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JILT 1998 (2) - Valerie Finch

Dennis Campbell, Susan Cotter (Eds)

International Information Technology Law

Published under the auspices of the Center for International Legal Studies, Salzburg, Austria

John Wiley & Sons, 1998, $139
405pp, ISBN 0-471-96871-4

Reviewed by
Valerie Finch
Napier University
v.finch@napier.ac.uk


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This is a Book Review published on 30 June 1998.

Citation: Finch V, 'Dennis Campbell et al, International Information Technology Law', Book Review, 1998 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_2finc/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1998_2/finch/>.


1. Introduction

This book is a country by country account of aspects of Information Technology law. In relation to each of the countries included there are the following three sections;

  1. Contracts for services, (including hardware and software acquisition, turnkey systems, database services, telecommunications, electronic data interchange, facilities management, support and maintenance, network services, disaster recovery and electronic publishing.)
  2. Proprietary rights protection, (including copyright, patents and trade marks.)
  3. Regulatory compliance, (including data protection, antitrust, computer misuse, public procurement compliance, telecoms standard approvals and transborder data flow.)

The countries which are included are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Sweden, United States and Venezuela. According to the editor 'this book discusses the problems arising from today's (and tomorrow's) technology and describes the provisions which have been introduced so far within the international community to deal with them.' The work is intended to be a source of reference for anyone advising clients upon the carrying on of business in 'a modern high tech world.'

2. Structure

Each chapter has been contributed by legal practitioners from the relevant country. The structure of each chapter into headings follows the same pattern; three main headings; Contracts for Products and Services, Proprietary Rights Protection and Regulatory Compliance. These three main topics are sub-divided into individual topics which vary from country to country but a largely similar pattern has been maintained across all chapters, thus facilitating quick reference and comparisons.

3. The Content of Each Chapter

Each contributor has been faced with the daunting task of giving an overview of a vast and increasingly complex field of law in approximately thirty pages of text. This allows for little more than an overview of the operation of the law and an outline of the main issues. Some of the chapters, for example the chapter on Canada have nevertheless managed to give an account of the main legislation and case law in a way which leaves the reader feeling confident that he has sufficient information to advise on specific legal issues. Others, such as the chapter on Singapore, have concentrated instead on a more practical approach, focusing more on advice to a person intending to carry out business involving the use of information technology in the country concerned and providing less information on the legal framework. Some of the chapters commence with a brief introduction to the legal system of the country concerned whereas others plunge straight into discussion of legal principles. An introduction to the legal system is valuable as it is difficult to gain an insight to legal principle without understanding the context. This is particularly important in the case of federal systems where the reader needs to be alerted to the need to research both federal and state laws.

There are some anomalies caused by the difficulties of trying to convert the legal principles of diverse jurisdictions into a common taxonomy. For example in the section on regulation of computer misuse in the chapter on Brazil there is a discussion of copyright infringement but no discussion of any laws relating to unauthorised access to computer systems or unauthorised modification. The reader is left in doubt about whether this means that in Brazil there is no regulation of computer misuse as described in the other chapters or whether it is an omission caused by the use of the phrase 'computer misuse' which may not carry the same meaning in Brazil. In the chapter on France the term 'computer misuse' has been deemed to refer to a duty on the supplier of computers to provide exact information which will enable the purchaser or hirer to use and maintain the equipment. There are no sections on computer misuse in the Italian or Venezuelan chapters and no indication as to whether or not there is any regulation of activities such as unauthorised access to computer systems or unauthorised modification.

I would have liked to have seen some acknowledgement in the chapter on England and Wales that there are other jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, such as Northern Ireland and Scotland. An indication of measures which apply throughout the United Kingdom in combination with a brief summary of the differences in the law would have provided a more accurate account of the law in the United Kingdom without adding much to the length of the chapter.

4. Conclusion

The primary value of this work is that it provides a quick and easy reference to the relevant statutory or case law in each country. The choice of countries, which seems rather random, is attributed to two factors. The countries were chosen as representatives of Europe, Asia, North and South America and Australia. They were also selected as being illustrative of the various stages of legal development in the field of Information Technology Law. The omission of countries such as Japan, Korea, China and all Middle Eastern and African countries has not been accounted for and is a serious deficiency if the book is intended to serve as a work of reference for those advising clients engaging in international business. The anomalies caused by the lack of a common legal vocabulary diminish its value in some respects, not least in that the disparities lead to a reduction in the reader's confidence in the accuracy of the information. More rigorous and comprehensive editing would have increased the utility of the book. Nevertheless the book will prove to be useful to those advising clients upon the carrying on of business in the selected countries. It will also be of interest to academic lawyers who wish to draw comparisons between the laws of different jurisdictions in this dynamic field of law.

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