Graham J.H. Smith (ed.)
Internet Law and Regulation
FT Tax and Law, 1996, 156pp, £85
ISBN 0 7520 0286 4
Date of publication: 30 September 1996
Citation: Lockett, N (1996), 'Graham Smith(ed.); Internet Law and Regulation', Book Review, 1996 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/elj/jilt/bookrev/3lockett/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_3/lockett/>
This authoritative and practical guide to the law and regulation of the Internet in the UK is the first UK based Internet Law publication aimed at the practitioner. It is written in a clear and easy to read style and is ideally suited for the lawyer who is technically Internet literate but needs quickly to get up to speed on the law relating to it.
The opening chapter reviews the overall structure of the Internet and assumes that the reader knows the basic terminology and anyone who is competent with using the Internet to search for information and used to looking at web content will find this a useful revision although the complete Internet novice will probably find that an introductory guide is required reading before tackling this work.
The book looks at the position of the Internet in relation to copyright, giving a valuable overview of the law of copyright generally and considers that position of service providers and Internet users in the event of copyright breaches. A full review is made of US related caselaw and the EEC Green paper on copyright and related rights in the Information Society, the draft Database Directive and the US Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The use of confidential information, patents, trademarks and enforcement is also considered. The lawyer who has not studied IPR before will have sufficient information after reading the book to recognise the problems even if they are not able to fully advise having read only this work.
The IPR chapters discuss the problem areas that have already arisen and the result of legal actions to date, although the analysis of caselaw is minimal because this is a practitioners introductory guide and not a complete gospel. It comments upon such matters as extra-territorial jurisdictions although it fails to fully detail how the question of jurisdiction is likely to be argued or developed.
Defamation is also considered as well as Content Liability and Protection. These are the two best understood areas within internet law and the book therefore deals with this comprehensively. The application of Data Protection law is also considered and the likely internet related offences, such as making criminal convictions, credit reference information and trade blacklists available of the Internet. It also deals in outline with the EU Data Protection directive and the powers of enforcement. There are no particular risks which exist only on the Internet although the advances in new technology may change this and a brief discussion is made of likely future trends. There is little excuse for anyone who, having comprehensively read this chapter, commits a data protection offence.
Telecomms and Broadcasting regulations are some of the most complex and difficult of all laws. The book discusses the regulatory background and identifies that the laws which exist relate to traditional telecomms and broadcasting markets and that with the advent of multimedia there has been a convergence between the two areas. Telecomms licensing is discussed together with the scope of internet voice telephony services and the need for PTO licenses. The chapter considers the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the grey areas of motion picture transmission via the Internet. Future regulation is also considered and the likely steps that internet providers will have to take in the future as the market develops and matures.
Contracting with web-designers, hosts, sponsors and advertisers, and the pitfalls to watch out for, are considered together with the rights and obligations of promoters of web sites. This is then extended to the problems of internet contracting and the book looks at the necessary steps which must be taken to ensure that contracting on the internet is enforceable and that rules such as offer and acceptance, receipt, termination and revocation, incorporation of terms are complied. It also considers the technical difficulties which are encountered when trying to identify certain parties and the times when Internet contracts may break down because of strict requirements of formality and the expectation of terms in international contracts.
The work also deals with prohibited and regulated activities such as gambling, pornography, financial services and Internet advertising as well as the risks of contempt of court , sub-judice and restrictions on publication. Finally the book deals with the methods and problems of payment mechanisms for internet commerce and the systems, weaknesses and realities of the current technology. This is a particularly difficult subject to cover at present because it is one of the fastest moving of all Internet areas. Issues of security are being updated monthly and limitations overcome or superceded at similar intervals. A coherent explanation is given of the different types of electronic cash payment systems and the requirements of registration under the Banking Act 1987 and the need for audit trailing is considered.
The final chapter in the book covers the knotty question of taxation and the Internet. This covers VAT, types of supply and the definitions of place of supply and distinction between goods and services. Many lawyers will close the book at the start of this chapter, considering it irrelevant, and in so doing will miss a source of mush interest and future legislation. The Internet has opened up the scope for tax planning like never before, bringing the ability to avoid tax by clever contracting from millionaires playground to the car-park next door and lawyers should not miss this clear but brief guide to tax implications of the Internet.
Like all books on the Internet, certain developing areas of Internet disputes are not covered by the book in much depth or at all. This is no criticism of the book or its authors but a recognition of the speed at which the area is moving ahead and new unforeseen problems are arising. In the future, Internet Law will be a unique area in its own right such as intellectual property and in due course, the guide will undoubtedly be superceded by a significantly thicker and more complex practitioners guide to the Law of the Internet, but the law is not significantly developed yet for that.
Overall this work is a very commendable work and a welcome beacon of light guiding the internet lawyer. It is not a work for the complete novice, nor should it be considered to be so with a price tag of £85. It is available from the publishers on 21 days approval and is a worthwhile addition to the library of any practitioner wishing to advise on the area providing a clear and comprehensive commentary and an essential starting point for research on related Internet problems.