As regular readers know, I have the proverbial bee in my bonnet in regard to the necessity for retaining the initial capital “I” when writing about “the Internet.” I think it actually matters a good deal — see here and here if you’re interested in my reasons for thinking so. But in any event, my particular obsession makes me alert to typographical variations in the word, and I recently came across a particularly nice one.
The US v Morris case from back in the late ’80s/early 90s was, for those old enough to remember, a particularly significant cultural moment in the history of the Internet. Robert Morris, then a young grad student in computer science at Cornell, had — apparently somewhat unwittingly — unleashed the first Internet “worm,” and it put him (and “the Internet”) on the front page of newspapers all around the country. He was ultimately convicted of violating the then-fairly-new Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (though that didn’t stop him from having a rather distinguished career in computer science, leading to his current position as Professor at MIT).
The Second Circuit upheld his CFAA conviction, in an important opinion written by Judge Jon Newman (US v. Morris, 928 F.2d 504, CA2 1991). I had read the opinion years ago, but re-encountered it for a class several weeks ago, and noticed the really unusual way Judge Newman uses the term “Internet.” (Newman happens to be a wonderful prose stylist, and someone who is careful about his use of words; not only did he, coincidentally, go on to become the 2d Circuit’s pre-eminent voice in copyright matters, he also seems to be the kind of person who would be interested in these typographical and semantic matters, having himself co-authored, with his father, an authoritative geneological re-construction of the [...]