Law of Global Digitality

A new book by Matthias Kettemann on our digital future was published Open Acces. On this page, you can read more about this book.

New Book studies how law influences our digital future – and how digital developments shape the law

More private, more code-linked, more territorial: law influences digitality, and the digital transformation impacts the future of the law

The law of global digitality is influenced by private orders, embedded in the design of digital services and markets, code-based and geographically more fragmented than a global medium like the Internet would suggest. Law is embedded in the design of our digital futures


A new anthology co-edited by Innsbruck Internet law expert Prof. Kettemann and published Open Access with Routledge shows that the digital transformation is having a strong impact on law, but also that law can influence the digital transformation and - if law is set smartly - stabilize important social values vis-à-vis digitization processes.

The Internet is not an unchartered territory. In the Internet, norms matter. They interact, regulate, are contested and legitimated by multiple actors. But are they diverse and unstructured, or are they part of a recognizable order? Is there a global law of digitality?  

This collected volume - the first serious effort across legal disciplines and across continents to describe the interaction of law and digitality - explores these key questions while providing new perspectives on the role of law in times of digital transformation. The book compares six different areas of law that have been particularly exposed to digital developments, namely laws regulating consumer contracts, data protection, the media, financial markets, criminal activity and intellectual property law. By comparing how these very different areas of law have evolved with regard to cross-border online situations, the book considers whether the law of global digitality is indeed special and, if so, what its characteristics are across various areas of law.

The law of digitality is made up of many private orders. Firstly, the law of digitality, in particular on a cross-border, global scale, is largely a product of private ordering, that is, the establishment of rules by private parties within primarily private settings in which terms of service are prima facie the “law of the land”. Private orders are only corrected by public values and public-interest interventions in exceptional cases and are thus of paramount importance.

The law of digitality is embedded in the design of digital services. A second, closely related characteristic of the law of global digitality is that it is, to a large extent, standardised across jurisdictions, based on standard terms and conditions and enforced transnationally via code. This phenomenon can be observed in most areas studied in this book, namely in IP, data protection, consumer contract, media, and financial market scenarios. The emerging answer of the law to this standardisation challenge is that legal norms are implemented deeply in the design of the online service at stake. Law transforms from an external, non-digital force into an order embedded in the digital.

Code-based law of digitality supports global digital capitalism. A third insight provided by this collection is that the private, contract, and code-based law of digitality can be conceived of as a function of global digital capitalism.

The law of digitality is more territorial than can be expected. The digital world is legally fragmented. There, is no uniform global law of digitality. Many online services continue to be directed to certain local markets and recipients primarily for business reasons (price discrimination) and because of linguistic diversity and divergent consumer habits. Few if any legal questions are completely harmonised on a worldwide scale. National approaches persist in particular in the areas of consumer contracts, data protection/privacy and media law, for which the contributions to this book document fundamental differences between European and U.S. approaches. Even in an area as extensively and deeply harmonised as copyright law, hard cases at the borderline between infringement and lawful uses such as the liability of sharing platforms are still handled on a national, territorial basis.

Editors: Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard), is Professor of Innovation, Theory and Philosophy of Law at the Department for Theory and Future of Law at the University of Innsbruck. Alexander Peukert is Professor of Civil and Commercial Law at the Faculty of Law at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Indra Spiecker gen. Döhmann, LL.M. (Georgetown University) holds the chair of Public and Administrative Law, especially Information Law, Environmental Law and Legal Theory at the Goethe-University of Frankfurt/Main in Germany.


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Click here for the hardback book and here for the Open Access book.

Law of Global Digitality


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