Dr Olujokè Akindemowo
Information Technology Law in Australia
Law Book Company(1999) AUD$69
Often the promoters of a new law text will describe it as an exciting new work. However, generally few of us consider any new law text 'exciting' after having read part or all of it. Information Technology Law in Australia is one exception. This is one work that deserves more superlatives than can be found in the English language. It will no doubt be recognised in the future as a seminal work in the information technology field.
Information Technology Law in Australiais divided into seven broad chapters, covering all the major legal issues in the information technology area. After a concise introductory chapter, the work proceeds to examine the law of commercial obligations and liabilities in Chapter Two. This examination does not suffer from the usual tired application of existing law to the unique features of information technology. Texts of this type tend to miss the point. On the other hand, Akindemowo's considerable talent ensures that Information Technology consistently hits the target. Akindemowo achieves the difficult feat of discussing the relevant aspects of information technology and then clearly demonstrating to the reader the legal issues that the use, misuse or failure of technology raises. Importantly, these issues are explored from the perspective of a:
The acts of each of these parties in an IT context throw up different legal issues and it is highly appropriate for Akindemowo to deal with them individually. After completing this examination, the chapter concludes with an overview of the remedies available to each of these parties. Unfortunately, this important section could be discussed in slightly more detail. For instance, only one sentence is devoted to injunctive relief even though injunctions are a very important remedy in IT contexts. However, this matter could be remedied in a future edition.
The key to a boom in e-commerce is a legal system that promotes secure and stable electronic financial transactions. Akindemowo devotes Chapter 3 (60 pages) of Information Technology to this crucial topic. The chapter commences with an overview of the Australian financial system then examines the legal concept and function of 'money' in both the traditional sense and in a digital environment.
Chapter Four focuses on the important area of intellectual property in information technology. This chapter includes a discussion of important aspects of software patents and other forms of protection for information technology such as copyright, trade mark and confidential information laws. Akindemowo includes a very important assessment of the impact of existing copyright laws in the digital age. For example, authorisation infringements by IPS and the inadequacy of transmission rights under the technologically specific Copyright Act 1968. A thorough analysis of the difficult issue of copyright or sui generis protection for databases and multimedia rounds out the copyright section. The author then proceeds to deal with the fascinating issue of trade marks and domain names. This section includes a convenient reference table that lists Internet-related trade mark infringements.
Akindemowo notes that the 'potential of computer technology as an instrument for harm' is and has been since the 1970s a highly topical issue. Chapter Five illustrates how difficult it has been for the law to respond to the challenges posed by the misuse of computers, whether by defamation, deceit, fraud, hacking or cracking. This chapter also contains an interesting discussion of how Commonwealth and State law has developed in response to the unlawful use of information technology.
The penultimate chapter deals with privacy in the digital domain. After a short overview of international developments in relation to privacy, the chapter examines the emergence of privacy laws in Australia and direct and indirect avenues of redress for a breach of privacy in Australia and how these may operate in the digital domain.
The final chapter looks at the legal issues associated with information technology and procedural matters. The first matter that is dealt with is computer-generated evidence, including the types and admissibility of that evidence at common law and under statute. Although the publication date of the work appears to precluded a discussion of the Electronic Transactions Bill, provisions of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce (upon which the Electronic Transactions Bill is modelled) are examined. Given the pervasiveness of the Internet and the exponential growth of e-commerce, any good work on informational technology and the law must include a section on jurisdictional issues. Chapter Seven concludes with such a section. This section highlights the jurisdictional issues that may arise in cases involving trans-national disputes or unlawful activity. Recent developments in relation to the Draft Hague Convention on International Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil Matters and its potential impact in cross-border litigation are not canvassed in Informational Technology, but this would once again appear to be entirely due to publication deadlines, not any fault of the author.
One exceptional feature of Informational Technology is the enormous amount of research Akindemowo has performed in writing this work. Almost every page of the work is extensively footnoted. It is uncommon to find so many useful references in the one work. These references will greatly assist the practitioner, academic or student when they research this area of law. These references are complemented by a detailed:
Information Technology Law in Australia is compulsory reading for any person that advises on or researches information technology and the law. The work will provide valuable information to those who have little or no experience in the area as well as those who are well acquainted with this field. In summary, many texts written on this topic will limp behind Information Technology Law in Australia.
This is a Book Review published on 29 October 1999.
Citation: Gamertsfelder L, 'Information Technology Law in Australia', Book Review, 1999 (3)The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/99-3/gamert1.html>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1999_3/gamertsfelder2/>