Find an Internet -- Cyberspace Lawyer

One of the newest legal specializations is Internet or Cyberspace law. The proliferation of the Internet spawned new methods of communicating, new terminologies, new business models and legislation to deal with all of them. This growth has created the discipline of Internet or Cyberspace law.

Disputes over Internet-related issues first started to arise in the early 1990s. However, the body of law was not able to deal with the types of issues that were developing. While legislation started to appear on the books later in the decade, many of the issues are still being actively debated and the creation of cyberspace law is still in progress. In some instances, legal scholars debate not only whether existing law can regulate internet issues, but also how possible it is to catch and prosecute those who violate internet law. For example, since federal law regulating gambling deals with wire transmissions, the way it affects online gambling is ambiguous. Early efforts to legislate Internet gambling have been unsuccessful due to Congress' concerns about enforcement.

One of the most important areas covered by the discipline of Internet law is the regulation of online commerce. With the ever-broadening range of products and services available on the Internet, legislators are looking at the taxes online firms must pay and their fiscal responsibilities to their customers. Credit card companies are looking at ways to combat the increasing opportunities for fraud that the Internet provides, including legislation.

Privacy advocates are carefully watching the ways online companies collect and store information about their visitors. And, since information transmitted over the Internet can be intercepted, they want laws to keep that information safe and secure. Every piece of data including e-mails that are sent, forms that are filled out online, sites that are visited and even images that are viewed can be recorded. Cyberspace laws will continue to evolve to protect the rights of both companies and individuals pertaining to the privacy issue.

In 1997, legislation making electronic theft illegal was added to the criminal code. It made it illegal for people to distribute copies of software over the Internet, even if they were not charging for it. Other types of cybertheft include hacking and interception of data and all of them must be legislated.

The kind of information available on the Internet and the way it is accessed is another area of cyberlaw that lawyers are actively debating. Specifically, pornography and gambling, and sales of things like alcohol, cigarettes and prescription drugs.

Disputes over ownership of domain names and copyright abuses of online data have been some of the most common legal actions in this field. There have also been cyberspace cases dealing with anti-trust laws, fraud, constitutionality, contracts, defamation and libel, electronic signatures, encryption, jurisdiction, and the first amendment.

Internet law overlaps with many other disciplines. Commercial ventures on the web are watched by business and trade lawyers; international lawyers follow the developments of Internet trade among nations; and, criminal attorneys prosecute and defend those who are using cyberspace for illegal means. Some of the most publicized Internet-related cases have involved the ownership and distribution of intellectual property.

By Ann MacDonald           

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