A decade or so ago there was no such thing as computer law. This niche of the legal system has come into being out of necessity with the proliferation of the Internet and the issues that come along with the technology that makes worldwide communication and transactions possible.
Traditional law does not cover many of the issues that occur in the online realm. Therefore it is crucial that we have a particular branch of law that exists to deal with legal problems that may arise by the very nature of the Internet and are not able to be covered by local jurisdictions.
There may be disagreements over copyright or ownership of a domain or website which cannot be resolved due to the parties being in different states or even different countries. The problem that arises here is that there are complex problems in deciding what state or country’s law and jurisdiction will have the authority to resolve the issue. In situations like this the area of law known as “Conflicts of Law” comes into play.
The increasingly complex area of computer law is exceedingly demanding in its educational requirements for attorneys who practice in this niche. The term “computer law” is kind of a misnomer since it is really the information on the computer such as software, personal info, and possible trade secrets that are the issue as well as the possibility of international disputes over domain names and copyright violations. For these reasons, those who practice computer law are usually the same attorneys who specialize in Intellectual Property Law, also known as IP Law, which covers trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. The U.S. Patent Office requires attorneys practicing before it to hold a bachelor’s degree in the areas of engineering or science at the very least.
Some traditional areas of law are evolving to include ever-changing computer laws. Early on it was declared that software would be classified as “goods”, but the difference between normal goods and software “goods” is that one only owns the media that the software is stored on and a license to the use of the software which is now covered under the Uniform Commercial Code.
Those who hack into computer systems without authorization and use that computer’s resources or steal information from it are guilty of pretty much the same thing as what traditional law would call burglary. However, since by definition burglary means entering an actual physical residence, specific laws were added to cover this offense.
One of the biggest problems with the Internet and one that grows even larger annually is that of copyright theft and piracy. Anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can easily steal the intellectual property of another. Additionally, the piracy of media such as movies and music is an enormous problem that is plaguing those industries today. It is a fact that the area of computer law will continue to expand and be used more in the future as the use of the Internet to commit crimes continues to grow.