The law and the internet

The law and the internet

The law and the internet

In its early days, the internet was described as an information superhighway; a medium that changed the way that information was published, accessed and distributed. In the wake of so much change, it’s unsurprising that it’s taken a while xvideos for the law to catch up, and there are still plenty of legal grey areas remaining online.
It’s important to be aware of how the law views some of the activities that take place online or by email. In this feature, we’ll explain the laws that protect you and those you need to be wary of, as well as looking at websites that will help you deal with the law. In many cases, existing laws apply to online issues, but some new legislation has been introduced to deal redtube with specific offences.

PORNOGRAPHY

While pornography may be a putas morally divisive issue, the law in the UK is very clear. Material that depicts adults in any form of consensual sexual activity is entirely legal. But images that depict persons aged 15 years or younger in such scenarios are treated as child abuse.Similar indecent images of young people between the ages of 16 and 18 can be investigated if it is jovencitas thought that the teenagers in question did not consent, or were in some way vulnerable.
So no matter how distasteful you find some material, there is no point reporting it unless it crosses these boundaries. This also means that you do not need to be concerned about the legality of having pornographic images from spam emails on your xxx PC’s hard disk.

Even if another household member views or downloads pornography on your computer, you are not at risk of prosecution should you need to leave a computer for repair with an engineer.A large number of porn images arrive by email. Some people even consider it funny to pass them on to friends, but this is a breach of the Obscene Publications Act. More to the porno español point, if you send such material from your computer at work, you could be sacked for gross misconduct if the person who receives it doesn’t see the joke.As many of us have discovered to our horror, some pop-up adverts and spam emails promise access to images of ‘very young teenagers’ or worse. Don’t be concerned about the possibility of being investigated because of any images that have appeared on your screen. Simply delete them youporn without opening them, or close the pop-up window.

Reporting abuse

We spoke to the Abusive Images Unit, a part of Greater Manchester Police, and were told that on no account should you investigate the content of any website that offers access to child pornography. Even if your intention is to find out whether the material is illegal, with a view to reporting it to the police, your actions could be interpreted very differently and you could mamadas find yourself being investigated as a potential paedophile.If you stumble on a website, pop-up advert, newsgroup or email that you think should be reported, submit the details to the Internet Watch Foundation. This body works with the government, police and ISPs to shut down illegal pornographic sites.These experts are authorised to assess the material without risk of prosecution – you are not. The Metropolitan Police offers more information about this unacceptable trade on its website, and a telephone number you can call if you stumble across suspect material.

Some readers have asked us what the law says about pictures of their own children. Some parents are concerned that perfectly innocent digital photographs could be misinterpreted by over-zealous anti-porn crusaders.A representative of the Abusive Images Unit in Manchester put us straight: “The nature of ‘indecency’ is not defined in law. It’s difficult to explain the difference between a picture that shows a loving family scene and one that shows an act of abuse without seeing the two compared. But when police officers look at images, the difference between what is appropriate and what is not is obvious.”

COPYRIGHT

Computers have shaken up ideas about ownership because of their ability to chop up sound, images and ideas into digital data, while the internet – particularly broadband – has made it simple and relatively cheap to share that information. On the whole it’s been a remarkable revolution, changing the way we communicate and share ideas. However, not everybody has been as enthusiastic.The entertainment industry, both here and in the US, has been determined in its efforts to prevent people sharing entertainment. There’s nothing new about this. Copyright laws have long existed to protect people who produce ideas, whether it’s a piece of software, an opera or a recipe.Once a work is published, the owner of the copyright holds the right to profit from it. Anyone who attempts to use the material without permission, which usually involves payment, is breaking the law.
Lawyers were already scratching their heads about the impact of computing on copyright ownership, but the advent of file-sharing networks hit them for six. The original Napster service (before it became the legal download site) let people share music online.

But even though they may have paid for a physical copy, it wasn’t theirs to share. This led to producers using technology to stop people making copies or sharing them online. It’s called digital rights management (DRM) software, and controls where, how and how often digital material can be played, moved or copied.Rip offFile-sharing has caused tremendous bitterness between copyright owners and consumers, and has led to the introduction of new and stronger laws to protect copyright owners. Many consumer groups argue that the pendulum has swung back too far in the favour of copyright owners, giving courts the power to imprison people who share material online.

The British Phonographic Institute (BPI) has already begun legal proceedings against UK home users, but only those who share very large amounts of music online without the copyright holder’s permission.The European Union Copyright Directive states that it’s illegal not only to make an unauthorised copy of a copyrighted work, but to attempt to sidestep DRM measures. The BPI has not ruled out using this law to prosecute users of file-sharing services such as Kazaa and Grokster. Click here for the campaigners’ view of this law.Most people accept that songwriters and film companies should be paid for their work. The grey area in copyright is what’s called ‘fair use’. This means being able to make a back-up copy of a work that you have already paid for.You might want to do this to guard against theft of or damage to a DVD, or you might want to make a copy of a CD to listen to in the car or on a portable music player. Many DRM tools stop you doing this, which could be interpreted as an affront to your rights as a consumer.

This one, as the papers would say, will run and run, and hopefully the industry will find some sensible middle ground on copyright and fair use in time.Until then, if you intend to make copies for fair use, you should know that trying to rip a CD or DVD that contains DRM is illegal, full stop. Selling, giving away or uploading copyrighted material without permission is illegal. To find out more about legal music downloads, visit Promusic.

SPAM, HACKING AND VIRUSES

Governments around the world have been looking for legislative solutions to the spam problem for years. Spammers use automated tools that drill out every possible combination of common names and words connected to a particular domain. There is now legislation, both here and in the US, that defines how spammers may contact us. But there are several problems with the legal approach.First, US politicians agreed on a law that enabled companies to send unsolicited commercial offerings unless consumers explicitly forbade them to do so. This is the ‘opt-out’ principle. In contrast, companies based in the UK must ask users to tick a box that gives them permission to send you email, or sell your email address details to other companies. This is the ‘opt-in’ approach.Second, a large amount of spam comes from countries outside these areas, so the companies behind it face no legal penalty. The short answer is not to expect the law to protect you from spam. Not everyone has given up hope, though. The Spamhaus Project is run by anti-spam activist Steve Linford. He has faced death threats from some of the spammers he has tried to shut down.

Further online headaches are caused by viruses, worms and hackers. Trojan horses and key-loggers pose a serious threat, with the information they collect increasingly used to commit fraud. You can learn more about how to defend yourself from these threats in our feature, How to make your PC secure. But the law is clear on viruses: creating and distributing a virus is illegal.Being an unwitting accomplice (such as when a PC with no antivirus software is used to send out viruses) is more irresponsible than illegal, but that’s no excuse for not having updated protection.As for hacking, breaking into a computer via the web is just as illegal as breaking into the house next door. These offences are increasingly being committed by organised criminals, and the authorities have responded by creating the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit although getting help from the police is a very stiff uphill struggle. Unless you’ve been seriously defrauded, it’s often not worth the effort.

PRIVACY

The law enshrines our right to privacy. In the online world, that refers to our right to control how information about us is used. In the UK, this is covered by the Data Protection Act (DPA), a controversial and widely misunderstood piece of legislation.Broadly speaking, the DPA says that companies must tell people how any information held about them is to be used. That means consumers have a choice whether to accept those conditions or not.When you sign up for online services, such as shopping or banking, you will be asked to confirm, normally by ticking a box, that you have read and understood the conditions of the service.If you want to see what privacy campaigners are getting hot under the collar about, take a look at Privacy International’s website here.

DEFAMATION

One of the great things about the web is that it gives everyone the ability to express themselves, but with rights come responsibility and the ability to publish material online has brought defamation laws into everyone’s front room.
A defamatory, or libellous, statement is one that is inaccurate and likely to lower the estimation of a person in the eyes of others. Other things to be careful about when you publish words online are untrue statements that could expose a person to ridicule or hatred.You may think it funny to mock someone in a chatroom, but you could face legal action if what you say is untrue. In reality, that’s unlikely to happen; most websites bar people who behave badly from accessing services, but that’s no guarantee.There’s another, darker side to defamation: racism and other forms of hatred. Sites that contain material that belittles or urges violence against people because of their background, religion or race is illegal. If you see any such sites, report them to the Internet Watch Foundation. For more details, see the Met Police guide to computer crime here

Self-censorship

Companies that run websites where opinions can be freely expressed are nervous of libel laws, and for good reason. In the UK, there is no legal precedent to say whether the author of a defamatory statement made on a website is solely responsible for it.One web user brought a case against the ISP Demon Internet, saying that it was liable for untrue statements about him posted on a website because it was the ‘publisher’, like a newspaper. The case was settled out of court, and the principle of ‘notice and take down’ was established.

This often means that ISPs will remove material when notified that it is potentially libellous, regardless of whether it’s actually true (and therefore perfectly legal).But there is no guarantee that an ISP or site owner would be protected from prosecution in the event of a libel action, so don’t be surprised if your strong opinions or statements get you barred from a website.

Learning the legal lingo

The legal industry is as notorious for its jargon as technology, with many laws written in a language – nicknamed ‘legalese’ – that is seemingly designed to be understood only by experts.There is a good reason for this: laws don’t prohibit specific offences as such. They are written to encompass many forms of illegal behaviour in a given context. In other words, they have to be able to stop newer offences that couldn’t be imagined when the law was originally written (such as computer-based frauds).
Thankfully, the web is on hand to make things a little clearer. Try Advice Now for an A-Z look at legal lingo. If you require a solicitor or want to learn more about your rights – in language you can understand – try the Law Society or the Family and Consumer UK Law Guide. THE VERDICT
Every territory needs a rule of law. For every freedom that technology creates, there are a thousand users ready to exploit it. There’s a long way to go before the internet is fully tamed by legal means, but that doesn’t mean you’re at the mercy of its shadier characters.
Armed with knowledge of your rights online you will be equipped to deal with situations you may encounter on the web and to seek help in the right places.