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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication

Volume 8 Number 2 1998

The Rule of Metaphor:  Prolegomena to Any Future Internet Regulation

David J. Gunkel
Northern Illinois University
Acknowledgments:  This paper is the result of seminars in media law taught at Northern Illinois University and research lectures presented at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois.  I am grateful to the students of the COMS 455 seminar for their probing questions and critical comments and to Murray Coffey and his students for their encouragement and interest in this topic.

This paper investigates the role of metaphor in the on-going debate concerning internet regulation.  It argues that metaphor is not merely a rhetorical ornament in the discourses of media regulation but functions as a conceptual model that legislates and regulates the understanding of technological innovation.  Toward this end, the paper not only examines the metaphors currently employed by courts, legislatures and public policy analysts but investigates the implications and consequences of these analogies for the development of future regulative approaches.  The paper neither argues for the employment of one metaphor over the other, nor does it naively suggest that one proceed in the absence of metaphors.  Rather, accepting that metaphorical thinking is to some extent necessary and unavoidable, it advocates a critical stance with respect to the utilization and circulation of metaphor.  In the end, the paper calls for active participation in the on-going debate concerning Internet regulation through attention to the role and rule of metaphor.


In any new technology, the ways in which we conceive of an invention shapes the way it evolves and the way it is used (Rothstein, 1996, p. 1).
Legislation for new communication technologies commonly proceeds and is developed by way of metaphor.  As Ithiel de Sola Pool argues in Technologies of Freedom (1983), "the courts and regulatory agencies in the American system (or other authorities elsewhere)...apply familiar analogies from the past to their lay image of new technology" (p. 7).  These metaphors, although useful for understanding new technology and adapting extant legislation and judicial decisions, also have the potential to restrict and limit new media to potentially inappropriate regulation and improvident prejudice.  A case in point, in 1915 the U.S.  Supreme Court (Mutual Film, Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, 236 US 230) ruled that the then new technology of cinema was not protected by the First Amendment because motion pictures were more like circuses than newspapers.  It was not until the celebrated 1952 Burston v. Wilson case concerning the censorship of Rossellini's Miracle that the high court revised its opinion and extended to film the status of protected speech.  The circus metaphor obviously assisted the court in rendering a ruling about this relatively unknown and developing technology.  The metaphor, however, also imposed its rule on the court's decision process, limiting the way in which this nascent technology was to be understood and dealt with in judicial and legislative circles.  In this way, Mutual Film, Corp. illustrated the worry Benjamin Cardozo (1926) expressed concerning metaphor in legal discourse, "starting out as devices to liberate thought, they often end by enslaving it" (Berkey).

This paper investigates the operative metaphors currently employed for understanding the Internet by the courts, state and national legislatures and communication policy analysts.  In particular, it considers the legal advantages and repercussions of comparing the Internet to common carrier, broadcast, and print media.  With each metaphor, the paper considers recent legislation and/or judicial decisions and projects the effects of future regulation/decisions animated and directed by the analogue in question.  The paper neither argues for the employment of one metaphor over the other, nor does it naively suggest that one proceed in the absence of metaphors.  Rather, accepting that metaphorical thinking is to some extent necessary and unavoidable, it advocates a critical stance with respect to the utilization and circulation of metaphor. In short, the paper argues for active participation in the on-going debate concerning Internet regulation through attention to the role and rule of metaphor.

Metaphorically Speaking
Metaphors explicitly or implicitly identify one phenomenon with another phenomenon from which the first is literally distinct.  A game of chess may thus be characterized as a 'battle' of wits; a leading citizen may be described as a 'pillar' of the community (Hibbitts, 1994, p. 1).
Metaphor, it appears, cannot be defined without engaging in the play of metaphor.  In order to define this operation that "enables us to understand and experience one sort of thing in terms of another" (Figueroa-Sarriera, 1995, p. 128) one is invariably compelled to make comparisons and engage in analogical substitutions.  In doing so, the definition that is supplied performs the kind of comparison it seeks to define.  This factor, although complicating the definition of metaphor, demonstrates that metaphor has always been more than a mere semantic embellishment or figure of speech.  Indeed, metaphors, it has been argued, constitute the primary mechanism of conceptual thought and understanding.  As Lakoff and Johnson (1980) argue "in all aspects of life, not just politics or in love, we define our reality in terms of metaphors and then proceed to act on the basis of the metaphors.  We draw inferences, set goals, make commitments, and execute plans, all on the basis of how we in part structure our experience, consciously and unconsciously, by means of metaphor" (p. 158).

The role of metaphor in American law has been the subject of extensive debate.  There have been a number of recent publications addressing the legal status of metaphor and the implications of metaphorical approaches in jurisprudential theory (cf.  Hibbitts, 1994).  Although the role of metaphor is contested, what is not debated is the fact that "metaphors are commonplace in law" (Hibbitts, 1994, p. 1).  Indeed, one of the principles of common law, the concept of precedent, is itself metaphorical in structure and function.  In considering previous decisions, the judiciary engages in comparisons whereby a current case is understood and decided based on similarities to and differences from other known judgments.  In this way, one situation is comprehended and judged by comparing it to another.  The role of the court, of course, is to determine the extent to which the similarity is appropriate and justified.  In other words, the court not only engages in but considers the applicability of metaphorical comparisons.

Metaphor, however, entails a dangerous paradox. Seeking to identify phenomenon that are essentially different, metaphor has as much potential to illuminate as it does to mislead.  As Hibbitts (1994) points out, "metaphors are most often useful and most successful...when they associate an unfamiliar and/or abstract referent with something familiar and/or concrete.  At the same time, the very specificity, familiarity, and tangibility that may recommend a metaphor may incidentally enable it to obscure and distort" (p. 1).  Comparing cinema to the circuses, as the Supreme Court did in 1915, had a double result.  On the one hand, this comparison assisted the court in understanding and envisioning possible implications of this new and rather unknown technology.  On the other hand, however, it blinded to court to whatever was specific about this new technology and whatever did not fit the scope of the metaphor.  Metaphor, therefore, simultaneously enables and inhibits understanding.  As Haig Bosmajian (1992) concludes at the end of his extended study in Metaphor and Reason in Judicial Opinions, "tropes can help us comprehend what may have been incomprehensible, can help us find new 'truths,' clarify and create new realities; however, there always remains the danger that through the tropes we can also mislead, conceal, create misunderstanding, and come to rely on cliched thinking" (p. 205).

The Internet comprises a decentralized network of networks that evolved out of research initially pursued and funded by the United States Department of Defenses under its Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) [1].  ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, introduced networking architecture and data-transfer protocols that constituted an entirely unique data communications system.  As Lance Rose argues, "one of the fascinating things about on-line systems is that they have no direct forerunners among the older media, such as newspapers, radio and television" (Rose, 1995, p. 8).  It is this difference that calls for and, simultaneously, resists metaphor.  As a result, there have been a wide variety of competing metaphors employed to describe and make sense of this new technology.  The relative effectiveness and limitation of these metaphors have been the subject of a number of recent on-line articles (Hill, 1996; Toh, 1997 and The Elusive Reptile, 1997), books (Rose, 1995 and Stefik, 1997) and threaded discussions (CRTNET #2235). Our concern here is not to repeat, refute or participate in these analyses.  Rather, the following will be concerned with the implications of these metaphors for future Internet regulation.  Additionally, the analysis will not consider every metaphor that has been suggested or is currently in use.  Rather, it will be restricted to those metaphors that have been circulated in legal discourse and are most likely to influence regulative decisions.  The examination, therefore, will be limited to comparisons involving common carrier, broadcast and print media.

Common Carrier

The term "common carrier" generally refers to two kinds of information delivery systems, the post and telegraph/telephone.  The defining feature of common carrier systems is the right of access by the public to the facilities of the carrier.  In the words of Pool (1983), a common carrier "is obligated to serve all on equal terms without discrimination" (p. 2).  Common carrier, therefore, ideally conveys information irrespective of user or content. Despite this formal similarity, regulation of the postal and telephonic systems, within the United States, has proceeded from a different set of assumptions and has taken distinctly different forms [2].  The US Post office comprises a regulated governmental monopoly created by Congress under the authority granted it by the US Constitution, while telegraphic and, by extension, telephonic regulation originate in the regulatory schema initially devised for commercial railroad.  Because the regulative structures of the post and telephone have evolved separately, the common carrier metaphor currently manifests two variations.

Comparing the Internet to the postal system is warranted by the technology of email, one of the initial features of ARPANET.  Like a postal system, email circulates information in discrete packets that originate with a sender and are addressed to a specified receiver.  The metaphor has also been legally validated in a recent case concerning the transmission of obscene material.  Historically, the Comstock Act of 1873 grants the US Post Office authority to regulate the circulation of obscene and erotic materials via mail.  In 1994, the Post Office extended its jurisdiction to electronic mail, successfully prosecuting a California couple for transmitting obscene material over a bulletin board system (cf.  Pember, 1998, p. 427).  In supporting the application of the Comstock Act to electronic mail, the federal government not only recognized the postal metaphor but extended jurisdiction of the Post Office into cyberspace.

Understood as a postal system, the Internet enjoys broad First Amendment and privacy protection.  First, although restricting specific illegal or hazardous materials (i.e., obscenity, explosives, poisons, etc.), the Post Office is required to carry any and all content without restriction or question.  Compared to a postal system, the Internet and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) would be released from content liability.  Likewise Internet users would be free to circulate almost any content, from indecent material to politically sensitive propaganda, without fear of censorship or delivery restrictions.  Second, the postal system provides for a high level of privacy.  By law, no one, including the Post Office, may divert, tamper with or access the contents of one's mail.  Comparing the Internet to the postal system extends this level of privacy protection to electronic interaction.  Indeed, the goal of strong encryption is to provide and ensure this level of privacy for electronic messages.

Despite its low-tech attachments, the Post Office analogue provides rather comprehensive protection for electronic communication in both First Amendment and privacy matters.  Future application of this comparison, however, may be restricted.  Email, for instance, is only one feature operating on the Internet.  There are others, like the World Wide Web, that not only exceed but appear to be incompatible with the postal analogue.  Information on the web is not sent to a distinct address but actively accessed by any number of unspecified users.  It is, therefore, unlikely that the Post Office metaphor would be extended to cover all aspects of the Internet.  Consequently, two competing scenarios are likely.  Either email will continue to be understood according to the postal metaphor, remaining both legally and conceptually distinct from the other aspects of the Internet, or regulation developing for the World Wide Web will be extended to email thereby modifying the postal metaphor.  Although the former, mixed metaphor approach may be preferable, recent legislation (i.e.  Telecommunications Act of 1996) has indicated a tendency to support the latter.

One significant disadvantage of the Post Office analogue is its physicality.  In the postal system, information is bounded by physical containers, i.e., letters, boxes, magazines, etc.  The Internet, on the contrary, comprises a virtual information system that exchanges nothing more than electric pulses.  For this reason, the Internet is often compared to that other form of common carrier, the telephone.  As Lance Rose (1995) argues, "the Internet as a whole can be viewed as an alternative telephone system for computers" (p. 14).  This insight is not only supported by the Internet's technical structure but has been legitimated by recent legislative decisions. First, users of the Internet employ the current telephonic infrastructure for access.  The most common mode of connection between the user and his/her Internet Service Provider (ISP) consists of a modem that transmits data over a twisted pair of copper wires.  For many users, log-on still begins by dialing a telephone number.  Second, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 employed and, in so doing, legally recognized the telephonic metaphor.  The 1996 law was initially introduced as a revision of the 1934 Federal Communications Act (US Code, Title 47).  In sections where the original law addressed telephone technology, the new bill substituted the phrase "telecommunications device," which was defined as telephone, fax machines and networked computers[3].  The new law, therefore, not only identified computer networks with telephonic systems but, in effect, extended regulations initially formulated for the telephone to computers.

Understood as a telephonic common carrier, ISP's and the Internet in general would be protected from content liability while users would be free to exchange information in a relatively secure environment.  As Lance Rose (1995) points out, "on-line services and the Internet are merely media for transmission between users.  They should not be held accountable for the behavior of millions of users, just as the telephone 'common carriers' are not responsible for the billions of voice calls they carry" (p. 14).  The telephone metaphor, however, has two complications.  First, by employing the telephonic metaphor, the Justice Department and FBI successfully convinced Congress to enact legislation "forcing all communication service providers to install facilities making it easy for government agents to perform digital wiretaps, just in case they come up with a properly authorized wiretapping order" (Rose, 1995, p. 14). Ironically, this legislation, the Digital Telephony Act, was justified under the same metaphor employed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and was enacted within the same year.  The telephonic metaphor, therefore, is a double edged sword.  Although providing broad First Amendment protection and privacy to users, it also enables and supports surveillance and eavesdropping.  Because the two Acts employ the same metaphoric structure, it may be increasingly difficult to oppose digital wiretap without also undermining the significance of the telephonic metaphor.

Second, the same act that established and legitimated the telephonic metaphor simultaneously redefined the nature of telephone service.  The Telecommunications Act of 1996 permits telephone companies to enter the cable television market to provide video content (cable television service or "open video systems" like video on demand) over telecommunication networks.  Conversely, the law also extends to cable companies the right to provide Internet service through co-axial cable modems.  In this way, the regulative boundaries that had separated the telephonic network from cable systems became virtually insubstantial. Cable, however, has not been considered a "common carrier" like the telephone.  Instead, cable regulation is considered a subset of broadcast regulation.  In the wake of this boundary breakdown, the definition and limits of common carrier may become ambiguous and problematic.  There are two possible results from this scenario.  Either cable service will become redefined as common carrier, thus altering the nature of cable regulation, or common carrier will become redefined along the lines of cable service, thereby transforming the concept of common carrier.  In either case, the Telecommunications Act both grants the telephonic metaphor and, at the same time, restructures the referent of the comparison.  This double move validates the analogy while placing its significance in question.


Broadcast regulation in the United States has been motivated and justified by the trusteeship theory, which evolved out of the Radio Acts of 1912 and 1927.  This regulative schema was devised from the following three assumptions concerning the electromagnetic spectrum and its employment:  1) The radio spectrum is finite; there is a physical limit to the number of persons who can use the airwaves. 2) The airwaves are a public resource.  And 3) the airwaves should be used for the benefit of the public (cf. Pember, 1998, p. 539).  On the basis of these assumptions, the federal government has historically regulated both the licensing of broadcast stations and the content that is broadcast.

Comparing on-line interaction to broadcasting has the effect of extending these assumptions to computer mediated communication.  This extension has attained legislative precedent in the Communications Decency Amendment (CDA) to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The CDA, initially formulated by Senator Exon of Nebraska, proposed applying current broadcast content regulation methodologies to the Internet.  In particular, the CDA targeted indecent and offensive material, which unlike obscenity enjoys full protection under the First Amendment.  Indecency, however, has traditionally been restricted in both radio and television.  The legality of this restriction is substantiated by the third element of the trusteeship theory and has been justified by the Supreme Court's decision in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation.  In this case, the Supreme Court found the regulation of indecent content in broadcasting to be justified because the technology in question, unlike other media, is "uniquely pervasive."  In other words, broadcast content is pushed to listeners/viewers and can "have an impact on persons not only in public but also in the privacy of their own home" (Pember, 1998, p. 561).

The CDA sought to extend this regulative approach to indecent and offensive material on the Internet.  In the summer of 1997, however, the Supreme Court, in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, explicitly denied the analogue.  "The members of the court rejected government arguments that past decisions relating to the regulation of broadcasting provided guidance in how to treat the Internet" (Pember, 1998, p. 114).  The court distinguished the precedent established in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation concerning the "uniquely pervasive" quality of broadcasting.  "Communication over the Internet," the court argued, "does not 'invade' an individual's home or appear on one's computer screen 'unbidden'" (Reno).  In this way, the court supported the assertion that information on the Internet is actively pulled by the user rather than pushed at him/her.  Second, the high court argued that the scarcity of frequencies, the first element of the trusteeship theory of broadcast regulation, did not apply to the Internet.  The Internet, the court argued, can hardly be considered a scarce expressive resource.

For the most part, Reno v. ACLU was a case that debated the validity of the broadcast metaphor.  The government argued that the comparison of the Internet to broadcasting was justified, while the court ruled that it was not.  Consequently, the court's decision appears to have alleviated concern over the future of content regulation and the application of First Amendment protection to computer mediated communication.  The defeat of CDA, however, does not guarantee an end to the content regulation debate. First, although the court denied the applicability of the metaphor employed by CDA, it did not rule out the possibility of content regulation.  In other words, by directing its comments to the metaphor employed by the amendment, the court did not explicitly reject content regulation per se.  The decision, therefore, has left open the possibility of future regulation based on either a better analogy or more persuasive argumentation concerning the broadcast comparison.  Second, and perhaps more problematic, Internet advocates and developers have actually reinforced the broadcast metaphor even as the court was arguing its validity.  In the spring and summer of 1997, cyberculture was inundated with articles happily announcing the convergence of broadcasting and the Internet.  In March, Wired (5.03) proclaimed the advent of "push media," by which "content is pushed to you, in contrast to the invitational pull you make when you click on the Web" (Kelly & Wolf, 1997, p. 14).  And in August of the same year, directly on the heels of the Supreme Court decision in Reno v. ACLU, New Media published an article entitled "On-line goes Prime Time:  Television-Style Programming Invades the Web."  The byline to the article reads, "on-line producers are adopting both the terminology and the content formats of broadcast media" (Karon, 1997, p. 1).  The rhetoric of these announcements have the ironic effect of reintroducing and reinforcing the broadcast metaphor even as it was undermined by the Supreme Court.  Despite the high court's ruling, therefore, the broadcast metaphor continues to play a significant role in defining the technology of and regulatory approach to the Internet.
Print Media

In 1983, Ithiel de Sola Pool predicted that "networked computers will be the printing press of the twenty-first century" (p. 224).  This identification of network computing with print media constitutes one of the more persuasive metaphors currently employed for understanding and addressing the legal status of the Internet.  The print media metaphor not only guarantees extensive First Amendment protection for on-line content but has been warranted by the net's technical configuration and legitimated in the recent Supreme Court decision in Reno v. ACLU.  Technically, the majority of information circulating through the Internet is textual.  This is the case not only for text-based systems like email, news groups, MOOs/MUDs, etc. but also for the multimedia environment of the World Wide Web.  The web, although incorporating animated images, audio, and video, is still organized and comprehended under a text analogue. Even when enriched with animation, audio, or streaming video, one still speaks of "web-pages."  Additionally, the Supreme Court has legitimated this metaphor in its decision against CDA.  In its published opinion, the court not only validated the comparison but did so in terms of the First Amendment.  As Pember (1998) points out, the high court decided that "the Internet deserves the highest level of First Amendment protection, protection comparable to that given newspapers, magazines and books" (p. 113).

Although the print-media metaphor provides extensive First Amendment protection for Internet content, there are significant differences in the level of protection traditionally granted to publishers and distributors. Publishers, although fully protected under the First Amendment, are still responsible and liable for the content that they publish.  Distributors, on the contrary, are often times protected from liability under the concept of scienter or guilt knowledge.  Under current libel law, for example, information distributors cannot be held responsible for the content contained in the materials that they distribute. And under obscenity law, a book or magazine seller can be held liable for the material distributed if and only if it is proven that the distributor had prior knowledge of the content of the book, magazine or newspaper (cf.  Smith v. California, 1959).  The Internet, however, blurs the boundaries that have traditionally distinguished the activities of publication from distribution.  Technically speaking, the Internet constitutes both a system of information distribution and a medium of publication. Unlike print, therefore, it is often times difficult to discern where the editorial efforts of publication end and the activity of distribution begins.  For this reason, the Internet and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) have been compared to both publishers and distributors.  This variation in the referent of the print-media metaphor has caused and will continue to engender significant discrepancies in the extension of print-media law to the Internet.

On the one hand, the Internet has been successfully compared to traditional, print distribution outlets, i.e. bookstores, newsstands, magazine counters, etc.  Under this analogy, a computer network is considered to be a mere conduit for the distribution of information that originates with and is published by another.  This comparison has attained legally status in Cubby v. CompuServe.  In this 1991 case, a U.S.  District Court in New York ruled that CompuServe was not responsible for defamatory information distributed through network.  The network service provider was released of liability because, as the court argued, CompuServe is "the functional equivalent of a more traditional news vendor" (Cubby).  On the other hand however, on-line information services have also been considered publishers.  In Daniel v. Dow Jones (1987), a New York court compared the Dow Jones electronic information service to a newspaper, extending to the on-line system the same laws and responsibilities that would apply to traditional, print-media publishers.  This methodology was subsequently supported in Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy (1994).  In this case, the New York Supreme Court ruled that Prodigy could be held liable for defamation that was posted in one of the network's discussion groups.  Distinguishing this case from the precedent established in Cubby, the court argued that Prodigy's mission statement, which proposed a "family-friendly" approach to the monitoring and screening of information, justified an alternative ruling. As Justice Ain wrote, "Prodigy's conscious choice, to gain the benefits of editorial control, has opened it up to greater liability than CompuServe and other computer networks that make no such choices" (Stratton Oakmont).

Although the Supreme Court's decision in Reno v. ACLU implies that the Internet be extended the same legal protection as print media, there is and will continue to be significant variation in the interpretation of those rights based on the perceived referent of the comparison.  This alternation not only opens the space for but will constitute the terms of future regulation debate in the wake of the Reno decision.  Advocates of regulation will argue for the identification of on-line systems with print-media publishers, requiring ISP's and other systems administrators to be held responsible for the content circulating through their networks.  Those opposing regulation will, conversely, advocate comparison to traditional forms of distribution, arguing that ISPs and the Internet in general be released of liability for content.  In either case, the terms of the debate are delimited and bounded by the print-media analogue that has been legitimated by the ruling in Reno.  It is possible, however, that the Internet, being situated in-between the traditional roles of publication and distribution, is neither one nor the other.  Consequently, the print-media metaphor, by restricting future debate to the publication/distribution dialectic, might actually blind the legislature and judiciary to the unique features of the medium.

Beyond Mere Words
The law has been built not upon principles but upon tropes...  (Bosmajian, 1992, p. 48)
Legislation for new and unfamilar technologies proceeds and is developed by way of comparison to known and established systems.  This metaphorical approach is not only useful for articulating the significance of and extending extant laws to new and indefinite technologies but also risks restricting understanding to pre-established formulas, unquestioned assumptions, and improvident decisions. "Metaphors, therefore, can have as great a potential to mislead as to enlighten" (Winter, 1988, p. 1387).  The critical task, it would seem, would be to escape metaphorical thinking tout court, avoiding any problematic comparisons whatsoever.  This ideal, however, is at least impractical if not impossible.  Whether we accept or reject Johnson and Lakoff's (1980) argument that "our ordinary conceptual in nature" (p. 3), the fact remains that metaphorical thinking has and will continue to play a significant role in legal discourse and media regulation debate.  What is required, therefore, is not naive rejection of metaphorical thinking but an active and critical approach to the application and significance of metaphor.

If, however, we accept that metaphor is to some extent a necessary and unavoidable element of discourse, this critical approach is one that will of necessity take place in and by metaphor.  Indeed, as exemplified above, metaphor cannot be submitted to questioning without participating in and employing what is questioned.  The debate about metaphor, therefore, cannot simply take place outside of metaphorical language.  This is not circular reasoning, but the unavoidable position occupied by any critical undertaking.  As Briankle Chang (1996) points out, "such a predicament, however, is not fact, it characterizes the epistemic quandry of writers from diverse fields in which the act of the investigation is itself implicated in the object of inquiry as its condition of possibility" (p. ix).  The principle task in all these cases is not to break out of the circle but to "enter it at the correct angle" (Chang, 1996, p. x).

Entering the circle of legal metaphor at the correct angle requires, in the first place, that metaphor be taken seriously.  Metaphors are always more than mere words.  As Henley describes it, "metaphors are not just illustrations offering graphic images or concrete versions of legal concepts.  They are models--shorthand versions of reality... (Henley, 1975, p. 81).  Metaphors, therefore, are not mere "rhetorical flowers" (Derrida, 1982, p. 245).  Rather, they are mechanisms of real political hegemony that have the capacity to determine the current and future shape of a technological innovation.  Consequently, whoever possesses the authority to develop and disseminate metaphor, has the power to determine the understanding and status of a given technology.  Second, these metaphors are worth investigating and debating.  As Bosmajian (1992) suggests, "it is especially incumbent that judicial tropes be identified and examined, for the acceptance or rejection of specific metaphors...will determine the legal principles and doctrines by which we will be guided and ruled" (p. 205). Consequently, the future of the Internet will be determined not only through the invention of new hardware and software but also through the metaphors that are employed to describe and explain it.

[1] On the history of the Internet, cf.  Negroponte (1995), Electronic Frontier Foundation (1997), Sterling (1993), and Gromov (1997).

[2] This is not the case in other nations in which the telegraph and telephone were incorporated under the administration and regulatory structure of the post office. In fact, the US system constitutes the exception rather than the rule.

[3] The substitution is initially evident in the Senate version of the bill (S652), which proposed the following under section 402:  "Section 223 (47 USC 223) is amended 1) in subsection (a)(1) by striking out 'telephone' in the matter above subparagraph (A) and inserting 'telecommunications device.'"

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Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, Inc.

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