Welcome to the third issue of JILT for 2000. There is a new look and feel to the publication of this, the15th edition of JILT, in line with a new overall image for the Electronic Law Journals Project. We hope you like it, and of course we will appreciate your comments. Our thanks to Hannah Jamieson for the graphic design work on the logos.
The Journal's positive appreciation worldwide is indicated not merely in the positive comments we receive, the readership figures but also the international range of quality articles. JILT was established under the eLib programme in 1996 to promote an electronic culture in law journals. We believe we have certainly made a contribution to this area, but this would not have been possible without the board of editors and the international panel of referees for which we thank heartily for their continuously rigorous and entirely voluntary efforts on behalf of JILT.
This issue is very international in this respect with nine refereed articles, five commentaries and one work in progress piece, from authors from Canada, England and Wales, Latvia, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Taiwan and the United States. The dominance of the internet is very evident in articles which otherwise cover a wide subject matter whether it is cyber-crime, electronic commerce, electronic legal practice, intellectual property, defamation law, computer assisted learning or citations.
In our last featured issue on electronic commerce, Alistair Kelman wrote in his editorial:
'As the century draws to its close there is one alleged hope for growth and development - Electronic Commerce. But it is predicated upon revolution. Not nice tidy change that, in the words of Professor Ian O. Angell, 'today's snake oil salesmen, the management gurus, sell in their 'Change Management seminars'; not a nice tidy transition - but a severe and total dislocation with the past. Electronic Commerce is going to revolutionise spending habits and change the way everyone does business'.
Change may be occurring, but the revolution has not quite happened yet. Nevertheless, the process of change excites the imagination, as is the case with three particular refereed articles and two commentaries. Chris Reed's 'What is a Signature' tackles the thorny issue of electronic signatures through a historical and conceptual analysis of signatures to determine the direction for electronic signatures under English law, UK law and European law. He considers that a truly supranational model law would be the best solution.
Bohm et al take a look at a different aspect of the relationship of trust, in this case between Banks and their customers. They suggest that in contrast to traditional banking, in which the onus is on Banks to prove the authenticity of customers' handwritten instructions, for tele- and e-banking, they are adopting terms which could make customers liable for transaction they have not authorised. This creates a problem because customers do not have the security technology or techniques to protect themselves adequately against fraud.
Diedrich provides a more general overview of attempts to regulate electronic commerce generally in Germany, the EU, the US and international organisations and argues for a need 'amongst consumers and companies alike for legal certainty on a global level regarding substantive and procedural rules for internet transactions'.
In contrast to the wide ranging paper of Diedrich, Hornle's commentary focuses on EU attempts at e-commerce regulation as a way of reducing existing barriers on the Internal Market. Youngerwood and Mann have an even narrower consumer protection focus with their interesting commentary on the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 which result from the EU Directive on the Protection of Consumers in respect of Distance Contracts.
The important concern with defamation on the internet is explored in refereed articles by Deturbide and Weaver. Deturbide compares UK and US law relating to the liability of ISPs arguing that a liberal interpretation of the relevant provisions of the US Communications Decency Act 1996 have exceeded the scope of government policy whereas the UK Defamation Act 1996 does little to recognise the internet as a unique communications medium. Weaver's study is more contextual in its examination of US, UK and Australian positions. It examines media culture and practice in relation to the different defamation and free speech traditions in the three countries and concludes that the internet is likely to produce a significant loosening of speech restrictions.
Widdison's refereed article on Software Patents explores the way in which the WTO's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement is having an impact on the liberalisation of patent law in the EU. Decisions of the European Patent Office's Technical Board of Appeal are producing this effect even prior to the amendment of the European Patent Convention.
Three papers examine IT applications in law. Chen examines the interesting automatic system for collecting crime information on the internet in Taiwan appropriately called e-Detective. The system, searches for crime information by lexicographic and semantic analyses of web pages, followed by verification by human experts. Curran and Higgins analyse the problems of effective legal research and information retrieval using a variety of AI, Modelling and Database Management techniques. They suggest that most modern legal information is or can be contained within databases. The Java Servlet API can provide the processing power needed to service the complex information needs of lawyers, and can provide the backbone for constructing Intelligent Legal Aid retrieval systems. Schaffer's Work in Progress Report explores an ontology based AI system. The ALICE project involves the development of legal harmonisation among the nations of the Indian Ocean Commission, an African regional organisation.
There are four papers on the issue of citations. An approach to citation of both primary and secondary legal materials which allows the user to browse with seamless efficiency across the internet is both possible and essential if users are to make full use of the rich potential of the medium. Three papers originate in the BILETA Citations Workshop held at the University of Edinburgh in March 2000. As Philip Leith suggests in his report on the conference, and the introduction to the papers by Foster, Kennedy and Needle, it is intended over the next few editions of JILT to further develop the ideas from this workshop so that an international perspective can be brought to the topic. Foster discusses the obstacles to the adoption of medium-neutral citation forms. Kennedy proposes neutral citation standards for the international legal community and Needle describes a system developed by Context Ltd for the automatic linking of legal citations. Since the BILETA Conference, further developments have taken place at a Workshop in Cornell on the development of systems for the harmonisation of public legal information systems in a way which would promote seamlessness for users.
John Fairhurst's sequel to his paper on the electronically delivered England and Wales Common Professional Examination course at Huddersfield explores the review findings for the course at the end of its second year and considers the implications for undergraduate and postgraduate legal education.
We hope you enjoy this broad-ranging and international edition of JILT. The next issue, 2001 (1), will be published in full at the end of February 2001, although we hope to be able to pre-publish some papers from this edition before Christmas, so watch this space!
As ever we are keen to highlight new and important areas of research, so please contact us if you have a paper you would like to be considered for publication, be it an academic paper, commentary, information paper, a work in progress or book or IT review. Please contact the Production Manager if you would like to discuss anything further or see the Submission Standards for further information. Papers for the February 2001 issue should be submitted by 15 January 2001.
This Editorial was published on 31 October 2000.
Citation: Paliwala A, 'Editorial', 2000 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/00-3/editorial.html>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2000_3/editorial/>