What is Computer Law?
Computer Law relates to and crosses over with a number of legal areas affecting the design and use of computers and software, and the transmission of data via physical media or across data networks.
One major area of concern for computer law is intellectual property. The design of computer hardware and software are typically protected by patents. The logos of various products are protected by trademark. Many programs and other information may be protected by copyrights. Another major area of concern for computer law is the transmission of copyrighted materials over the Internet. Intellectual property is a huge portion of the field of computer law.
Another major area of concern for computer law is privacy. This includes protecting confidential information during transactions, like credit card numbers, as well as keeping private the materials one may have stored on a hard drive. Much of this body of law relates to internet security and anti-hacking laws.
One area that has seen a great deal of recent growth in recent years is anti-hacking laws. These laws are designed to punish individuals who attempt to break into the computers and networks of others. Several laws have rendered it criminal to access files on another's computer without their permission or to take over full or partial control of another's computer without their knowledge.
Another area of computer law that has seen a great deal of attention from the government through regulation is SPAM e-mail. SPAM is an unwanted e-mail communication, usually pertaining to a commercial interests of some sort. Although annoying, some SPAM has also been used to conceal viruses and spyware. As a result, the laws regarding SPAM aim not only to curtail it because it is a nuisance, but also because it could expose innocent users to danger.
Other Areas of Interest
Computer law is an ever evolving area of the law and will no doubt continue to grow and evolve along with technology. As a result, other areas of interest to computer law include the legalities of file sharing, taxation of electronic commerce, electronic signatures, regulation of data transfer rates, and many others.
For more information about computer law, please reference the materials below. Additionally, you can find an attorney in your area specializing in this area of law by visiting our Law Firms page.
Computer Law - US
- ABA - Committee on Technology and Information Systems
The Committee was created in 1997 as a successor to the Coordinating Commission on Legal Technology (CCOLT) and is comprised of representatives from a number of Association entities selected by the ABA President to provide guidance and oversight for the Association's technology initiatives.
- BitLaw Legal Resource
BitLaw is a comprehensive Internet resource on technology and intellectual property law. In this site, you will find complete copies of the United States Patent, Copyright, and Trademark statutes, as well as the relevant regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations. BitLaw also includes converted versions of the TMEP and MPEP (the office manuals created by the United States Trademark and Patent Offices, respectively). Each of these documents include links to the relevant statutory and regulatory sections. Finally, BitLaw contains a great deal of custom written descriptions of how these areas of the law affect the computer and technology industries.
- Computer and Information Technology Law - Definition
Information Technology Law (or IT Law) is a set of recent legal enactments, currently in existence in several countries, which governs the process and dissemination of information digitally. These legal enactments cover a broad gamut of different aspects relating to computer software, protection of computer software, access and control of digital information, privacy, security, internet access and usage, and electronic commerce. These laws have been described as "paper laws" for "paperless environment".
- Computer Security Act of 1987
In 1987, the U.S. Congress, led by Rep. Jack Brooks, enacted a law reaffirming that the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the Department of Commerce, was responsible for the security of unclassified, non-military government computer systems. Under the law, the role of the National Security Agency (NSA) was limited to providing technical assistance in the civilian security realm. Congress rightly felt that it was inappropriate for a military intelligence agency to have control over the dissemination of unclassified information.
- Cornell Institute for Computer Policy and Law (ICPL)
The EDUCAUSE / Cornell Institute for Computer Policy and Law provides leadership to colleges and universities in developing information technology policies. Founded in 1996 at Cornell University, the Institute incorporates experts from a wide variety of fields, including chief information officers, student judicial-affairs administrators, librarians, attorneys, policy officers, and many others. The Institute supports the professional development of information technology, policy and legal professionals within higher education to facilitate the creation and administration of effective information technology policies. It also monitors and analyzes changes in technology and law to assess the impact of those changes on academic information technology policy.
- Digital Signature Legislation
Legislators and business leaders long recognized that the passage of some kind of digital legislation was of central importance to the development of e-commerce. However, for several years Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress haggled over what should be included in such a bill. In the meantime, several states passed their own legislation allowing some forms of digital signatures to be legally binding in certain situations. When a major piece of national legislation went into effect in 2000, it was heralded as a giant step toward the harmonization of interstate and international laws, and was expected to help propel e-commerce forward in the early 2000s.
- eSign Laws and Regulations
On June 30, 2000 President Clinton signed the "Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act" (ESIGN) using his electronic signature ID, and thereby established the validity of electronic signatures for interstate and international commerce.
- Health Information Technology Act of 2009
This bill encourages the use of clinical health care informatics systems and services by offering monetary incentives to health care providers in order to offset the related costs of such technology. It would also seek to develop national standards regarding data and communication health information technology, working towards the goals of efficient data exchange and improved health care quality while protecting patient privacy and security.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology - Computer Security Division
The E-Government Act [Public Law 107-347] passed by the 107th Congress and signed into law by the President in December 2002 recognized the importance of information security to the economic and national security interests of the United States. Title III of the E-Government Act, entitled the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), included duties and responsibilities for the Computer Security Division in Section 303 “National Institute of Standards and Technology.”
Computer Law - International
- Computer Law Association (CLA)
The Computer Law Association (CLA) is one of the world’s largest international organizations of information technology law professionals. With members on all continents except Antarctica, and with 70 percent of new members joining from countries other than the United States, CLA enjoys a unique position in bringing together the world’s information technology law community.
- Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID)
The Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development (GAID), an initiative approved by the United Nations Secretary-General in 2006, was launched after comprehensive worldwide consultations with governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical and Internet communities and academia.
- United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force
In March 2001, the United Nations Economic and Social Council requested the Secretary-General to establish an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force. This initiative is intended to lend a truly global dimension to the multitude of efforts to bridge the global digital divide, foster digital opportunity and thus firmly put ICT at the service of development for all.
Organizations Related to Computer Law
- Canadian IT Law Association
The Canadian IT Law Association ("IT.CAN") was founded in 1997 by a group of Canadian information technology lawyers from across the country. It was intended to provide a national forum for Canadian practitioners to discuss the uniquely Canadian aspects of IT law and related fields of e-commerce and intellectual property.
- Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility - CPSR
CPSR is a global organization promoting the responsible use of computer technology. Founded in 1981, CPSR educates policymakers and the public on a wide range of issues. CPSR has incubated numerous projects such as Privaterra, the Public Sphere Project, EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center), the 21st Century Project, the Civil Society Project, and the CFP (Computers, Freedom & Privacy) Conference. Originally founded by U.S. computer scientists, CPSR now has members in 26 countries on six continents.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people's radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.
- International Association for Artificial Intelligence and Law (IAAIL)
IAAIL is a nonprofit association devoted to promoting research and development in the field of AI and Law, with members throughout the world. IAAIL organizes a biennial conference (ICAIL), which provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of the latest research results and practical applications and stimulates interdisciplinary and international collaboration.
ITechLaw is a not-for-profit organization established to inform and educate lawyers about the unique legal issues arising from the evolution, production, marketing, acquisition and use of information and communications technology. We provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and in-depth examination of information technology and telecommunications law issues.
- Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council (LEITSC)
The Mission of LEITSC is to foster the growth of strategic planning and implementation of integrated justice systems. Together, participants from these organizations represent the voice of law enforcement as a whole on information technology standard issues.
Publications Related to Computer Law
- Info / Law - Information Law
What is Information Law? We see it as an obvious convergence of intellectual property doctrine, communications regulation, First Amendment norms, and new technology. As information becomes the most precious commodity of the 21st century, the law surrounding it will have to evolve. That’s what we want to talk and think about here — along with various related and not-so-related threads (“information” covers a lot of ground!).
- International Journal of Law and Information Technology
The International Journal of Law and Information Technology provides cutting edge and comprehensive analysis of Information Technology, communications and cyberspace law as well as the issues arising from applying Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to legal practice. International in scope, this journal has become essential for legal and computing professionals and legal scholars of the law related to IT.
- John Marshall Journal of Computer and Information Law
The John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law is an international law review dedicated to current issues in information technology and privacy law. As one of the first of its kind, the Journal fills a unique niche among legal academic publications, addressing cutting-edge topics with input from scholars around the world.
- Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal
First in its field, the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal strives to keep judges, policymakers, practitioners and the academic community abreast of the dynamic legal issues arising from society's interaction with computers and emerging technologies. Rutgers law students founded the Journal in 1969, far in advance of the ubiquity of computers and networking technology. Since its inception, the Journal has maintained a tradition of excellence and has designed each issue to foster critical discourse on the technological breakthroughs impacting the legal landscape. The Journal's success is reflected in a subscription base of about four hundred national and international subscribers, as well as in its citation in numerous texts, articles and judicial opinions, including those of the United States Supreme Court.
Articles on HG.org Related to Computer Law
- Child Pornography Distribution Via Peer-to-Peer NetworksPeer-to-peer networks are commonly used in child pornography investigations. It's important to understand what they are and how they are searched. From a defense standpoint, it is important to understand whether the accused was knowledgeable about the network's settings as that can impact the charges filed.
- Internet Enables Thieves to Steal $4 Billion in Tax RefundsCriminals are utilizing their Internet connection to file false tax returns that help them steal refunds from the innocent. In 2013, fraudulent returns saw almost $4 billion sent into the hands of scam artists. Making things worse is the fact that the Internal Revenue Service is having a hard time stopping the fraud from happening in the first place.
- Top Five White Collar Criminals of All TimeQuick, who’s the top white collar criminal of all time? If you said, “Bernie Madoff” you’d be wrong, at least as far as sentences go. You wouldn’t be too far off—Mr. Madoff’s 150-year-sentence is impressive, but he only ranks fifth in the list of sentences imposed on high-dollar scammers. Here’s the list of the five most notorious “businessmen” of all time, beginning with that fifth-place notable crook:
- What Does the Law Say About Using Someone's Webcam or Computer Microphone to Spy on Them?In our modern, connected age, it seems everyone has a tablet or laptop computer that they use on a daily basis. These computers usually have built in webcams and microphones which, while very useful for legitimate purposes like video calls, can also be a vehicle for embarrassment, identity theft, and spying on your most intimate moments. So, what does the law have to say about using someone's webcam or computer microphone to spy on them?
- Injured by Online Dating, Can I Sue?Just as with real world dating, sometimes Internet dating can be dangerous. People may not be who they say or may actually be dangerous. Online dating services may use your personal information and photographs for purposes other than what you had intended. Internet dating sites may actually put tracking software on your computer or expose you to identity theft, computer viruses, or other harm. So, if you have been injured by a dating site in some way, it is common to wonder whether you can sue?
- Is it Legal for Someone to Post my Private Photos Then Demand Money for Their Removal?Over the last few years, a number of unscrupulous websites have developed around Americans' increasing comfort with sharing private, intimate photos with one another. While the photos are usually not intended for public consumption, often after a rough breakup or other event in which the recipient is left unhappy, that person will post those photos for the world to see. But is this legal? More importantly, can the site where the photos are posted legally charge you to take them down?
- Do Real World Laws Apply to Virtual World Problems?Everyday, millions of people login from all over the world to experience various virtual worlds. Some are part of a video game, others are intended to allow for social interactions, and still others include elements for commercial dealings. Whatever the purpose, any environment in which people interact can lead to friction and disagreements of various sorts. This has led many to ask whether the laws of the real world can or should apply to virtual world problems.
- Can You Fire Someone For Their Social Media Complaints About Work?Social media is everywhere today; from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, it would be almost impossible for an employer not to have someone working for them that has some form of social media presence. While you might be able to keep an employee from updating their Facebook status from the office, can you do anything about what they say or do about you or your company on their social media in their own time? Indeed, can you fire someone for their social media complaints about work?
- Is There a Law Against Cyberstalking or Cyberharassment?With the rise of social networking, many have lost some of their concerns about personal privacy. Indeed, millions of Americans share the intimate details of their lives with an audience of dozens to thousands to sometimes even millions of people everyday, and think nothing of it. But what happens when someone begins to use this information against you? Are they violating any laws by following you online or bothering you on the Internet?
- Ninth Circuit Outlines Boundaries of Computer Fraud and Abuse ActIn United States v. Nosal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to determine the boundaries of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030. It ultimately concluded that violations of an employer's computer use policy did not amount to "exceeding authorized access" under the CFAA.
- All Science and Technology Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Science and Technology including: biotechnology, chemical law, computer and software, data protection, information technology, internet law, research and development, telecommunications law.