address unprofitable, but socially desirable, concerns. Often this is accomplished by government regulation. Another example of firms overlooking societal concerns is found in Silver’s research on the differences between a non-profit and a for-profit community network in Seattle, Washington and Blacksburg, Virginia. He found that the institutional structure led to differences in both content and communication within the network. The network in Blacksburg was sponsored by a number of commercial sponsors, which became reflected in the commercialism that permeated the site and the avoidance of controversial issues of race, gender, and sexuality. In contrast, the 38 See Nelson, supra note 19, at 299. 39 Scholars have began to recognize the role of economic factors in innovation. See N ATHAN R OSENBERG , I NSIDE THE B LACK B OX : T ECHNOLOGY AND E CONOMICS (1982); Martin Fransman, Designing Dolly: Interactions Between

Authors: Shah, Rajiv. and Kesan, Jay.
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background image
11
The motivation of a firm is straightforward. Firms are driven by profit.
38
In order to
make profits, firms must provide goods and services that meet consumer demand. Successful
firms listen to their customers, provide them services they need and will need, and provide
support when they run into trouble. In short, economic concerns are the primary motivator of
firms.
39
As a result, economic concerns shape the development of code by firms. The
consequence is that values that are deemed to be unprofitable are not factored into a firm’s
decision-making process, even if these values are important to society. For example, consider
the cookies technology, which allows web sites to maintain information on their users. When
Netscape implemented this technology, it did not spend its resources developing code that would
minimize the privacy concerns posed by the cookies technology. This action would not be
viewed as profitable. This explains why early versions of Netscape contained no cookie
management tools or even documentation about cookies. This neglect of unprofitable societal
concerns by firms is understandable. However, there are steps society can take to ensure that
firms address unprofitable, but socially desirable, concerns. Often this is accomplished by
government regulation.
Another example of firms overlooking societal concerns is found in Silver’s research on
the differences between a non-profit and a for-profit community network in Seattle, Washington
and Blacksburg, Virginia. He found that the institutional structure led to differences in both
content and communication within the network. The network in Blacksburg was sponsored by a
number of commercial sponsors, which became reflected in the commercialism that permeated
the site and the avoidance of controversial issues of race, gender, and sexuality. In contrast, the
38
See Nelson, supra note 19, at 299.
39
Scholars have began to recognize the role of economic factors in innovation. See N
ATHAN
R
OSENBERG
, I
NSIDE
THE
B
LACK
B
OX
: T
ECHNOLOGY AND
E
CONOMICS
(1982); Martin Fransman, Designing Dolly: Interactions Between


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