Daniel Zimmer (Bonn): Digital Communities and the Law


It is not state-made legislation alone that sets fixed limits for human coexistence. Rather, the zeroes and ones of binary code in computer programs are increasingly making the rules for how humans live together. A wealth of examples seems to support this theory: an electronic barrier prevents the renter of an electric scooter from taking it outside the city limits. An automatic upload filter can prevent a user from uploading images or texts that strongly resemble other, previously existing images, or texts onto an internet platform.

Such technical barriers are set by private actors – firms. When they take over rulemaking, it puts a challenge to the law. Can the state accept the increasing transfer of rulemaking into private hands? The relationship between private regulation and state legislation takes on special significance in technological communities. Such communities are formed, for example, by people who use the same software, communicate through the same infrastructure, or are members of the same social network. Platforms like Facebook or Instagram use algorithms to set rules for the behavior of their networks’ members.

The lecture will address the following questions: Do Facebook and Instagram have free reign when designing technology? Are they endowed with a kind of “owner’s right” when they determine the technological conditions of the digital community? Or must one always assume that the law has primacy, even concerning access to or termination of membership, or the possibility of placing content on the platform?   

(Prof. Dr. Daniel Zimmer)

Zoom Link: https://uni-bonn.zoom.us/j/92166638502?pwd=c1RKRytXMS9ZU2F3Yi83Zjd6WFJ3dz09
Meeting-ID: 921 6663 8502
Password: 260184

Please note that the event will be recorded for public relations purposes.

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Dr. Daniel Zimmer is Managing Director of the Institute for Commercial and Economic Law as well as of the Center for Advanced Studies in Law and Economics (CASTLE) at the University of Bonn. He completed his studies in Law from 1979 to 1984 at the Universities of Mainz, Lausanne, and Göttingen. Following graduation, he pursued a legal traineeship in Celle, Germany, as well as his Master’s studies (LL.M.) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1991, Daniel Zimmer received his doctoral degree in Law from the University of Göttingen, where subsequently worked as a research assistant. After completing his habilitation in 1996 on the topic “International Company Law – The Conflict of Laws of Companies and Its Relation to International Capital Market Law and to International Enterprise Law”, he was named University Professor at the Ruhr-University Bochum. Additionally, he was a visiting professor at the University of Lausanne from 1999 to 2001. In 2001, he joined the Institute for Commercial and Economic Law at the University of Bonn. Daniel Zimmer has also served as a member on various commissions, including the German Monopolies Commission and the German Council for Private International Law’s special “International Company Law” Commission. He has also been involved in EU Commission’s Forum on Auditor Liability. Furthermore, he has been a research fellow at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin since 2016 and a research affiliate at the Reinhard Selten Institute in Bonn/Cologne since 2018.  

After a first research stay from April to September 2019, Prof. Dr. Daniel Zimmer has been once again a Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture” since October 2020.