Copyright and data protection law top e-commerce legal fears

Copyright and data protection are the main e-commerce-related issues over which companies would seek legal advice, according to a...

Copyright and data protection are the main e-commerce-related issues over which companies would seek legal advice, according to a survey of 150 organisations by law firm Eversheds.

The research, released last week, reflects the changing nature of IT and e-commerce, said Rex Parry, head of e-commerce at Eversheds.

In a survey published in 2000 on the same subject, copyright and data protection received very few mentions, whereas security and general contract concerns were identified as the most common legal issues.

"As the e-commerce market matures, so does UK business' understanding of what the real issues are," Parry said. "In the beginning, everyone was worried about security - people hacking into websites and defacing them. These days you are much more likely to be attacked through another website, not your own."

When respondents to this year's survey were asked which problems they would most likely seek external legal advice for, 68% identified copyright issues. This large percentage was probably due to the flood of high-level domain name disputes in the past 18 months, Parry said.

Meanwhile, 57% of respondents named data protection as a concern, reflecting the increase in profile of the Data Protection Act.

Companies are planning to increase their legal protection on these matters, the survey found. The number of respondents predicting an increase in spend for e-commerce and IT legal advice was double the number of people expecting to spend less, it said.

Organisations need to get up to speed on the legal issues impacting their online operations, advised Parry.

"The more information there is on the internet, the more legal issues there will be," he said. "I would therefore advise businesses to put an online strategy in place, make sure all versions of their domain name belong to them and ensure they understand the legal situation."

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