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JILT - 2002 (1) - Editorial


Julie Moreton BSc (Hons), Dip.IT
Web Journal Developer, ELJ
University of Warwick

1. Introduction - Issue 2002 (1)

It's official - Spring has sprung! And with Spring comes the first sunny edition of JILT for 2002. There, feel better already?

This latest offering has something for legal practitioners and academics alike. Topics include: the use of IT by law firms; the use of computers in the police and the courts; e-commerce; digital signatures; privacy; intellectual property; databases, UCITA and legal IT software.

This issue includes six refereed articles, five commentaries, a work in progress piece, and two book reviews. We welcome authors from Australia, Austria, Hong Kong, Germany, Norway, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK and US.

2. The Use of ICT in Legal Firms

Law firms, once considered the bastion of traditionalism, are now forging ahead with the development and implementation of networked technology systems to transform the delivery of legal services. However, this transition is far from easy and rasies a number of important issues for academic debate.

Two useful empirical studies demonstrate how law firms are currenlty using IT, both in the UK and in Norway.

Singh, O'Donoguhue and Broome from Wolverhampton University demonstrate how investment in IT is causing a divide between small and larger legal firms in the UK. Their findings support the view of Susskind (1996) that large firms have financial leverage to develop their IT systems to gain strategic advantage. However there are many other factors for the divide, but a major external driver of change seems to be the influence of corporate clients.

This is endorsed by the work of Petter Gottschalk from the Norwegian School of Management in Norway, who reports results from a survey of law firm clients in Norway. Law firm clients are now expecting law firms to use information technology, and their responses to the firms' use of ICT was measured, along with their overall satisfaction with the company. The results are revealing and suggest that although there is still quite a way to go before there is a seamless flow of information between firm and client, the relationship between the two may not by duly affected by the use of ICT, but only time will tell how significant this will be in the future.

3. Data Security Issues: Data Protection and Digital Signatures

The topic of data security provides much room for academic discourse and we have four topical papers here looking at digital signatures and certification authorities, privacy technologies, data protection in relation to university teaching materials, and the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) in the US.

Steffen Hindelang, who has just completed his Masters at the University of Sheffield provides an interesting and original account of the liability of certification authorities (CA). This paper deals with the professional liability for the provision of information towards third parties. Although the EU has introduced some minimum liability rules, the majority of certificates are governed solely by national liability rules and Steffen compares and contrasts the situation in Germany and England, providing a comprehensive and detailed study of a previously unresearched topic.

Steve Kenny and John Borking from the Privacy Incorporated Software Agent Consortium (PISA), part of the Dutch Data Protection Agency, take a in-depth look at the value of privacy engineering. They introduce Design Embedded Privacy Risk Management (DEPRM), a framework developed for the PISA Consortium. DEPRM builds in compliance with data protection legislation, from the outset of system development and incorporates the theoretical basis of Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET). The system clearly demonstrates how privacy and data protection can be built into corporate information systems from the start providing a safe and secure environment for data handling without the potential risks to personal privacy, and this could have quite significant implications for society.

Another view of Data Protection is offered by Jacqueline Lipton from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland. She examines the EU Database Right in connection with university teaching materials. The new sui generis database protection right in the EU has been criticised beacuse of the potential to create 'over-broad proprietary protection for information and ideas, with insufficient safeguards to protect certain commercial, personal, scientific and other uses of the information in question'. But how do the new laws affect particular collections of information, such as university teaching materials? These have been traditionally paper-based but are becoming increasingly available electronically, and how significant is this in a time when universities are expected to become more commercial in their outlook?

Finally Debra Tuomey an Assistant State Attorney in Florida, provides a critique of the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) in the US. Although the Act was proposed as uniform legislation to cover the complete range of software contractual relations, it clearly falls short in a number of areas. Tuomey states: 'This Act fails to provide consumers with adequate warranty protections, causes confusion in choice of law clauses, and precludes protection from existing state and federal consumer laws', and she recommends that the state of Florida rejects it comprehensively and maintains its current law with software under UCC Article 2.

4. Software Applications in Police and Court Work

System developers are making leeway with software applications for use in the courts and police work. Here we have three papers from America, Austria and Australia that detail systems that have been developed or already in use in these areas.

Karl Branting, a Senior Research Scientist, at LiveWire Logic, Inc. Morrisville, examines name-matching algorithms for legal case-management systems (LCMS). Most name-matching algorithms developed for LCMSs are proprietary and therefore not open to independent analysis and assessment. Branting proposes a three-step framework for name matching in LCMSs. He identifies how each step in the framework addresses the naming variations that typically arise in LCMSs, describes several alternative approaches to each step, and evaluates the performance of various combinations of the alternatives on a representative collection of names drawn from a United States District Court LCMS.

Caroline Allinson, the Manager of Information Security, in the Information Management Division of Queensland Police Service, Australia, provides an interesting case study on audit trails in evidence. Eleven court cases involving the Queensland Police Service audit trails were studied and the results are reported in this paper. It is shown that, of the cases studied, none of the evidence presented has been rejected or seriously challenged from a technical perspective. Caroline intends to follow up this work in progress with a second paper relating this analysis to normal requirements for trusted maintenance of audit trail information in sensitive environments. She will also discuss the ability and/or willingness of courts to fully challenge, assess or value audit evidence presented.

Stephen Karanja, a Research Fellow from the University of Oslo has carried out extensive research on the Schengen Information System (SIS) in Austria, which is used in police and border control work. SIS is a joint information technology and communication system for the exchange of information about 'wanted' people and objects. Its purpose is to allow checks to be made quickly and efficiently at border controls in order to detect criminals and so-called 'illegal immigrants' moving into and from one Schengen country to another. The article is based largely on interviews with key people responsible for the SIS in Austria, supplemented with background material from written literature and legal sources. The paper examines how well the SIS is functioning and what problems there are with such a system.

5. IT in Legal Education

Bridging both the software debate and the use of IT in education is one unusual paper, written by Orlan Lee, of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. A group of his engineering students in a moot court debate the question: Is Software Patentable? This is part of a series of debates that have taken place over the last four years and which have been instrumental in developing cross-curricular thinking. Here, engineering students are given the opportunity of working in a team and demonstrating their ability to analyse a real socio-legal problem, establish what the legal issues are, and reach a reasoned verbal response to the problem presented in the case law they have studied, but within an engineering context.

Law with Information Technology is becoming an ever popular course for academic study at degree level. Christopher Gale, a Lecturer at Leeds Law School reflects on the course at Leeds - BA Law with IT. The course produced its first graduates in the summer of 2001 and this paper looks at how the course has developed over the last three years and charts the progress of the first cohort of students. It builds on an initial commentary published in February 1999, published after the first semester of the first year of the course.

6. A Theoretical Look at Electronic Commerce, Government and Globalisation

Our final paper takes a theoretical look at the possibility of introducing a code of practice for the globalisation of electronic Commerce and government and is written by Fernando Galindo, from the University of Zaragoza in Spain. He looks at such questions as - to what extent is a self-regulatory process a reality? what are its limits and what are the alternatives? The paper has not been fully developed as yet and we look forward to reading Fernando's more detailed study to come.

7. Book Reviews

Our two reviews come from Charles Oppenheim, from Loughborough University, who reviews Intellectual Property Law by Lionel Bently and Brad Sherman, and Uta Kohl, from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, who reviews the 3rd Edition of Graham J Smith's Internet Law and Regulation.

8. On a Final Note

We hope you enjoy this diverse and interesting edition, and of course we welcome any comments you may have on any of the articles.

The next issue, 2002 (2), will be published in at the end of June 2002. 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 June 2002 issue should be submitted by mid May 2002.

This Editorial was published on 22 March 2001.

Citation: 'Editorial', 2002 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>.

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