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  • Robert Stines

What is Cyber Law?

Cyber Law or cyberspace law is the field of law dealing with the Internet, encompassing cases, statutes, regulations, and disputes that affect people and businesses interacting through computers. CYBERLAW, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014)

Cyber Law is fairly new and rapidly evolving. The Internet had its origins in 1969 as an experimental networking project supported by the Advanced Research Project Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. In 1983, the network switched to Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, popularly known as TCP/IP, and the "Internet" was born.

The porn industry was a major factor in the increase of users on the Internet.

The first major law attempting to regulate the internet was the Communications Decency Act, which was Congress’ attempt to regulate the world wide web like it did television and radio. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided that controversial portions of the Act, which criminalized obscene or indecent web content that could be viewed by minors, were unconstitutional.

The explosion of e-Commerce in the mid-nineties (Amazon, eBay, PayPal) also forced government and companies to delve into online contracts, taxation, and jurisdiction issues.

In 1998, congress created The Digital Millennium Copy Right Act (DMCA) to protect the ownership rights of author’s and artists from the ability of people to easily and quickly make unauthorized copies. This law was tested against Napster and other similar peer-to-peer file sharing online services that struck a chord with the musical industry over copyright infringement.

As more people used the internet and volumes of personal data was shared and stored on the web, there was, and still is, concern about cybercrimes. This concern has triggered the need for mores laws to regulate criminal behavior over the internet.

Generally there are three categories of cybercrimes:

  • Crimes against people. These crimes include cyber harassment and stalking, distribution of child pornography, various types of spoofing, credit card fraud, human trafficking, identity theft, and online related libel or slander.

  • Crimes against property. These crimes include DDOS attacks, hacking, virus transmission, cyber and typo squatting, computer vandalism, and copyright infringement.

  • Crimes against government. Cybercrimes against the government include hacking, accessing confidential information, cyber warfare, cyber terrorism, and pirated software.

With cybercrime comes the need for cybersecurity, and the question of who should provide that security. Should the government "police" cyberspace, or are private companies required to implement necessary security for users of the Internet?

Because insurance permeates through all industries and has become a necessary component of commerce and everyday life, there are new insurance products coming to market to address cybercrimes and cybersecurity. As more companies turn to insurance companies for indemnification related to cybercrimes and data breaches, there is a developing body of case law on cyber insurance.

Why The Need For Cyber Law

True, before the Internet, there were already laws for contracts, crime, privacy and intellectual property, etc. Cyber law stems from an already established set of laws, rules and regulations. But, these traditional laws have sometimes proven inadequate in application to the Internet.

Cyber law deals with new and developing legal issues that arise through the use of the Internet and provides legal protection to people using the Internet. This includes the government, businesses and everyday citizens.

Commerce and government rely heavily on the Internet and most of the world will eventually be on the Internet; therefore, cyber law will eventually impact everyone.


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