George H. Fibbe

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The topic for this Symposium, "The Internet: Place, Property, or Thing-All or None of the Above," touches on a debate that has existed since the early days of the Internet. There is no question that people commonly understand their experience using the Internet with the help of spatial metaphor--e.g., "sites" and "addresses" that we "visit," and programs called "robots," "crawlers," and "spiders." Leaving metaphor aside, many of the constituent parts of the Internet, especially computer servers, are items of private personal property.

Indeed, the debate over metaphor is reminiscent of the scene from the movie Field of Dreams in which Shoeless Joe Jackson looks out over the magical baseball field and asks, "Is this heaven?" The response is, "No, it's Iowa." Similarly, whether we consider our interaction with the Internet broadly—"Is this cyberspace?"—or more narrowly—"No, it's just a group of computers"—is a particularly timely topic for courts deciding disputes over "screen-scraping."

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