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Clark, Eugene --- "Book Review - Teaching Cyber Law Down Under" [2004] JlLawInfoSci 6; (2004) 15 Journal of Law, Information and Science 82

Teaching CyberLaw Down Under


NetLaw, Australia

Lexis Nexis Butterworths, (2004) ISBN 0409319252

163 pgs including index


Cyberlaw: Cases and Materials on the Internet, Digital Intellectual Property, and Electronic Commerce, Australia

Lexis Nexis Butterworths, (2003) ISBN 1863162089

794 pages including index

Many, if not most, universities today are offering at least one specialised subject in CyberLaw or something similar, for example E-commerce Law or E-business Law. Even where there is no specialised course, cyberlaw issues are raised, often in the form of an entire chapter devoted to such issues. A good example is Clive Turner’s 25th Edition of Australian Commercial Law (Thomson, Lawbook Company), chapter 16, Law of Electronic Commerce, written by Alan Davidson. Similarly, the latest (2005) edition of Latimer’s Australian Business Law contains a special chapter (18) on Electronic Commerce. A slightly different approach, aimed at the non-lawyer market, is that of Griggs, Clark and Iredale’s, Managers and the Law (Thomson/Lawbook Company) which contains a chapter on Electronic Commerce (by Prof George Cho) as well as a special section on e-law perspectives in every other substantive chapter of the book.

NetLaw is one of the most recent crop of books on cyberlaw. The book is comprised of nine chapters. Chapter 1 covers the digital environment and the new realities of internet communities where time and space are irrelevant. Chapter two examines how legal systems, bounded as they are by territorial and other limitations, have struggled to cope with this new reality. Chapter three looks at dispute resolution in an online environment. Chapter four briefly examines the commercial world and the problem of creating and enforcing a contract online through ‘click agreements’ and ‘browse-wrap agreements’ Chapter five explores the very important topic of privacy and chapter six looks at the issue of content regulation and censorship. Chapter seven considers the issue of digital intellectual property, focusing on patents, copyright and domain names. Chapter eight deals with cybercrime and chapter 9 on digital strategies where law, management and business strategies converge.

NetLaw is learner-friendly with a helpful glossary, learning objectives and references to further reading. Each chapter has a review section and questions for discussion. There is a web quiz made available to lecturers who prescribe the book for their students.

In essence, this book provides the basics, especially for the non-lawyer and even secondary students covering this topic in HSC Legal Studies. Given the rapidly changing nature of the contents of this book, it would have to be supplemented by online materials that bring the issues up to date (eg I think law students and lawyers would find the coverage too thin.

For the Law School market, much more suitable is CyberLaw by Brian and Anne Fitzgerald. This casebook has been road tested by the Fitzgeralds and their colleagues who have taught the subject every summer for several years now. CyberLaw is divided into three major parts. Part I looks at the Structure, Governance and Regulation of Cyberspace. Early chapters provide readers with readings on the nature of the Internet, the features of an emerging information society and the literature on regulation of the Internet. The focus of Part II is on digital intellectual property. Key chapters focus on copyright, moral rights and rights in databases (chapter 6), patents in cyberspace (chapter 7) and trade marks and domain names (chapter 8). Finally, Part III focuses on commercial and social aspects with chapters on electronic contracts, privacy, cybercrime and digital entertainment.

CyberLaw is a very helpful text for students because it brings together a very useful collection of the best primary and secondary material. Moreover, the organisation of the material and linking commentary by two experts in the field provide insights and guideposts to what is a very complex and vast area of law and policy. The authors also provide a useful selection of excellent material in the EU, US and elsewhere.

In conclusion, it is pleasing to see that developments in this important area of the law are being considered at almost all levels of education. Such legal literacy is important if Australia is to play a significant role in the emergence of an Information Age.

Reviewed by Prof Eugene Clark, Dean, Faculty of Law, Business & Arts, Charles Darwin University

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