LAWCOMM 426 - Law and Information Technology

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: Second Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 4 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Judge David Harvey
Prerequisites: LAW 201, 231

Course descriptions

This course examines the impact of new technologies upon law and behaviour with a focus upon new information technologies embodied in digital information systems and the internet. The principle focus of the course will be upon the various ways in which information systems may be regulated and governed by legal institutions and methodologies.

The course will encompass the following modules:

1. Introductory - including

a) Some of the general challenges posed by new technologies and particularly new information systems

b) Authenticating information on the internet - the use of various research tools available with an emphasis upon some of the problems authenticating free legal information. In addition, legal expert systems will be considered.

2. Internet Governance - this module will provide a road map for the rest of the course and comprises two sub-parts

a) Internet Governance theory and fact

i) Technical governance including consideration of the “layers theory” of governance

ii) Content governance - regulating what is available in a global world without borders

b) ICANN and Domain Name Regulatory Structures

i) ICANN as a governance structure for the Internet


iii) The Common Law approach to Domain Name problems

iv) The New Zealand Disputes Resolution Process

3. Content Regulation and the way in which the law deals with information in the on-line space. Included in this module are considerations of harassment, Harmful Digital Communications, defamation and reputational harms

4. Jurisdiction - which court and which law may deal with civil disputes arising in cyberspace

5. Evidence - how the rules of evidence apply in cases involving technology

a) Admissibility

b) Expert testimony

c) Preserving evidence in civil proceedings

d) Technology and evidence gathering

6. The High Tech Courtroom - using technology to facilitate the hearing and adjudicative process

7. Computer Crimes - criminal behaviour using technology and in the online environment including an examination of liability and sentencing for computer crime

8. Intellectual property - preserving intellectual property principles in an environment where copying is an imperative - including issues such as the use by copyright owners of technological protection measures for digital material and liability for peer-to-peer file sharing

9. Online Torts - Cyber-trespass, and spamming

10. Contract and E-commerce Issues involving the formation of contracts, the Electronic Transactions Act and the disruptive technologies of blockchain and smart contracting

11. Privacy - the problems of the “document that does not die”, “the right to be forgotten” and approaches to social networking

Content outline

This course will be conducted in a slightly different style from other courses. It will use many of the norms of the online or digital environment. It will introduce students to the informational environment and its unique properties so that they will understand not only the legal issues but also the technical and social issues that surround or underlie them. It will suggest that some of our assumptions about the applicability of the law may be challenged by the properties of on-line or digital information. Access to a computer and an internet connection is assumed.

The course assumes a basic knowledge of core law subjects. It is helpful if students are also familiar with principles of evidence, jurisdiction and intellectual property all of which will be examined in the context of new communications technologies.



Prescribed text

Harvey, D “ - Selected Issues” (4th ed) Wellington; LexisNexis; 2005.