Top 10 e-Laws

The Top 10 Things You Need to Know Internet Law
As published by The Internet Business Journal and the Wall Street Reporter

By Professor of Law Jonathan Bick , Author: 101 Things You Need To Know About Internet Law (Random House Dec. 2000)

By every commercial standard, the Internet is mainstream. The Internet interpenetrates every aspect of business today, as does Internet law. Internet law has developed in lock step with the Internet so to be successful in business you need to know about Internet law. To help you in this most necessary endeavor the follow are the top ten things you need to know about Internet Law to avoid legal difficulties.


You need to know that you must take special precautions when your sites allows e-credit card use. You need to know bad privacy agreements are deceptive trade practices. You need to know that commercial Internet sites must accommodate the disabled including the blind. You need to know the law strictly limits e-selling to children. You need to know where to get Internet justice in the event of an e-wrong. You need to know that you are responsible for preventing e-virus and e-sexual harassment but not for infringement when using another’s hyperlink. You need to know what taxes must be paid on Internet transactions. You need to know that the law favors technical rather than legal protections in some case. The list goes on, but let me stop here and go into some depth.

Credit Card Law Favors e-Consumers

You need to know that more laws protect people who use their credit card on the Internet, than people who use their credits in person. While credit card laws vary from state to state, most state make vendors more liable for prevent credit card fraud when the Internet is used than when the card holder is present. This means that your Internet business must take precaution beyond those taken by traditional merchants.

Since credit cards are one of the factors that enable e-commerce, you need to be able to let your customers know that they can safely transact business with you. In addition to teaching law school, I teach the legal portion of a masters degree program in electronic commerce program. Case studies show that a person has a higher likelihood suffering credit card fraud at a major department stores than on the Internet. This legal fact may help your e-commerce site gain more customers.

Bad Privacy Agreements are FTC Violations

Businesses know that Internet privacy laws are important because the Federal Trade Commission and state attorney generals are regularly investigating Internet privacy matters. Businesses need to know that it is the connection between their privacy policies and privacy actions is the real Internet legal concern. Internet legal privacy difficulties arise when privacy notices say one thing and a business staff does another.

Business people need to know that bad privacy agreements are deceptive trade practices. Business need to know that Internet law requires consistent privacy notices and privacy operating procedures.

Internet Sites Must Accommodate Disabled

Internet firms need to know that disabled people have as much a right to independent access to the Internet as to shopping center access. The Internet is now deemed a public accommodation.

Recently America On Line settled a law suit with the National Federation of the blind. AOL agreed to make their site accessible to blind people.

Considering that a higher percentage of sight disabled people use the Internet than seeing people this result is not unexpected. Blind people use a device the size of a PC printer called a screen reader which converts Internet screens into Braille or reads the screen out loud, if the Internet screens are screen reader enabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (known as the ADA) applies to the Internet. Blind people need to know that web sites are required to make their sites accessible screen reader enabled.

E-business must design their Internet site to be screen readable enabled at a minimum or they will face ADA legal difficulties.

Selling to Children is Strictly Limited

Children, child service providers and businesses need to know that e-seller may not contract them more than once. Strict laws were passed to prevent e-selling to children under the age of 13.

The Child On Line Privacy Protection Act (know as COPPA) generally forbids business e-selling to children unless they have verifiable parental consent. Children, businesses and child service provider need to know about COPPA.

Where to Get e-Justice

We all need to know that Internet wrongs are actionable in our local courts. People need to know they will find Internet justice in their home town courts.

Constitutional notations of substantial justice and fair play govern Internet transactions. The wrong doer’s point of presence need not determines which laws apply. You need to know that Internet law is increasing your local law.

Legal Duty not to Spread e-Viruses

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and many similar state statutes have include an affirmative duty to refrain from sending of Internet viruses and arguably require some preventative measures. You need to know that using anti-e-virus software may now be required.

It is not surprising that the Internet has been implicated in sexual harassment conduct in the workplace because it has become mainstream by every commercial standard.
It is incumbent upon companies and firms to examine their electronic environment for evidence of harassment activity. You need to know that a review of your Internet site for harassing misconduct is now a legal requirement together with taking appropriate action upon discovering Internet harassment misconduct.

Hyperlinking and Framing are Lawful

Hyperlinking and framing are basic elements of the Internet. You need to know that is lawful for a site to link to another using a hyperlink or a frame even when such links makes it impossible for the visitor to see the URL of the framed site. While you need to know that neither linking nor framing is a copyright violation today.

Taxes on e-Transactions are Due

Despite the Internet Tax Moratorium, Internet transactions are subject to tax. E-commerce professionals need to know how and where to apply taxes to Internet transactions. They need to know that most Internet transactions should be treated like software transactions for e-tax law purposes.

E-commerce professionals need to know if the seller has people in a jurisdiction that can be arrested, property in a jurisdiction that can be seized, stores in a jurisdiction that can be pad locked shut, that those are the places that tax must be paid.

Law Favors Technical Rather than Legal Protection at Times

My ten year old Alex had a disagreement with his mother. He went upstairs to his computer, and my eight year Emily came down singing “I am your password, I am your password.” My wife, a manager for a Fortune 30 firm, whose home office exists because of the Internet, thought nothing of it, until she found, she was locked out of her computer. Alex had used the Internet to circumvent security and changed her password to Emily (hence Emily singing “I am your password, I am your password.”)

The pervasive Internet use in home offices means you need to know that if my son were seven years older, he’d be guilty of violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act; The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; and The Identity Theft Act. You also need to know that as a parent I am not liable for his actions, due to the parental liability doctrine. You need to know that they are simply not liable for their children’s bad acts on the Internet unless they have actual notice and/or aided in the bad acts. Because children can cause harm and can’t pay for the harm they cause technical rather than legal protections must be employed for your public Internet site.

I have highlighted ten important items you need to know about Internet law. As the Author of Random House’s 101 Thing You Need To Know About Internet Law I believe there is a great deal you need to know more about Internet law. Thus, I encourage you to learn what you need to know about Internet law.