Internet law is a new and evolving set of laws pertaining to matters of the Internet. Given the introduction of the Internet as a recent phenomenon, there are no historical precedents on which to rely. In addition, the field is constantly changing at a remarkable speed as technological advances sweep the industry. Internet law is referred to as "Cyber law" as it deals with issues emerging in the Internet territory known as cyberspace.
Internet law is being created as issues arise. At times a framework for the law might exist, at other times it has not yet been established. Courts of law and judges are faced with attempting to sort out disputes accordingly. The legal situation is thus in flux as new laws become pertinent as per the cases that emerge, and as the field expands.
Intellectual property is an area of law that has become increasingly challenging with the proliferation of knowledge available and accessible on the World Wide Web. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), founded as a specialized agency of the United Nations, is constantly involved with defining and redefining policies related to intellectual property. Intellectual property falls into two categories, comprising industrial property (patented inventions, trademarks and designs) and copyright.
Both patent laws and copyright laws require updating, especially in the current Internet era. The latter has specific ramifications for issues of piracy, which has become increasingly problematic with the ease of downloading applications on the Internet. This applies particularly to music and film. Copyright and piracy laws are required to safeguard against such eventualities, yet copyright infringement often proves elusive on the Internet. New protection is needed with respect to new methods of communication technology that both allow the expansion of knowledge and creativity, and simultaneously place these in danger of copyright infringement.
Legal issues have arisen with regard to the creation of web sites and links to web pages, as well as service provider liability. Disputes with respect to domain names, and matters to do with trademarks appearing online, are additional issues that have become pertinent aspects of the new laws required for the Internet. Defamation online and privacy also opens up problems to do with the law.
The Internet has also become a way of dealing with legal issues, as per the function it plays in being a source of information to assist criminal or legislative matters. Information posted online often provides valuable evidence in investigations.
A level of accountability is required in the use of the Internet for law enforcement purposes. This has been established by the House of Representatives (H.R. 2215) whereby the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been required to indicate details and to provide reports as to how the Internet is used for electronic surveillance.
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, new rules and guidelines were formed by the Justice Department of the United States. These gave the FBI permission to access websites on the Internet to ascertain terrorist activity. On May 30, 2002, new rules by the Department of Justice (DOJ) came into effect detailing the way in which the Internet could be used to combat terrorism. Included is the possibility of entering commercial data systems on the Internet to accrue information accordingly. Section VI.B lists details authorizing the FBI to surf the Internet to search and access websites and forums as a significant resource tool.
The Cyber Security Enhancement Act of 2001 was passed as an additional measure of legislative action in computer related crimes and corresponding sentences.
As technological advancements on the Internet reach phenomenal proportions, and increased connections occur internationally with interconnected networks, another legal issue manifests. As the use of the Internet crosses numerous international boundaries, the problem as to location of jurisdiction becomes pertinent. Generally Internet users are governed by the state in which they go online. There have been proposals to attempt to establish Internet security protection worldwide; this would require a great deal of cooperation across the globe.
Further attempts to create a legal framework internationally for matters relating to smooth operational services of the Internet have been under way. The field of electronic commerce as it exists on an international level is also highly relevant. Additionally, the setting up of laws and procedures is important with respect to the coordination of data-handling systems cross-nationally, taxation laws and international investments within the Internet. As e-commerce develops, and all types of financial transactions are carried out online, this raises the potential for further legal cases.
Information Technology Law is a new section of the law that governs how information is disseminated digitally. Information Technology (IT) lawyers cover matters dealing with the protection of computer software, e-commerce, Internet security and access and dissemination of information digitally. IT enforcement agencies are used to enforce associated legalities arising. IT is regulated by federal agencies in many U.S. states.