Internet Law, or Cyberlaw as it is sometimes called, refers to the legal issues related to Internet use. It is a distinct minor field of law than a conglomeration of intellectual property law, contract law, privacy laws, and many other fields on Internet use. Overarching rules and self-regulating practices have developed over the years.

Over the years, topics such as cybersquatting, online defamation, online forms of harassment, online fraud, intellectual property issues, and taxation of Internet commerce have been taken on by legislatures around the world, to the extent that areas of law such as E-Commerce and Internet Privacy, have now become specific, and recognized, areas of legal practice.

The vast surge in cyberlaw events is the result of both the evolution of the technology involved and the evolution of the law.

It has generated a complex set of overlapping and interacting bodies of law and rapidly evolving standards of liability.

There are more than 20 areas of law governing cybersecurity alone. These include constitutional issues, criminal law, contract law, intellectual property, tort law, international law, security law, and information privacy law.

It is areas like this that confuse cyberlaw. As products mature, the law struggles to keep up. The newest liability standards are ill-suited to many legacy systems, creating challenges in patching and up-keeping systems.

As opposed to countries, the worldwide web is the medium of communication. If there can be laws that could govern the Internet, then such laws will require a unique structure to grapple with the international and ethereal nature of the web.

Many argue that the Internet is not actually "regulable" at all, while others argue that it can be regulated and that substantial bodies of law already exist. Since the Internet is not geographically bound, national laws can not apply globally, though a few international agreements exist. However, many have argued that the Internet should be allowed to self-regulate as its own "nation."

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a catchall term that applies to many connected devices and software that can communicate with one another over the Internet.

Internet regulation includes anything from blatant censorship to architecture, norms, and markets.
  1. The laws governing countries worldwide only cover those territories. Thus, should internet sites hosted in foreign countries comply with varied, sometimes conflicting, laws in every corner of the globe.
  2. This is not to say that everything else related to the Internet is unimportant. However, this is the most fundamental area of debate. Everything else is subordinate to this area, and this basic framework must remain intact regardless of other regulations.
  3. Norms, referring to how people interact with one another, affect behavior across the Internet's architecture. In other words, while laws may fail to regulate certain activities the structure allows, social norms may allow the users to control such conduct.

For example, most online forums allow users to moderate comments made by other users. Comments found offensive or off-topic can be flagged and removed, thus a form of norm regulation.

Similar to norm regulation is market regulation. Market regulation is a pre-digital age regulation that maintains internet standards of good behavior through centralized market control that weighs supply and demand. If there is too much supply, demand will eventually dilute, and brands will need to find ways to differentiate themselves. However, if there is too little supply, or demand, for the content of a particular nature, then market regulation won't allow for that type of content to be openly published, and websites will be unable to publish it without the risk of punishment. This helps prevent predatory conduct, drive innovation, and force websites to self-regulate to retain customers and remain viable.

Net Equality

The Internet resembles many other networks found in everyday life, such as telephones or power networks. The wide-scale adoption of the Internet means that these networks are everywhere.

A concern has arisen in recent years about how information passes through the medium. The information itself is not of concern. What's important is how the computing devices on the Internet communicate with one another. Communication is done using "packets" of data, which are broken into bytes and encoded into symbols and numbers. The packets are then transmitted through routers and transmission infrastructure owned by various private and public entities, like telecommunications companies, universities, and government agencies.

This has become a significant area of concern in recent years because changes to laws affecting this infrastructure in one jurisdiction could have a ripple effect, changing how information is sent and received in other jurisdictions and whether those areas would otherwise be subject to the jurisdiction of the country implementing the new law or not.
Free expression is the cornerstone of the 21st-century free flow of information. As the Internet's global diversity and social lives have ballooned, so needs a global dialog. Yet, the social Internet can be a cruel and unforgiving place. While the web creates extraordinary opportunities, it also limits human interaction.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides all Americans with a right to free speech and expression. Unfortunately, the United States is not the only country in the world; for those living in other nations around the globe, free speech is not a right. Luckily, the Internet has provided a means for people who live in nations where freedom of expression is not available to have their voices heard.

Internet users from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa can attempt to form political movements to bring freedom to their countries. The rise of the Internet has also been credited, in part, as the cause of many of the political movements around the world seeking greater access and equality, such as the "Arab Spring" incidents.

Of course, this often creates a backlash against such censorship, led by citizens in countries that actively pursue internet censorship. China is one of the most active nations regarding such activity (and a significant producer of the technology used to create such censorship), but citizens of other countries also dig in their heels against internet censorship.

And Other Areas of Internet Law

Many emerging technologies can affect our legal system. Many areas of the law are being re-imagined - and, sometimes, overturned - by the revolutionary tech tools available today. One example is intellectual property.

Other areas that will be affected by the rise of the Internet or which appear to be on the horizon include privacy, intelligence gathering, fraud, cyberbullying, and cyberterrorism. As quickly as technology evolves, so will the various legal issues presented by these innovations.