Cyber law refers to the law that governs the use of communication technology, mainly the Internet. It is a mix of all laws concerning intellectual property, freedom of expression, privacy and jurisdiction. When it comes to the Internet, the lack of clarity with regard to geographical boundaries and jurisdictions can pose a problem. For example , in just a single deal three different states/jurisdictions could be involved –
(a) The laws of the state or country which the user belongs to
(b) The laws of the state or country applicable to the individual or organization with whom the deal has been struck
(c) The laws of the state or country where the host server is located.
In other words, a single transaction could be subject to the laws of three countries at a time. The jurisdiction in one particular country may consider the contents of a website legal whereas the same contents may be declared illegal by the jurisdiction of another geographical area or location. There is no uniform law that can be applied internationally.
Another problem lies in the fact that it is difficult to decide whether the Internet should be treated as a separate world altogether or whether it should be considered as a physical space and be subject to the laws of a particular jurisdiction. With no possibility of having a uniform jurisdictional code, issues related to conflict of law are bound to arise.
Apart from these, there are many other factors that affect cyber law –
1. Net Neutrality: Any data that is sent or received by users on the Net, passes through transmission media owned by individuals/companies or public entities, for example, governments, telecommunication companies and universities. This affects the regulation of the infrastructure of the Internet, that is, laws that are in force in one jurisdiction can have dramatic effects in another, thus affecting the host servers and telecommunication companies.
2. Freedom or Speech: As opposed to the print media, cyber space is relatively more
accessible and anonymous. Any person with a Net connection can publish his thoughts to
be read by millions of people, without spending any money. Therefore, issues regarding the legalities involved in this kind of freedom of speech arise. For example, issues related to the limits of objectionable postings, filtration and surveillance of speech, state control on search engines and government’s role in limiting access to information.
3. Judicial Concerns: The Internet is not dependent on geographical location. Although human beings are involved in accessing the Net and transmitting information, they have the power to conceal their true identities. In such circumstances, it is not possible to apply national laws to Net-related issues that are independent of geographical boundaries. The Net needs to be treated as a different sovereign nation governed by its own laws.
However, monitoring of Net access is already being practiced in China and Saudi Arabia. In fact, these two nations have been able to successfully regulate access to the Net by their citizens. In the US too, there are some Jaws to restrict access to specific content on the Net but these laws do not actually filter the Net.
The IT Act attempts to provide a legal framework for e-commerce. It aims to provide legal sanctity to activities carried out by electronic means. According to this Act, any acceptance of contract expressed through electronic means of communication would be considered valid in the eyes of the law.
The IT Act allows authentication of an electronic record by the use of digital signatures. Such a record can be verified using a public key of the subscriber.It provides legal recognition to the digital signature and lays down standards and conditions that govern the certifying authorities. It details for the provisions for the issue of licenses to issue digital signature certificates.
The Act also talks about penalties for various offences such as damage to computer, computer systems, etc. It mentions the establishment of the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal and lays down regulations regarding the level of officers who can investigate cyber offences. The IT Act also provides for the constitution of the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee to advise the government with regard to any rules or Act related issues.