[L.A. / InterNet]

Law, Ethics, the Media and the InterNet.

L. Allison, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, Australia 3800

Contents of this page:


Time Lines.





Also see Pornography and social-consequences.


The Internet is not immune from copyright, regardless of what some people might like to think. It has made enforcement harder, but those infringing copyright can be tracked down, and probably will be if they have a lot of money.



Also see [libel].


It is hard to see why the internet and other computer applications should be, or need be, treated specially with respect to harassment. Surely it is the act of harassment that is the problem, not the medium. It may of course be necessary to modify existing laws to broaden the scope of terms such as `communicate', `display', `message', `note', `picture' and so on to include computer messages and images if they are currently excluded on technical legal grounds. The question of whose legislation(s) should apply in the case if international harassment is also difficult.


The Internet is literally world-wide which raises questions of whose laws apply where. Small "innocent" countries can suddenly be centre stage.


The consensus seems to be that communication on the internet - eg. bulletin boards, email, enews, ftp, www - is not immune from the laws of defamation. Further, since the communication can be international, one should perhaps consider the laws of every country that one might potentially wish to visit!


It is very easy to obtain technical reports, papers and other works from the internet by www, ftp etc. Some might be tempted to plagiarise such work and pass it off as their own. The perpetrator would, at the very least, have infringed copyright. There is nothing new in this problem; it is just that the internet makes it much easier.


Pornography and Censorship.

See [Censorship].

There are separate arguments about soft-core pornography (eg. Playboy) and hard-core pornography (eg. child pornography).

Soft-core pornography is generally not illegal as such - although the question remains of which country's legislation should apply. However, the main issues here are:
Should minors be allowed free access?
Should any or all of the following be given `common carrier' status: internet node, service provider, bulletin board, moderator etc.? ie. not be liable for the content of material, nor be responsible for vetting a reader's age.

Hard-core pornography is generally illegal, although the problem of different definitions (eg. the minimum age limit on a nude model) still remains. It is hard to see why the internet should be treated any differently from telephone services, postal services, and other media in this regard, except that existing legislation might need amending to broaden the definition of terms such as document, picture, movie etc.



Social Consequences.

References and Further Reading.

PS. Don't believe everything that you read on the 'net.

Copyright © authors and L. Allison / 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
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