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Cyberlaw

Cyberlaw covers laws that apply to the Internet or digital technology use. Parry Aftab was one of the first lawyers to help develop and practice cyberlaw. Together with five other lawyers, Parry first started fleshing out cyberlaw concepts in 1994, shortly after the launch of the Web. It wasn't a planned process. They would just engage in policy discussions and debates online, only to find judges and legal commentators looking to these casual discussions for guidance. Never expecting to become a leader in the formation of cyberlaw and policy, Parry was just having fun brainstorming with incredibly creative lawyers, contributing her experience as an international corporate lawyer to the mix.

Now cyberlaw is more than just laws designed specifically for the Internet. It includes all existing laws that apply equally online and offline. Few people realize that most laws apply to cyberspace, not only real space. If you think about it, it makes sense. Individuals are situated somewhere in real space when they take actions or are affected by them. The trick is to understand which jurisdictional laws apply - where you reside, the others reside, where the site is situated, where the servers operate from, where the network sets as choice of law for their users are something altogether different.

Before you start looking for a cyber-specific law, look to existing laws on the ground. Then see if it otherwise fits the problem. In all likelihood, it will apply to the Internet. Cyberlaw is more about finding the right laws that apply to the problem, instead of looking for a new one written just for cyberspace. Human rights laws are helpful when handling cyberharassment and cyberbullying. Consumer fraud laws are an important tool in privacy protection online.

Cybercrimes work the same way. Cybercrimes are crimes that somehow implicate or are touched by the Internet or digital technologies. They don't have to reference cyberspace at all, while some other cyberspace-specific criminal statutes may also apply.

When looking for cyberlaw advice, think about contract law first. Your legal rights with Facebook start with the terms of service on their network. Whether you read them or not, when you click "I accept" you have entered into a contract with Facebook that governs your rights, where you can bring a complaint, etc. They may be boring, but should be read carefully before you set up an account with any network, game or online service.

Consumer protection laws dovetail with user-agreements to provide even more protection. If a network, game, service or website tells you they do something and don't, you may have a consumer protection action. These are typically handled through state, city, provincial and national consumer protection agencies and attorneys general.