‘The internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we ever had’ – Eric Schmidt, Google
It would be an enterprise in itself to disentangle the many ways in which this brief statement is dead wrong. Experimental – what human invention of worth was not? – but well understood and, although the myth persists, scarcely lawless. Gringras provides a roving analysis of how the law beats back against the tide of anarchy, bringing a technician’s comprehension of how the internet works to bear on real and imagined legal scenarios – even, in an area where there is a dearth of case law, at the risk of the conjectural.
The fictional scenarios are the book’s greatest gift, analysing how classical areas of law apply in the online sphere: the formation of contracts, the conduct of e-commerce, tortious liability for online publishers and website operators, the protection of intellectual property, cybercrime, data protection, the taxation of goods and services purchased electronically, competition law and the laws regulating networks, services and consumer contracts.
Author: Paul Lambert
£175, Bloomsbury Professional
With this good an analysis, some of the omissions and emphases are inexplicable. Although its consequences for freedom of speech are often overstated, the ‘right to be forgotten’ decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Google Spain surely deserves more than four paragraphs.
Given the prevalence of online infringers donning the cloak of anonymity, any analysis of disclosure applications should start with pre-action and non-party disclosure under Civil Procedure Rules 31.16 and 31.17 – striking omissions when one recalls that the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction, which is covered, was for many years one of ‘last resort’.
The data protection section is marred by its focus on the restrictive view of ‘personal data’ of Durant, whose deleterious effects on data privacy for over a decade were largely mitigated by the same Court of Appeal’s decision in Edem (which goes unmentioned). The data protection exemption for journalism, art and literature, which will be of relevance to most website operators and online publishers, is not discussed.
The new revenge porn law, enacted amid great fanfare in 2015, is nowhere to be seen. Service via Twitter and Facebook has been occurring since at least the late 2000s, yet does not warrant a mention.
While Gringras is invaluable for its intelligent analyses of how the law applies in the online world, for a complete or comprehensive treatment go to any of the many reliable practitioner texts.
Phil Hartley is an associate at Schillings