Legal Issues Associated With Internet Use

Legal issues and internet use

There has been massive growth of the internet use , rich in online information, knowledge, commerce, entertainment and social networking being the major essentials. A user can be able to easily find out information on any topic or subject from its huge database. But users rarely know the regulations on information use that have been set by the internet laws.

Did you know that using internet sources and creating content online can make you serve a jail term?

Given the virtual nature of the internet existence, it has created a natural resistance to regulations which many may exult given the freedom offered by its unfettered electronic expanses. This articles aims to outline the various internet rules and regulations with the various scenarios to evade and recommendations to internet users.

Legal perspective

The current international legal structures are vital in international governance, with organizations such as the Internet Society(ISOC), World wide web consortium, International Organisation for standardization (ISO) and the United Nations (UN) being the principal players in Internet standards regulations. With the aim to control the legal concerns encountered such as privacy rights, data protection, cybercrime, intellectual property rights and consumer rights. Self-regulation, international treaties and jurisdiction have been the main legal mechanism approached to curb such concerns.

  • Self-regulation is a major factor in internet regulations due to its universal standard, with unlimited range and nil obstacles to access. For instance, the use of YouTube which can be viewed by anyone of any age at any time, end user filtering cannot be applied for regulation of which it is up to the internet service providers to ensure self-regulation. On national self- regulation, policies have been created in such a way to allow or favor internet self-regulation which puts a halt in end- user voluntary use of filtering or blocking technologies.
  • International treaties and jurisdiction remains the traditional resolution strategy for the internet regulation with governments not quite prepared to renounce their sovereignty and allow cross border operations. Through conventions states come together in debate and enact international treaties such as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights relating to new technologies which provides analysis for the development and foundation for an international law of the Internet.

Scenarios’ to Evade

With internet regulations at hand, every internet user, be it a freelance writer, publisher, editor, blogger or web developer should know that the web, like the outside world follows certain rules. As mentioned above there are various legal issues encountered that people from time to time while using the internet tend to ignore or evade without knowing that there can be legal consequences.

  • Intellectual property rights

There is a presumption among internet users that everything on the internet is free, as information, ideas, lyrics, source codes and graphics are openly available on the web. Not all that is accessible is free for the taking and the fact is that as much as it appears okay doesn’t mean it is legal. The internet undoubtedly raises a stern concern to intellectual property rights with infringements such as copyright, trademark and passing off being mostly encountered.

A good case to preview is the Associated press vs Fairey Shephard case, where Fairey had to share half of the profits made due to disregard to the required laws even with a defence of fair use, it still was not sufficient. The court put into enforcement the intellectual property rights against copyright infringement and showed the importance of giving credit to the appropriate owner of a graphic image used instead of using it as one’s own.[1]

On writing in print, most people tend to pick information from the internet and use it as their own work. Another example is the use of a link, the most common Click here, which the internet browsers automatically deciphers the instruction by the link and retrieve the specified file. This is examples are all infringement of the intellectual property rights governing competitive business practices. Bibliographies and footnotes pose as the best precaution when using information done by another, it shows appreciation and gives credit which is the proper method.

  • Privacy rights and data protection

Social media sites and privacy are somewhat inherently at odds. After all, the point of social media is to share your life with the world; the very opposite of maintaining your privacy. Still, there is a difference between sharing parts of your life and all of it. Thus, a number of legal lines have been drawn in the sand regarding privacy on social media sites. All user should ensure they keep to the scope in sharing their private lives and be cautious on what they post on their web pages and social media sites.

Data protection on the other hand is about safeguarding our fundamental right to privacy enshrined in international and regional laws and conventions. As individuals you do have the right to privacy and protections of personal information from abuse but this can only be limited to the user self-regulation maintained.

On invading on the privacy of another, the law on defamation has mostly set liability on service providers with the internet providing provisions of how a defaming statement can be stated and published. On a case between, where the Demon International an internet service had to pay up to $25,000 in damages and costs for not putting due care and allowing defaming information into its server even thou they were not the publishers[2]. None the less, to any publisher or writer, there should be caution when making a statement against a person or organization and ensure it is not defaming in any way unless it is of certain truth or evidence on the information can be provided.

  • Cyber crimes

Cybercrime is a vast growing internet concern, with an increase in threats encountered daily, ranging from either virtual or physical to victims around the world. With the criminals exploiting the convenience, speed and obscurity of the internet to commit the diverse range of criminal activities. Cyber Crime can be classified into;

  1. Cyber-enabled crime – with crimes such as financial crimes, terrorism and Abuse, such as ‘sexploitation’, especially crimes against children, and;
  2. Advanced cybercrime – this is where the offenders target computer hardware and software through sophisticated attacks.

With global estimates running into billions of dollars on the economy due to cybercrime, safety measures have been taken over last couple of years with international bodies taking arms through national legislations and incorporating of International conventions with a bid to stop the menace that is slowly encroaching the world.

With international organisations such as INTERPOL being on the for front in the fight against cybercrimes and cyber-enabled crimes, we have seen hackers being arrested and charged for the various cybercrimes committed, from serving a jail sentence to hefty fine payments being paid and this shows that it’s not a good time in the world to be a cybercriminal.

  • Consumer rights

This are generally regulations that govern businesses and consumers that communicate, conduct and operate business on the internet. With organization such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) providing international protocols, laws and guidelines for those on an international level of business such as webpage development, sales and marketing. Thus, when engaging in an online business, ensure there is adherence to the various guidelines placed to avoid illegality or a breach of the consumer rights.

Finally, remember the internet is an ocean that we all need to preserve 

From the onset of this paper, we stated that the virtual and universal nature of the internet it dictates its own measures on regulation and can be quite hard to regulate legally. Due to this, self-regulation pose as the best resolution for internet users and on national coordination. This paper cannot be able to discourse the complexity and intricacy of the issues within its confines, thus every internet user has to know that the internet has rules and regulations and must be careful on how they use the internet and information gained from it. But of course, it is one thing for someone to read this article and nod to the resolutions, but quite another to actually implement on the scenarios given and general observations.



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