As the Internet continually evolves, so do the various laws that regulate the internet. These are continually changing to help provide consumers and citizens with various protections in connection with digital assets and activity online.
Cyberspace law generally encompasses various legal issues involving the communication, distribution, and transactions that occur over the internet and other types of networked devices and technologies. Some common issues that cyberspace law covers include:
- Domain Name Disputes: A domain name is the address of a particular website on the internet, or the URL. Many businesses use their existing business names or similar names as domain names. Some disputes may arise as to which business or entity owns or has rights to use a particular domain name.
- Trademark Infringement: Small changes in a domain name from a similarly named site may be considered trademark infringement, especially if it results in consumer confusion. If you already have a trademark for your business name, and the domain name is taken by someone else, you may have an actionable trademark infringement claim.
- Cybersquatting Issues: Cybersquatting occurs when a party takes your established business name or mark, registers it as a domain name, and waits for you to try to use your business name or mark as your own domain name. The innocent and established business will then be forced to buy from the cybersquatter at a high price.
- Hacked Emails: – Email communications move across many lines to get to its final destination. Email is generally not absolutely protected from hackers who wish to know the contents of the email. This can cause various issues regarding privacy and other concerns.
E-commerce generally refers to the way that business or transactions occur online or on a digital basis. This can include activities ranging from minor retail transactions with a small business, to contracts, up to the buying and selling of a business.
Many issues can commonly arise in the context of e-commerce in the world of cyberspace. These include:
- Security and Digital Signatures: Issues such as credit card security, digital signatures, and biometrics can be of concern when conducting business online.
- Contract Formation: Newer legal issues arise when forming a contract in an electric forum because it must still adhere to traditional contract laws, even though there may be differences in the way that contract terms are delivered and received.
- Liability of Internet Providers: Internet service providers sometimes face liability when events such as Internet outages occur. This is because they can have devastating effects on contract formation, business revenue, and profits (online businesses can lose significant amounts of daily business if their internet goes out even for a day or part of a day).
Cyberspace law or cyberlaw also regulates cybercrimes, which may be defined as any crime that is accomplished through the use of a computer or network. These can include crimes such as:
- Hacking and other cybersecurity issues and crimes;
- Various copyright and trade secret violations;
- Fraud and financial crimes, especially identity theft;
- Various pornography-related charges;
- Harassment, cyberbullying, or stalking (“cyberstalking”);
- Drug trafficking;
- Online terrorism activities;
- Various crimes involving invasions of privacy or breaches of confidential information; and
- Various other types of crimes.
These crimes can be serious and may result in severe legal penalties, including criminal fines and possible jail or prison sentences. Some of these may result in serious federal charges.
Cyberspace law also covers various privacy issues. As more and more people engage in social, economic, and political interactions online, more legal issues will continue to arise. Many of these deal with violations of privacy.
In many cases, these issues are related to or involved in attempts to steal one’s identity or monetary assets, or subject them to harmful software or internet attacks. Such issues can include:
- Malware: This is software that bypasses digital security measures and is used to cause damage to a computer, server or network. This is sometimes common in a business setting as well.
- Spyware: This is software or other digital mechanisms that obtain information from a person’s computer, network, or servers without their consent. This can lead to the theft of confidential information, files, or accounts.
- Web bugs: These are often placed in a web page or email and tracks a person’s views of website or email message, or other online activity. This can sometimes be used to learn a person’s habits or passwords.
- Phishing: This involves the process of trying to obtain user names, passwords, credit card or bank information through targeted attacks. It can often be prosecuted as a crime. For instance, a phishing scheme may target certain groups of people, such as senior citizens.
- Pharming: This type of activity redirects traffic from a website to a different internet address. This can create business losses and various other types of legal issues.
- Social engineering: This uses many types of tactics used to trick someone into divulging confidential information. For instance, a person may pose as a military serviceman and attempt to collect donations from another person on a social media website.
Another concern is with the collection of data and personal information by companies and businesses. Various lawsuits have been filed in connection with businesses or other entities that unlawfully obtain people’s consumer information for profit or gain. This can include information such as credit card activity, spending habits, websites visited, and personal contact info such as phone numbers, home addresses, and other private data.
Laws are slowly catching up with the advances that are constantly made with the Internet. A lawyer in your area can keep you updated regarding the new laws regulating business on the Internet to insure that your business conforms.
A business attorney can also help you if you feel you have been a victim of an internet crime or scam. If you need to file a lawsuit, your attorney can assist with the legal process as well.