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Tort liability, the First Amendment, equal access, and commercialization of electronic networks

Henry H. Perritt Jr (Villanova University School of Law, Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 17 August 2010




The purpose of this paper is to discuss the USA's movement to a digital network infrastructure which may be threatened by the unavailability of high‐speed network channels to some sources of information.


One reason for unavailability is fear by network intermediaries that they face legal liability for carrying harmful messages. Yet changing the law to require network intermediaries to provide equal access to their services raises First Amendment questions.


A mechanism should be established for providers of network services to inform potential customers of the terms on which they handle traffic. An electronic forum for notices of access policy would be one way to implement this recommendation.


Uncertainty about equal access, tort liability and First Amendment privileges adversely affects commercialization of the Internet. Commercialization must begin with acceptance of three goals for digital electronic network policy: encouraging a diversity of information products, preventing suppliers of information content from being foreclosed from access to markets, and allowing persons suffering legal injury, because of information content, to obtain compensation based on fault.



Perritt, H.H. (2010), "Tort liability, the First Amendment, equal access, and commercialization of electronic networks", Internet Research, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 436-460.



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