Technology law is the body of law that governs the use of technology.
It is an area of law that oversees both public and private use of technology.
The practice of technology law can mean a lot of different things depending on whether the attorney works for the government or works in private industry.
Technology law covers all of the ways that modern devices and methods of communication impact society.
What Is Technology Law?
Technology law is any kind of law that has to do with the application of scientific knowledge to practical use.
It is an area of law that involves what the government can do with the information gathered using technology.
It also involves the rights and obligations that private corporations and individuals have when they use technology.
Technology law involves both private individuals and corporations as well as the rights and obligations of government agencies.
Where Does Technology Law Come From?
A large part of technology law comes from United States federal law.
There are laws that come from state law and even from international law.
There isn’t one specific area of law that encompasses all forms of technology law.
It is an area of law that rapidly grows and changes.
Technology law may be criminal or civil in nature.
Enforcement of rights and requirements is a challenge both for law enforcement officials and for private entities.
Sources of Technology Law
Sources of technology law include the following:
Federal laws create most technology laws in the United States.
For private business owners, technology law is commercial law.
However, a large part of technology law is national security.
Federal laws control what private businesses and even the government itself can do with personal information.
Privacy, security, and intellectual property rights are all part of federal technology law.
Significant federal technology legislation includes the following:
- Privacy Act of 1974 – Aims to maintain the privacy of an individual impacted by the collection and disbursement of personal information. Congress passed the law as computers grew into popular use in the United States.
- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 – Creates rules for conducting electronic surveillance. Sets up a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to hold meetings away from the public record. Congress passed the Act in 1978.
- 1986 Electronic Communication Privacy Act – A law that addresses wiretapping and other communications surveillance.
- 1994 Driver’s Privacy Protection Act – Prohibits state motor vehicle agencies from selling license information to private entities
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 – Allows for sharing personal information between banks, insurers, and unaffiliated companies while still requiring security and confidentiality
- Homeland Security Act of 2002 – Consolidates 22 government agencies into the Department of Homeland Security
- 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act – Requires government agencies to share intelligence in the most convenient format. The Act also created the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to advise the President in matters of protecting civil liberties
State laws may include both civil and criminal laws.
Most states have laws that prohibit using a computer to commit a crime.
Laws may also prohibit using a computer to harass or intimidate another person.
Financial crimes like unauthorized use of a debit card or credit card may also fall under state technology criminal laws.
Constitutional law issues may play into the legality of state criminal technology laws as governments struggle to understand the limitations between controlling potentially harmful conduct and free speech.
Because technology crimes and public security issues often transcend international boundaries, international law is another source of technology law.
International agreements and treaties are critical to managing technology use throughout the world. International law shapes technology use that transcends state boundaries.
Technology Law and Civil Rights
Technology law raises the question of who can gather and use information about others.
Both government agencies and private citizens can use technology to gather personal information.
They can also use technology to engage in free speech and communicate with others.
The question that technology lawyers have to answer is what the limits are to what people can do with the information of others.
Government authority and citizen privacy are two complex issues that are of consequence to everyone.
In their work, technology lawyers determine the limits of technology and civil rights.
Technology Law and Business
For businesses and private individuals, technology law is about the legal use of technology in commerce.
Computer laws, communications laws, and technological inventions are all a part of technology law.
Businesses need to know how to use technology legally and how to best use it in order to conduct business.
Some of the questions that technology lawyers answer for their clients include the following:
- What licenses do I need to use software?
- How do I license software to someone else?
- If I create and sell technology, am I liable if a personal injury accident occurs?
- How can I sell a technological invention?
- What permits or government approval do I need in order to conduct my business? Are there permits or government approvals that I need before I can conduct business?
- Does this business plan protect privacy?
- Are there things that I need to be doing to protect the privacy of employee information?
- What steps do I need to take to protect customer information?
- What is my legal liability if customer information gets compromised?
- Can I develop an effective contract for a joint project that involves technology?
- How can I protect my intellectual property including patents, copyrights, and trademarks?
Technology law raises all of these questions.
Businesses and private individuals need to know what laws apply to how they use technology.
Laws impact both startup companies as well as long-established businesses.
Attorneys must be prepared to help their clients navigate changes in laws that may occur quickly.
Technology lawyers help their clients understand the laws and how they can go about complying with them.
Jurisdictional Issues and Technology Law
Because technology use transcends boundaries between states and countries, jurisdictional issues are often present in the application of technology law.
When issues arise, clients need to know where to bring their legal claims.
The answer is often complex.
Jurisdictional issues can make it difficult to investigate and enforce technology rights.
Attorneys help their clients navigate these issues.
In their work, they may develop new laws and legal precedents as they stretch the limits of technology rights and the enforcement of those rights throughout the world.
Who Practices Technology Law?
Technology lawyers are split between both government employment and private-sector work.
For government employers, technology law means creating and enforcing technology laws.
Laws regarding privacy and the use of information have a large impact on the daily operations of the United States government.
Government entities rely on lawyers to help them draft, interpret, and enforce technology laws.
In the private sector, technology law concerns itself more with how businesses use technology in their work.
Private-sector technology lawyers are business lawyers and commercial lawyers.
They help their clients understand technology issues that arise in their business.
Often, these issues arise as part of other legal issues.
Attorneys in the field usually provide comprehensive legal services that involve technology law along with business law, commercial law, and intellectual property.
In addition, in private practice, a criminal lawyer may practice technology law to the extent that they may represent a client charged with a crime involving technology like the use of a computer.
In that case, the attorney must be prepared to identify issues regarding constitutional law that may arise.
Why Practice Technology Law?
Technology lawyers handle complex matters.
Their work involves constitutional law, business law, and commerce.
Lawyers who work on technology issues have the opportunity to work for large companies and growing companies.
In their work, they solve legal problems and contribute to the growth of enterprise.
At the same time, technology lawyers work to ensure that society uses technology responsibly.
They work to help their clients understand how to use technology to their best advantage while establishing limits for privacy and free speech.
Technology is an industry of change.
Technology lawyers have the opportunity to be a part of growth and change.
Technology lawyers live and work in all 50 states.
Technology lawyers in the public sector may concentrate in Washington DC and other government centers.
With skilled legal advocacy in technology law, attorneys have the opportunity to be a part of economic growth as well as be a part of shaping how society uses and interacts with technology.
Getting Plugged Into Technology Law
Technology law is the intersection of business law, commerce, and government.
Lawyers in the field create laws, implement the laws, and challenge them.
They may work for the government in creating laws regarding technology use and surveillance by public entities, or they may work for private enterprises helping them use and implement technology lawfully and successfully.
As technology creates new possibilities, technology law is also full of possibilities.