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The Electronic Silk Road

The Electronic Silk Road: How the Web Binds the World Together in Commerce

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Electronic Silk Road
    Book Description:

    On the ancient Silk Road, treasure-laden caravans made their arduous way through deserts and mountain passes, establishing trade between Asia and the civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean. Today's electronic Silk Roads ferry information across continents, enabling individuals and corporations anywhere to provide or receive services without obtaining a visa. But the legal infrastructure for such trade is yet rudimentary and uncertain. If an event in cyberspace occurs at once everywhere and nowhere, what law applies? How can consumers be protected when engaging with companies across the world?

    In this accessible book, cyber-law expert Anupam Chander provides the first thorough discussion of the law that relates to global Internet commerce. Addressing up-to-the-minute examples, such as Google's struggles with China, the Pirate Bay's skirmishes with Hollywood, and the outsourcing of services to India, the author insightfully analyzes the difficulties of regulating Internet trade. Chander then lays out a framework for future policies, showing how countries can dismantle barriers while still protecting consumer interests.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15460-3
    Subjects: Technology, Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Tracing a Silk Road Through Cyberspace
    (pp. 1-17)

    The Silk Road linking the ancient world’s civilizations wound through deserts and mountain passes, traversed by caravans laden with the world’s treasures. The modern Silk Road winds its way through undersea fiber-optic cables and satellite links, ferrying electrons brimming with information. This electronic Silk Road makes possible trade in services heretofore impossible in human history. Radiologists, accountants, engineers, lawyers, musicians, filmmakers, and reporters now offer their services to the world without passing a customs checkpoint or boarding a plane. Like the ancient Silk Road, which transformed the lands that it connected, this new trade route promises to remake the world....

    (pp. 18-34)

    Adam Smith could never have dreamed of the global division of labor that is quickly coming to pass. It would take two centuries afterThe Wealth of Nationsfor the global manufacturing process to be perfected. Where the twentieth century saw the rise of the global supply chain in manufacturing, in the twenty-first century technology now permits the rise of a global supply chain in services. Relying on suppliers around the world, a garage entrepreneur can coordinate the production and delivery of a service from anywhere. Firms can transfer processes to foreign third-party vendors, relying on the discipline of the...

  6. 2 WESTERN ENTREPÔT: Silicon Valley
    (pp. 35-58)

    We can glimpse Silicon Valley’s global ambitions on the tiny screen of the iPhone. Each icon on the display is a portal to a service offered by a distant provider. With a few taps of her finger, a Londoner might purchase Persian rugs via eBay, download an e-book by the latest Booker Prize winner from Amazon, write her work reports using Microsoft’s online enterprise software, manage customer relationships via Salesforce, find business clients via LinkedIn, and manage her London stocks investments via Fidelity.

    Pulling out his phone in Japan, a resident of Tokyo might search for information on local history...

  7. 3 EASTERN ENTREPÔT: Bangalore
    (pp. 59-86)

    Today an American family can outsource tutoring to an Indian engineer, tax preparation to an Indian accountant, and medical diagnosis to an Indian radiologist, and then sit for a portrait by an artist in coastal China.¹ An American corporation, for its part, can outsource human resources management to the Philippines, engineering to China, customer service to Jamaica, and regulatory compliance management and information technology to India.² Little seems immune: today even prayers for Kansans are outsourced to priests in Kerala.³ Where China has become the factory to the world, India and other developing countries may become the world’s back office.⁴...

    (pp. 87-112)

    Can you stop the Internet? Is it possible to banish information from cyberspace? Or at least your part of cyberspace?

    What if the information is on a computer on the other side of the earth but connected to the World Wide Web? The rise of the World Wide Web has made this a persistent problem for all the countries of the world. Indeed, we have already encountered one noted effort to ban cyberinformation—French efforts to stop Yahoo! from auctioning Nazi materials through its services. In that case, we saw a company voluntarily withdrawing most Nazi materials from its sites...

    (pp. 113-141)

    Who rules Facebookistan? The United States? France? Egypt? Mark Zuckerberg? Social networks by necessity span borders, following the transnational webs of human relationships. Who makes the rules that govern the ways that Facebook connects a seventh of humanity?

    Facebook has become so powerful and omnipresent that some have begun to employ the language of nationhood to describe it. It boasts a community of a billion people. It circulates a currency that can be purchased in some forty-nine national currencies, from the Argentine peso to the Vietnamese dong. It dispatches a team of “diplomats” to reach governments around the world.¹ Its...

    (pp. 142-157)

    At the core of every cybertrade controversy described in this book is a provider in one jurisdiction supplying services to consumers in another. In each case there may be a conflict of laws between the provider’s jurisdiction and the consumer’s. The provider may lack legal precedents or authoritative guidance and must innovate not only technological methods and business models but also legal structures.

    Four distinctive legal challenges of electronically tradable services, or Trade 2.0, become apparent: (1) legal roadblocks to the free flow of net-work; (2) the lack of adequate legal infrastructure, as compared to trade in traditional goods; (3)...

    (pp. 158-165)

    The merchants traversing the Silk Road were not anonymous agents of globalization. Rather, they were repeat players, connected to one another through personal histories and kinship networks. Goods delivered via this route would pass through many hands, from entrepôt to entrepôt, with each leg of the journey often dominated by particular tribes. In this chapter, I argue that the characteristics that permit net-work trade might be deployed to create a robust infrastructure for such trade: real-time information transfer, low information and other transactions costs, the ability of individuals around the world to collaborate, and electronic identification. Perhaps the electronic version...

    (pp. 166-191)

    The footloose nature of net-work increases the likelihood that a service provider might relocate to take advantage of regulatory environments it finds favorable. The fear is that this mobility might lead to a race to the bottom, as providers search out the jurisdiction with minimal or even no regulation.¹ Will service providers relocate to offshore havens where they can escape law yet still offer services via the Internet? This is not merely a theoretical possibility, as we saw in chapter 4. Antigua did not attract gambling operators only on the strength of its ample sunshine and beautiful beaches.

    The bottom...

  13. 9 LAST STOP: Middle Kingdom
    (pp. 192-206)

    Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Renren, Sina, Tudou. China is full of innovative and successful Internet companies, many worth billions of dollars. Yet of these companies, only one, Alibaba, is a global trader—and then only to offer Chinese manufactures to the world. Most of these companies do not even bother to offer a version of their website in English or in any language other than Chinese. Even when listing their stock on the New York exchanges, they evince only an ambition to conquer China, not the world. Tencent describes itself as “a leading provider of Internet and mobile & telecommunications value-added services...

    (pp. 207-212)

    In the 1955 classic Indian filmShri 420, Raj Kapoor walks a dusty road from a rural village toward cosmopolitan Bombay, singing a song that would come to symbolize patriotism in the face of globalization:

    Mera joota hai Japani

    Yé patloon Inglistani

    Sar pé lal topi Rusi—

    Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani

    (O, my shoes are Japanese

    These trousers English, if you please

    On my head, red Russian hat—

    My heart’s Indian for all that.)¹

    Salman Rushdie begins hisSatanic Verseswith the song, sung by Bollywood star Gibreel as he falls (magically safely) from an exploding airliner toward the...

  15. GLOSSARY: A Cheat Sheet for Global E-Commerce
    (pp. 213-218)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 219-264)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 265-278)