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Law for Computer Scientists and Other Folk$

Mireille Hildebrandt

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198860877

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198860877.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 09 December 2021

(p.xi) Reading Guide

(p.xi) Reading Guide

Law for Computer Scientists and Other Folk

Mireille Hildebrandt

Oxford University Press

As this is both a textbook and an essay introducing law to computer scientists (and other folk), some guidance on how to read this work seems required.

Please note this book is not an attempt to turn computer scientists into lawyers, there is no claim to completeness. It is a presentation of how law and the rule of law protect what is crucial to constitutional democracy and how that is pertinent to computer scientists and other folk. It provides a survey of legal frameworks that apply to developers of computational systems and to those who put such systems on the market or share them otherwise. They should all be aware how their actions may violate the law and what obligations they have. In a constitutional democracy, nobody is above the law.

For developers of computational systems, whether based on machine learning, blockchain, or other code, knowledge of the law is also crucial because their systems will co-determine law’s effectiveness. If computer systems diminish the substance of human rights or render legal remedies ineffective, they diminish human agency and could even destroy the architecture of constitutional democracy. Before that happens, however, we should expect courts and legislatures to intervene. This is one more reason to pay keen attention to how law operates and to how computational systems can contribute to upholding democracy and the rule of law by protecting the substance of fundamental rights and freedoms.

This work should be read as a whole because law is an architecture that can only be properly understood if one grasps the whole as well as the parts (including the frictions between them).

(p.xii) Upfront, please check the glossary, linking the foundational concepts of the law to the sections that use them. Following Wittgenstein, the explanation of these concepts ‘sits’ in the way lawyers use them. The glossary thus contributes to a proper understanding of their meaning instead of closing shop by way of (formalizable) definitions.

To preserve the textbook character of the work, footnotes are sparse and only used to refer to relevant sources of law (statutes, case law, treaties), or websites. Each chapter has a concise set of canonical references at the end to enable further reading.

I wish the reader fun, pleasure, and insight. Understanding law is often like solving a puzzle, while simultaneously providing glimpses of how we organize our foundational choice architecture.