[ISN] Experts Tackle Cybercrime

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Mon May 18 1998 - 17:14:43 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Nicholas Charles Brawn <ncb05at_private>
    By Anjana Ahuja.
    A new research unit aims to clear the blurred boundaries of Internet law. 
    LEGAL experts at Leeds University have started what is thought to be
    Britain's first cyberlaw research unit (Anjana Ahuja writes). Based at the
    Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, the unit will deal with such issues
    as hacking, incitement to violence and stalking on the Internet. 
    The university has also instigated a ten-week course on Internet crime for
    law students, which they hope will blossom into a full-time undergraduate
    degree. "There have been large moral panics over things like child
    pornography on the Internet, and people immediately want to start
    legislating," says David Wall, who set up the unit and course. "The
    problem is that we are imposing legislation on an environment we don't
    really understand. 
    "There are many situations where the law works perfectly well. For
    example, the defamation laws remain the same. Ordinary people can become
    publishers on the Internet, so there are suddenly many more people who are
    capable of defaming." 
    The boundaries between racist speech and freedom of expression, says Wall,
    are becoming blurred. There must be a balance, because of the danger of
    "counter cultures" developing if the hand of censorship is too heavy. 
    Unofficial Web sites will also come under scrutiny - these are usually
    abhorred by the companies that own the rights to, say, the Teletubbies or
    Oasis, because they are said to devalue the brand. So fans who set up
    cybertemples of worship can find themselves embroiled in legal tussles. 
    Wall says: "The normal avenue is a 'cease and desist' letter from the
    estate or company, but it is unclear what law these unoffical sites
    breach.  Some times the sites aren't in Britain, so what is the legal
    position then?" 
    Hacking is a crucial issue, because of the increasing reliance on computer
    information in national defence and security. Wall sees a world of
    difference between teenage boys trying to break into systems to gain
    status, and professionals trying to perpetrate information warfare. The
    law, however, doesn't. 
    He says: "The Computer Misuse Act deals with people who have broken into
    other systems, but it doesn't look at the damage that is perpetrated once
    the intruder is in." 
    Cyberstalking is another grey area, because people are increasingly
    striking up relationships on the net. These can be covered to some extent
    by law at present, but Wall thinks that electronic stalking is slightly
    Wall is running the unit and course with Professor Clive Walker and Yaman
    Akdeniz; the trio are also writing books on Internet law. The unit is
    beginning to get consultancy work from Internet service providers, who can
    be held responsible if activity on the net falls on the wrong side of the
    law. "We want to develop debate in a terrain that is changing all the
    time," Wall says. 
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