Who regulates the internet and is there really such a thing as “Internet Law”? These are perhaps two of the most important questions of our time, considering the fact that we live in the digital age where almost all our lives are online.
What Is Internet Law?
As the term would suggest, internet law refers to the legal principles and legislation that govern the use of the internet. Internet law is also commonly referred to as cyber law. Unlike most other areas of the law, however, internet law can’t simply be identified as a single field of practice. This is mostly because of the fact that the internet is so vast and pervades international boundaries and borderlines.
As such, what is referred to as internet law or cyber law in many countries tends to incorporate as well as apply principles borrowed from several legislative fields such as “Privacy Laws” and “Contract Laws” all of which pre-date the internet.
Internet law, therefore, could include a wide number of areas ranging from:
- Online privacy laws
- Laws governing cryptocurrency
- Laws governing various Internet Service Providers
- Copyright laws
- Laws governing the creation and use of websites
- Laws governing the use of social media platforms
Due to the fact that the internet is constantly growing and evolving; as well as the fact that it encompasses the entire globe, the laws surrounding its governance and use cannot simply be informed from a singular common law or precedent. Judges adjudicating any internet related dispute must often rely on a host of other related laws to resolve the cases brought before them.
What About the Internet Privacy Act?
The “Internet Privacy Act” is just as complicated and as ever-evolving as general internet privacy rules or internet laws. The internet privacy act is broad legislation that seeks to help protect privacy and provide security for the personal data of every internet user. The act seeks to regulate the factors, techniques and technologies used in protecting private and sensitive communications and data between users.
Because e-commerce is the way of the future, this act seeks to help regulate the sharing of personal data such as credit card numbers, home addresses, phone numbers and emails by both private citizens and big corporations who need this data to conduct business. The Internet Privacy Act varies from country to country, but the gist of it all is that big corporations must do everything in their power to protect your data from would-be identity thieves. The act allows you to sue any corporation in breach of this responsibility if you can prove it!
What Areas Do the Laws of the Internet Govern?
As already mentioned, the laws of the internet or cyber law cover a wide area and serve a variety of purposes. There are some internet laws such as employee personal information protection laws that are enacted to protect people from falling prey to unscrupulous companies that would gather their personal information and share them with marketing firms or identity thieves. Others still, create rules on how people can use the internet and how they relate to one another while on the service.
There are some major areas that are more commonly used and wide spread across the globe. These cyber law areas include:
Thanks to huge e-commerce companies such as Amazon and eBay, more and more people are doing their shopping and banking online. These consumers rely on cyber laws to protect them from identity thieves or from suffering unfortunate mishaps such as credit card theft and other financially-related crimes.
Identity thieves are liable to facing state or even federal criminal charges just as major e-commerce companies can face civil action lawsuits brought against them by victims of identity theft if the breach was on the side of the company in question. There are cyber lawyers who work to represent such matters and individuals just as there are cyber lawyers who work to defend companies running their businesses online.
The internet has given millions of people a voice where there was none. While this is a good thing, it can also be a bad thing as some people use this platform to spread lies about others for whatever reason. When someone publically makes statements about another person’s character or behavior online, those statements can cross over to defamation.
Defamation laws carry over to the internet to protect people from such statements. Whenever someone makes a false statement about you online and that statement hurts your business or your personal reputation, you can sue that person for defamation.
Just because something is online does not mean that you can claim it and profit from it as your own creative work. The internet made it extremely easy for people to profit from the work of others without necessarily giving credit to the originator. Copyright laws exist to protect creatives from people who would readily use and profit from their works illegally.
Harassment and Stalking
Cyberbullying has taken harassment and stalking tendencies into the digital world. Whenever a person harasses you online by making threatening statements repeatedly, those statements could be in breach of both civil and criminal laws pertaining to harassment and stalking.
As such, you can sue that person. Data on the internet is indelible, so you can use this electronic data as evidence to prove that someone violated a restraining order or committed an act of harassment or stalking online.
Other related laws include:
- Freedom of speech
- Contract and employment laws
- Trade secret laws
All of these laws can, in one way or another, fall under internet laws. Lawyers and judges have to use their knowledge of everyday laws and translate that into the digital world and see where each sector applies. That is why internet laws cannot be defined on a singular premise.