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Cyberspace Law
Wayne State University Law School
Rothchild, John A.

August 29, 2006
What is E-commerce?
Commerce using electronic communications?
Too broad (ex. Telephone is included)
Involves individuals in retail transactions?
Too broad (ex. Business to business)
Involves businesses in transactions?
No, because an example that doesn’t involve this is ebay.
Uses the Internet?
No, because most transactions are completed shipping something, something delivered offline.
Transaction is completed online?
E-commerce is using the internet in a commercial transaction in a substantial way.
Benefits of e-commerce
Reduced transaction costs
Lower overhead- you can locate a business physically where it is cheaper.
Convenience for shoppers- don’t have to leave home
Creation of new, geographically dispersed markets- you can market things that belong to a mixed market.- (ex. Albino ferrets)
When did e-commerce start?
Christmas season of 1999
Also 1995 because this is when the National Science Foundation took off its restriction of conducting transactions on the internet.
(Handout #1) Judge Easterbrook’s Excerpt
“lots of cases deal with sales of horses; others deal with people kicked by horses…. Any effort to collect these strands into a course on the ‘The Law of the Horse’ is doomed to be shallow and to miss unifying principles.”
Rothchild does not agree with him because he thinks if you study the other law you miss the unifying features that result from the technology.
Law of the e-Horse?
“[The Dean] was purnd that the University of Chicago did not offer a course in the Law oif the Horse… ‘Law and…’ courses should….
The medium makes the law
Communication at a distance
Why should e-commerce matter if the transaction did not take place face to face?
The defendant will not know where he can be sued because he does not where the other person is located.
Can’t te

o sees your website
It’s hard to avoid violating the laws of other countries.
Near-zero marginal cost of communications
Open architecture
Anyone can participate. This can raise issues because there are low barriers to entry. If you are a small seller, you can’t really afford to learn all the laws in the U.S
Absence of a human intermediary.
Ex. Website posts really low price and a lot of people buy it. Humans won’t really let this happen.
History of the internet
Internet history timeline
1960’s: research on packet switching
Only use communication when you are sending the message. Circuit switching on the other hand (like a phone) is owned by the person using it even when it is not being used.
1969: ARPANet is created