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JILT 1996 (2) - Philip Leith

S.J. Saxby's

Public Policy and Regulation of the Information Market in the Digital Network Environment (PhD Thesis)

Complex 2/96, Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law, 1996
208pp - £62
ISBN 90 411 0135 7

Reviewed by
Philip Leith
Reader in Law
Queen’s University of Belfast

This text is composed of 4 core chapters which cover the general area of the political, economic and legal framework as applied to the what used to be called 'telecommunications' and is now called the 'digital network'. It is clear that this development - using the computer and communications as one combined technology - which began in the 1970's is of great interest to lawyers. Saxby's interest is more in the public law element than in the private, and he calls upon expertise in a variety of appointments (as well as his other publishing in, for example, The Age of Information) to make sense of what has been happening in the EU, US and the UK with regard to public policy and regulation of information in this new communications field.

Saxby has the ability to take in a great mass of detail and form it into a readable and coherent text. Others might have made this subject into something more turgid, but Saxby has managed to bring a lightness of touch to his writing. It does not read like the usual PhD thesis turned into book format, though it is certainly as comprehensive.

However, those with most interest in this text will probably already have viewed the core chapters. These have been published in the Int. Journal of Law and Technology and the Yearbook of Law, Computers and Technology. The extra matter which is available in this text is simply the formal introductions required for submitting these articles as a PhD thesis and a conclusion (10 pages). It does not seem to me to be worth purchasing this text for these extra sections alone.

Saxby writes that he preferred to prepare the work for his PhD award as a series of articles rather than a book because in this field timeliness is an important factor. I believe that his original view was correct. Reading this text we can see that many of the points he raises as ongoing problems have already been concluded. Most important of all of these 'ongoing problems' was that of the UK’s crown copyright which (only within the last few weeks) has now been resolved and, unfortunately, turns this text into a document of mainly historical interest (but that is not, of course, a criticism of the argument within the text). No doubt a further strand to Saxby’s argument dealing with the new developments here has already being prepared, and we look forward to reading this.

The question arises, 'Why was this text published?'. It may be of interest to those who have difficulty in accessing journals, but since so little extra matter has been added to those original articles, it is not a particularly attractive purchase.

The text appears in a series produced by the Jon Bing's research centre in Oslo. This series stretches back to 1981 and has the pleasant aspect of having all these texts still in print and available (many are in Norwegian, though). However, it has not really managed to translate this longevity into importance. I have several of these reports on my own book shelves but would rarely use them or cite them (and there are not too many others who do cite these). Yet, given the history of the Oslo centre, as a major player in the computers and law field, there is no reason why this series could not be more important and influential. It is unlikely, though, to become more influential if it simply takes work which has been published elsewhere and reprint it with the unnecessary formal envelope required by a University's PhD regulations.

While we congratulate Saxby on the completion of his doctorate, I do think that he should have thought more carefully before - seemingly - simply passing the disk containing his dissertation to Oslo. At the very least he might have taken the opportunity to add an afterthought: which PhD student, after all, never has thoughts immediately after completion?


Date of publication: 7 May 1996

Citation: Leith, P (1996), 'S.J. Saxby's Public Policy and Regulation of the Information Market in the Digital Network Environment (PhD Thesis)', Book Review, 1996 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/elj/jilt/bookrev/2leith/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_2/leith/>

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