Cyber Law

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If there is one area of law that we, as millennials, should care about it, it is Internet law. In keeping with our weekly exploration of somewhat obscure legal topics, this post is dedicated to cyber law. I am pretty smitten with the phrase “cyber law,” so I’m going to repeat it as many times as possible. Cyber law. Anyway, cyber law is the general term that refers to the legal issues related to use of the Internet.

The big concept in cyber law right now—which I’m sure you’ve probably heard about somewhere or other—is “net neutrality.” In a nutshell, net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same. In other words, it is the idea that people should be able to access all content and applications online without ISPs interfering or discriminating against specific online services or websites. In case you were wondering where the term “net neutrality” came from (and I’m sure you weren’t), it was coined by a professor at Columbia Law School—Tim Wu. Yup, Columbia, that’s where I go. Anyway, with that aside, net neutrality was recently the subject of some regulations by the FCC. The FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality in February, and, in April, the FCC published the final rule on new “Net Neutrality” regulations.

From a more macro perspective, cyber law is an interesting subject because of its geographic scope. Given the fact that online data is sent around the globe, there are jurisdictional issues associated with trying to enact laws in any particular place. Now, of course, some places have enacted strict Internet censorship laws, but generally speaking cyber laws regulate many of the same industries as traditional laws, such as gambling, commerce, and fraud. The more interesting, and developing areas of cyber law, relate to data mining, Internet privacy rights, cyber security, and the ways those topics pertain to litigation, etc. Obviously, this area of law is expanding currently and has developed substantially in recent years.

If you’re interested in learning more about cyber law, Harvard Law Review includes a section on cyber law/the Internet. Some schools—including Harvard, naturally—are also starting to make cyber law clinics available to their students. As with IP, I have a feeling that cyber law is going to be a burgeoning practice area in years to come.

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