Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Authority and Authors and Codes

Madison, Michael J (2016) Authority and Authors and Codes. George Washington Law Review, 84 (6). pp. 1616-1643. ISSN 0016-8076

Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (179kB) | Preview


Contests over the meaning and application of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) expose long-standing, complex questions about the sources and impacts of the concept of authority in law and culture. Accessing a computer network “without authorization” and by “exceeding authorized access” is forbidden by the CFAA. Courts are divided in their interpretation of this language in the statute. This Article first proposes to address the issue with an insight from social science research. Neither criminal nor civil liability under the CFAA should attach unless the alleged violator has transgressed some border or boundary that is rendered visible or “imageable” in the language of the research on which the argument draws. That claim leads to a second, broader point — emphasizing the potential “imageability” of computer networks, including the Internet, has implications that go beyond one statute because of what that emphasis may teach those who create and implement those networks and who shape the authority that relevant computer code exercises. “Authority” and “authorization” are social practices, continuing negotiations between those who produce them and those who acknowledge and recognize them. “Imageability” is a way of translating that observation into a normative claim in a specific statutory context. Recognizing the social dimensions of “authority” implicates both what kind of Internet society wants and what kind of Internet society will get.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Madison, Michael Jmadison@pitt.eduMADISON0000-0001-6503-754X
Date: 2016
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: George Washington Law Review
Volume: 84
Number: 6
Publisher: George Washington University Law School
Page Range: pp. 1616-1643
Schools and Programs: School of Law > Law
School of Law > Law > Faculty Publications
Refereed: No
Uncontrolled Keywords: CFAA, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, hacking, computer intrusions, authors, authorship, copyright, code, signals, signaling, imageability
ISSN: 0016-8076
Official URL:
Related URLs:
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2019 15:27
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2019 15:27


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item