The internet presents a world of possibilities that was almost unimaginable 50 years ago. Using the internet, you can connect with loved ones and like-minded people from across the globe, glean information on most topics, purchase items from any country and earn a living.
But the internet has also been plagued with lawlessness. Unethical hackers and other criminals misuse the internet’s capabilities to create serious problems such as viruses, identity theft, copyright infringement, and internet banking fraud. Thankfully, internet law is evolving as it protects law-abiding internet users while combating these crimes.
What is Internet Law?
Internet law refers to the legal issues that pertain to the use of the internet. As an emerging practice, internet law (also known as cyberlaw) applies principles and incorporates rules from contract law, privacy law, and other traditional law fields.
Admittedly, as the internet evolves, so do the offenses. Therefore, internet law as a solution requires the flexibility to deal with the complicated nature of the internet.
Federal and state legislatures have amended existing laws with new statutes. In addition, lawyers and the courts are constantly studying cases related to internet law.
Laws that govern internet use include the following.
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was enacted in 1986 and is amended when necessary to address hacking and the protection of classified information. It punishes offenders who:
- Traffic passwords
- Obtain national security information
- Illegally access an individual or government computer
- Transmit programs, viruses, or codes that damage computer networks
- Gain access to a computer for fraudulent reasons
Child Pornography Prevention Act
The Child Pornography Prevention Act punishes the producers, distributors, and recipients of images and videos featuring sexual depictions of children. Those who contravene this act are heavily fined and imprisoned, with maximum penalties for those with a criminal record involving sexual abuse or child pornography.
Teens are usually the victims of cyberbullying, but it’s not uncommon for adults to experience it too. Examples of cyberbullying include:
- Impersonating the victim while posting inappropriate images or messages online
- Revenge porn
- Creating and using a blog to humiliate the victim
There aren’t federal laws addressing cyberbullying, but most states, including Arizona, formally criminalize the behavior. Perpetrators face fines and even jail time for the offense. Furthermore, an internet harassment lawyer or cyber harassment lawyer can successfully argue that many cyberbullying behaviors fall under existing crimes such as harassment, stalking, felonious assault, and certain acts of hate.
Internet law also addresses the theft of intellectual property. Not only did the internet give birth to social media, but it also created a breeding ground for unscrupulous persons to thrive in that space. Many influencers and content creators are targets. The Copyright Act protects such individuals.
If you are a content creator, you can hire a social media lawyer to help you if someone steals your content. Even computer programs are at risk of being stolen. To prevent this, work with a patent lawyer to trademark and copyright logos, signs, content, websites, etc.
Data Privacy Law
Online stores and other businesses will need data use notices if they collect personal data on their websites. If you own an online business, you can consult an e-commerce attorney or online business lawyer to be on the safe side. They will ensure that the notice outlines the use and the reason for collecting data. Data that is collected through hidden programs or cookies must be explicitly stated as well. Any data that will be used for any purpose other than to serve the client can only be collected if the user agrees, typically via opt-in selections.
When to Hire an Internet Lawyer
If your rights have been violated online, you should consult an attorney who specializes in internet law.