Internet law in the UK
Internet law in the UK
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What areas of law does the UK internet law cover
Internet law in the UK includes any legal issue which is related to the internet. This might be private, commercial, technical, criminal, or any other legal field or business that is carried out on the internet.
You sould expect from a lawyer who specialises in internet law in the UK to have sufficient training and expertise in the back-end of the internet. The way the internet works and how it affects people and businesses is often different from the common perception. Understanding at least the most basic concepts of marketing, technology and psychology are additional skills to being familiarised with search engines optimisation social media and the dark web. Often legal issues are being affected by the new reality that the internet has created, particularly in terms of being able to identify legal issues, jurisdictional issues, identification and enforcement of legal rights.
Internet lawyers must possess an up-to-date thorough understanding of the fast-developing technologies that continuously create new legal issues for clients, lawyers and judges. You would expect a lawyer who practices internet law to possess a high level of technical skill and to be internet savvy and to understand how information technology works. Both clients and defendants tend to perceive legal issues differently when it comes to the internet. Learning of psychology, psychological profiling have recently become increasingly essential for internet lawyers to undertake. PR, reputation management and reputation crisis avoidance are additional skills that would turn your internet lawyer into an asset as the need to advise clients on potential adverse public reaction or brand damage as the result of potential legal moves become strategically crucial.
Defamation law is a traditional field of law and at the same time one of the most modern legal fields. A significant amount of the work that is carried out by internet lawyers in the UK tend to involve the law of defamation. Defamation online, particularly on social media, is increasingly common despite attempts by the Defamation Act 2013 to try and make it more difficult for claimants to prove defamation. The vast majority of defamation cases are settled outside court and out of the few that do reach court, many never go beyond the initial stages. In recent years, the courts have created further measures in the form of interim applications which are aimed to deter the escalation of defamation cases at early stages of the proceedings.
Privacy law has taken a fresh turn since the introduction of GDPR in 2018. The right to private life coupled with the inherent common law right to privacy has given a new dimension to internet law privacy cases. Privacy law is now accessible to pretty much everyone. Google had been compelled to make right to be forgotten application process accessible to anyone who believe that their data is being unlawfully processed by the search engine. The courts have moved away from nearly exclusive application of privacy law to newspapers, paparazzi invasion of privacy claims to cases where individuals’ private lives are being discussed on Facebook and are threatened by sex workers and other predators to publish intimate images and private WhatsApp conversations. Privacy law has become one of the only areas of law where you can possibly obtain an emergency injunction to prevent publication of information on the internet.
Harassment law in recent years has taken a new turn to become an internal part of internet law in the UK. From an area of law almost exclusively subject to police willingness to investigate, where the victim is likely to be subject to lengthy, exhausting criminal trials, harassment law is now practiced by specialist internet lawyers who can choose to bypass the police by bringing private prosecutions in the criminal courts against perpetrators of harassment or by completely moving away from the criminal justice system to bring, often, speedy resolutions to online harassment cases through the civil courts.
Copyright law and the internet
Technology presents many challenges in regard to copyright law. Although copying songs, films or images from the internet without permission is unlawful under English copyright law, the internet is presenting additional challenges due to the high volume of copyright infringement and misunderstanding of the so called 'fair use' defence by the vast majority of internet users. Furthermore, there are various methods of content sharing which might not appear, on the face of it as straightforward copyright law infringements. Copyright law on the internet is often a minefield to copyright owners and to internet users.
Trademark law is relevant to nearly everyone who owns a website or who sells goods or services on the internet. From trademark infringement on shopping platforms, such as Amazon.com to theft of domain names, replica websites, impersonation and ground scale internet fraud, trademark law is one of the areas of law which is most relevant to internet use.
Buying and selling domain names or social media influencers’ accounts often presents a huge challenge from a contract law perspective. Contracts terms must be carefully applied to the internet arena, particularly when one considers the cross border interaction between the parties and the high potential for fraud. It is important that lawyers who draft contracts with the context of the internet, understand the practicality of internet work and particularly the back-end of the internet and the specialist risks that their clients might be facing.
The internet has presented a new dimension to criminal law in England which often demand special legal and technological skills on the part of the criminal defence lawyer. An ever increasing number of crimes in England are committed on the internet or by using electronic communications, mobile phones and social media. Far too many of England’s criminal lawyers are still lacking the technological understanding of the back-end of the internet whilst the ability to organise and handle high volume of evidence is also hugely challenging if the law firm isn't specifically geared up for this type of work.