Future of cyber-law

Cyber-space imitates real-world activity and this includes criminal activity. Internet law as a legacy of territorial law is attempting to challenge virtual criminality, but there is a big problem because cyber-space is not subject to a single jurisdiction. The European Council is trying to tackle this issue but unless all countries sign the EC treaty, cyber-law will not always work. National legislations with investigatory powers prove there is sufficient control for cyber-law to work.

For example in Malaysia since 1997 and in India since 2000, Digital signatures have allowed the exchange of documents to be legally binding as far as the law of contract and evidence are concerned. Investigatory powers make cyber-law work and this is emphasized in section 10 of Malaysia's Digital Signature Act 1997 and section 78 of India's Technology Act 2000. Influenced by the UK Computer Misuse Act 19901, the Malaysian Computer Crimes Act 19972 categorises the unauthorised access and modification of computer contents an offence carrying punishment of RM 50, 000 or five years' imprisonment.

Hate speech is another offence regulated under UK's Public Order Act 19863 and Australia's Racial Discrimination Act 1975 makes it unlawful to insult, humiliate or intimidate another person in public on the basis of their race. As a result, governments are successfully closing radical Islamic websites. 4 Further, a man who registered the internet domain name sex. com was awarded $65m by the court, when an online pornographer was found guilty of hijacking his site.

5 Another case confirming the efficiency of cyber-law is the Toben case,6 where an Australian was found liable under German legislation. So although law can work in cyber-space, the French Yahoo! decision7 shows how difficult cyber-law can be in practice. Judge Jean-Gomez held that the US Internet Portal Yahoo! had to use filtering mechanisms to block its US website from France to avoid the fine of 100,000 Francs per day. However, the probability of assigning IP addresses as French is 70% only.

Most domestic legislations are drafted to extend liability into international territories. However, there is still the danger that filtering tools can aid virtual criminals to localise countries where the content of their websites are considered legal. Also, different jurisdictions hold different cultures and the level of tolerance to cyber-crime differs. Similarly, some argue that freedom of expression is a basic right and restricting viewpoints from cyber-space is a form of oppression. . However, to be effective, a single international standard is required.

The International Treaty on cyber-crime aims to harmonise cyber-laws involving copyright infringements, computer-related fraud, child porn and offences connected with network security. 8, but so far only 28 countries have signed the convention. Most firms are still not reporting cyber crimes (93-95% of cyber-crimes go unreported)9 And until the cyber-law receives the co-operation of all countries critics will still find flaws with the system. However, the set regulations clearly show that there is potential for the law to work .