Attaining expertise in internet laws

Attaining expertise in internet laws

Internet law is a rapidly developing, constantly changing field of study, and as such, LLM degrees in Internet Law tend to be very varied, with different universities specialising in different aspects of the interaction between law and the Internet.

  Some courses in Internet law are commercially driven, and focus on subjects such as E-Commerce, telecommunications and intellectual property rights protection online. 

Some instead are much more focused on cybercrime, looking at issues such as data protection, identity theft, and computer-facilitated criminal activity.  Other courses may be dedicated to the study of privacy, surveillance and security, asking how information can be protected on a medium such as the Internet, where information published becomes accessible anywhere in the world, and there is great difficulty in having it removed.

As a postgraduate subject, Internet Law is not only open to students who studied law as an undergraduate subject – indeed, many courses welcome the diversity and fresh takes on law that come from students with no legal background, although generally prospective students are expected to have a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in order to enrol in postgraduate study. 

 Often, students with a legal background often interact with students from a computer science background wishing to become more involved in the provision of legal advice as well as technical support, or telecommunications engineers who want to have a better idea of the legal regulation of their field.  Where courses focus on the interaction between law and politics involved in regulating the Internet (often coming under the general heading of ‘Internet Governance’), students may have a political science or international relations background. 

 One of the key benefits to many Internet Law postgraduate degrees is their multidisciplinary approach to legal issues.  These courses therefore give students the opportunity to exchange ideas with people from radically different fields as well as different nationalities.  In terms of networking, these types of courses often have invited speakers, who are either academics known for their work in Internet-related law, or representatives from firms such as Google, who discuss their day-to-day practices and the legal issues that arise.

India, despite being the tenth largest economy by nominal GDP, only has approximately 13% of its population currently using the Internet. Yet this has been predicted to more than double by 2015, meaning that India has the potential to see substantial growth in e-commerce, domestic social media platforms and online political participation.  With these developments come challenges – the regulation of illegal or offensive content, the liability of the providers of those platforms, and the online sale of counterfeit or copyright-infringing goods.

 These challenges require educated, specialised professionals in order to both implement the laws that exist, as well as develop those laws that are required.  Careers that are available to experts in the subjects comprising Internet law are not limited to legal practice – they can include policy-makers at the national level, in-house legal advisers to technology companies, advocates on behalf of Internet or civil society organisations, or membership of technical standards or Internet governance agencies such as ICANN and the Internet Society.  

At the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK, for example, former graduates of the LLM in Internet Law and Policy have pursued careers working for international law firms in South-East Asia, telecommunications regulators in Africa, and universities throughout the world teaching and researching a range of Internet-based topics, from cyber-security to Internet regulation.  The course offered at Strathclyde covers a large range of Internet law-related issues, such as the digital exploitation of copyright, privacy, crime and security, and e-commerce regulation.

So, the Internet may not be regarded as particularly new anymore.  Its potential, and its pitfalls, are becoming increasingly understood.  Yet Internet law, as a body of laws and as an academic discipline, is becoming increasingly important as developing countries roll out its fixed line and mobile Internet infrastructure.

Google may find that questions concerning its liability for its users’ actions will be challenged in many more jurisdictions than India’s.

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