This article examines the role of the state and the rule of law in relation to the problem of intellectual property on the Internet. It concludes that the claim that states are no longer effective actors (and hence subjecting to them to political pressure is a waste of time) has conveniently omitted the state’s role as guarantor of the legislative infrastructure that underlies market activity. The state is critically required to legally support the markets of the ‘new economy’, and while its means of market intervention may have changed, this is not the same as withdrawal. The history of intellectual property has been a political battle to balance the rights of owners with the very important social benefits that flow from social availability of information and knowledge. Thus, states remain a key site for political mobilisation as regards the central legal structures of the (so-called) information society.