The law still works for technology

There have been many campaigns lately in support of technology and e-commerce, all of them arguing that the law is out of date....

There have been many campaigns lately in support of technology and e-commerce, all of them arguing that the law is out of date. Most of them have been well-founded and have helped to lead us to the comprehensive legal framework for e-commerce that is now in place in the UK and the European Union.

Anyone looking at this flurry of legislative activity might conclude that the pre-existing law is fundamentally flawed as far as e-commerce and technology is concerned. But this was not so, at least for the majority of UK law.

Even though an Act of Parliament does not contain the word Internet it can still be applied to the cyber-world. In most cases pre-existing UK law did work, but nonetheless the new e-commerce and technology-based laws are clearer and, therefore, provide more certainty.

As long ago as the Victorian era legislators recognised that Acts must be ongoing to take account of technological change, rather than frozen in a meaning appropriate only to the age in which the law was first passed. Thus, while new law is sometimes needed to close loopholes created by technological advances, in the main there is no need to rewrite legislation simply because its terminology is out of date.

In some cases, however, it is not as simple as looking to existing laws to ensure that technological advances are included within their remit. Some new technologies, such as electronic signatures and biometrics, require new regulatory frameworks to govern their use as they raise their own, unique, issues.

Alison Welterveden is partner and head of the technology group at Tite and Lewis www.titeandlewis.com/

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