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Wednesday, 18 May 2016 01:18

Internet Law - Guide to Cyberspace Law

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Internet Law, or Cyberlaw as it is sometimes called, refers to the legal issues related to the use of the Internet. It is less a distinct field of law than a conglomeration of intellectual property law, contract law, privacy laws, and many other fields, and how they pertain to the use of the Internet.

 

Unique Nature of Cyberlaw

If there can be laws that could govern the Internet, then such laws will require a unique structure to grapple with the international and ethereal nature of the web. Many argue the Internet is not actually “regulable” at all, while others argue that not only can it be regulated but substantial bodies of law already exist. Since the Internet is not geographically bound, national laws can not apply globally. A few international agreements exist, but some have argued that the Internet should be allowed to self-regulate as its own "nation."

 

Internet Regulation

 

Aside from blatant censorship of the Internet in nations like China, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, there are four primary modes of regulation of the internet: Laws, Architecture, Norms, and Markets.

 

1. Laws are the most obvious form of regulation. As various states, countries, and international groups attempt to grapple with issues raised by the use of the Internet, they normally effect their policies through the implementation of laws. Such regulations govern areas like gambling, child pornography, and fraud. Of course, the shortcoming of laws are their limited geographical scope. After all, should internet sites hosted in foreign countries but available globally have to comply with varying, and sometimes conflicting, laws in every corner of the globe?

 

2. Architecture refers to how information literally can and cannot be transmitted across the Internet. This can refer to everything from internet filtering software, to firewalls, to encryption programs, and even the very basic structure of internet transmission protocols, like TCP/IP. In many ways, this is the most fundamental form of Internet regulation, and all other areas of Cyberlaw must relate to or rely upon it in some fashion since it is, quite literally, how the Internet is made.

 

3. Norms refer to the ways in which people interact with one another. Just as social norms govern what is and is not appropriate in regular society, norms also affect behavior across the Internet. In other words, while laws may fail to regulate certain activities allowed by the architecture of the internet, social norms may allow the users to control such conduct. For example, many online forums allow users to moderate comments made by other users. Comments found to be offensive or off topic can be flagged and removed. This is a form of norm regulation.

 

4. Similar to norm regulation is market regulation. Market regulation controls patterns of conduct on the internet through the traditional economic principles of supply and demand. If something is unpopular, it will lack a demand and eventually fail. On the other hand, if there is too much supply, then competitors will eventually have to find ways to differentiate themselves or become obscured by the competition. This helps to prevent predatory conduct, drive innovation, and forces websites to self-regulate in order to retain customers and remain viable.

 

Net Neutrality

 

Another major area of interest in Internet Law is net neutrality. Net neutrality refers to regulations of the infrastructure of the Internet, itself. Every piece of information transmitted across the internet is broken into what are called “packets” of data, then passed through routers and transmission infrastructure owned by a variety of private and public entities, like telecommunications companies, universities, and government agencies. This has become a major area of concern in recent years, because changes to laws affecting this infrastructure in one jurisdiction could have a ripple effect, changing how information is sent and received in other jurisdictions whether those areas would otherwise be subject to the jurisdiction of the country implementing the new law or not.

 

Free Speech on the Internet

 

While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans a right to free speech, this is not so in other nations around the globe. The Internet has allowed those living in many repressive countries, where free speech is not a right, to rely upon the cloak of anonymity granted by the Internet to have their voices heard. The rise of the Internet has been credited, in part, as the cause of many of the political movements around the world seeking greater access and equality, such as the “Arab Spring” incidents.

 

Of course, this leads to an inevitable backlash in the form of internet censorship. China is one of the most staunch in its efforts to filter unwanted parts of the internet from its citizens, but many other countries, like Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, have also engaged in such censorship.

 

Other Areas of Internet Law

 

Other topics that have been affected by the rise of the Internet, or which appear to be on the horizon, include areas such as privacy, intelligence gathering, fraud, cyberbullying, and cyberterrorism. As quickly as technology evolves, so too will the various legal issues presented by these innovations.

 

Source:  https://www.hg.org/internet-law.html

 

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