Volume 37, Number 2 - Winter, 2006
Howard M. Friedman *
WELCOME to our celebration of the 10th anniversary of cybersecurities law. In October of 1995, the SEC issued its seminal release on Use of Electronic Media for Delivery Purposes. 1 This followed its issuance earlier that year of a no-action letter to Brown & Wood on electronic delivery of prospectuses. 2
Actually, there is some disagreement on when cybersecurities law was born. We might have called this Symposium the 21st or the 33rd birthday of cybersecurities law. The SEC's most successful online initiative has been EDGAR, the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval System, through which all companies file documents and reports online with the SEC. The public now has immediate universal access to that system. The first pilot filings on EDGAR were made 21 years ago on Sept. 24, 1984. 3 The conception of EDGAR, however, was 12 years before that - in 1972. In that year, then-SEC Chairman William J. Casey made an historic speech to the National Microfilm Association. Computers were already being used to disseminate stock prices and trading volume. Casey - later to become more famous as CIA Director during the Regan administration - proposed to create computer access to other kinds of information in the SEC's files. 4
However, in many ways EDGAR is also really only 10 years old. The pilot phase of EDGAR was closed out and replaced by an operational system in 1992. The mandatory phase-in of electronic filings began in April 1993. Under a congressional mandate, the SEC studied a significant test group of filings made in 1994. It was finally only in 1995 that the SEC re-commenced the phase-in of EDGAR that got all U.S. companies aboard by 1996. 5
And one more date vies for recognition as the birthday of cybersecurities -
October 1996. That month marked the ultimate recognition of the digital revolution on Wall Street. Historically New York City had put on ticker tape parades for its heroes - throwing from the windows of Wall Street the narrow strips of paper on which stock trades were reported on a nearly real-time basis. For those too young to remember, ticker tape was the paper embodiment of the narrow stream of symbols and numbers that now run across the screen on financial news channels throughout the day. In 1996, for the first time in 10 years, a New York team had won the World Series and New York planned a parade for that year's winners, the New York Yankees. But planners had forgotten about the intervening cybersecurities revolution. They suddenly realized that electronic reporting had eliminated traditional ticker tape, and shredders had to run all night to create ersatz strips to convey the proper honors. 6
All in all, in the absence of an authoritative birth certificate, we have opted for 1995 as a good consensus date of birth for cybersecurities law. To celebrate, we welcome a diverse group of scholars truly from all over the world to share with us not so much the past, but what we can expect in the next decades.