Legal matters are an unavoidable aspect in our day to day life. Many are not aware that their actions have been derived by law at some point. To appreciate this fact it is essential to understand what laws are.
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Law can be defined as a system of rules and regulations that is set as a framework to guide and regulate behavior of people. It allows the society to function properly by securing justice and peace among the many individuals. One important feature of law is that everyone is identified as having equal rights. “No one is above the law” is the quote that supports this. “Ignorantia legis neminem excusat” is also a well heard Latin maxim which relates to law. It translates as “Ignorance of the law is not a defense”. This implies that a person that has committed an act of wrong cannot claim unawareness to avoid liability. It is therefore assumed that any individual taking part in what is outside the activities of a normal person is aware of what they are doing. The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has increased over the past several years mainly as a result of interconnection of environments. The government of Sri Lanka has actively promoted ICT usage in all the sectors of the economy. As a result the ICT literacy in the country has increased from 9% to 19% in four years. However this increase in usage also came with a price as the number of reporting of abuse and misuse also increased dramatically. For example in 2008, 49 incidents were reported to the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Response Team (CIRT) but only four in 2007. Laws laid down related to ICT helps the Information Technology (IT) professionals to engage in their practice ethically as law abiding citizens .
As civilization began to expand and human behavior became more complex the law system evolved with it. Different branches of law emerged to handle the different areas of human behavior. Most of the laws within a country can be classified with reference to what it hopes to achieve. However topics such as Public law, Private law, Civil law, Criminal law and Contract law etc. cannot be restricted to one area. Criminal and Civil are the two broad classifications of law. The following table depicts their features.
Deals with disputes between private parties. It is a deliberate or reckless act that causes harm to another person or property. Cases must be proven on a “balance of probabilities” if it is more likely than not that the defendant caused harm or loss. To convict someone of a crime, the prosecution must show there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Remedies are most often monetary. They may include actual damages, as well as pain and suffering. Can including fines and jail time in order to maintain public order.
The Supreme Court The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka was created in 1972 after the adoption of a new Constitution. Supreme Court is the highest and final superior court in the country. The court rulings have importance over all lower Courts. The Sri Lanka judicial system is complex blend of both common-law and civil-law . The Court of Appeal This court hears appeals from lower courts. It is the second most senior court in the Sri Lankan legal system, with only the Supreme Court of the Sri Lanka above it. The Court of Appeal hears both criminal appeals in the Criminal Division and civil appeals in the Civil Division. The Criminal Division hears appeals from the Magistrates’ Courts, while the Civil Division hears appeals from the District courts and High Courts. Decisions may be additionally appealed to the Supreme Court . High Courts High courts handle grave crimes. These courts can be found in the following cities in Sri Lanka Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Chilaw, Negombo, Gampaha, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Kandy, Awissawella, Ratnapura, Badulla and Anuradhapura . District Courts District Courts are established for every judicial district in Sri Lanka. The court sittings are held in a place within the territory of the district. Civil matters and disputes that are less than Rs. 3 million in value are handled by these courts. Appeals against the rulings of these courts are passed to the court of appeal .
Legislation Legislation is the formal rules enforced by a body that has constitutional rights to do so. In Sri Lanka the only body having this coherent power is the parliament. Its legislation takes the form of Acts and Ordinances passed by parliament. Thus the parliament is called as the law making authority and it is the main source of law that can be identified. Since the field of IT is growing and its importance is increasing, the Sri Lankan parliament has given special priority to form laws related to this field in order to protect the people. There are several Acts which the Sri Lanka parliament has passed in order to control matters related to IT. Judicial Precedents Judicial Precedents was introduced to Sri Lanka during the British period. This implies that the judges of superior courts such as the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal can create new laws. If a dispute arises relating to a field that is not covered by existing law the decisions of the higher court will be binding on the lower courts for future cases. Since crimes relating to IT are evolving in various new forms, there can be gaps in existing laws where a guilty party is able to escape liability. Therefore Judicial Precedents play an active role regarding the laws related to this field. Equity Equity has the meaning “Maintaining Justice.” Equity helps to eliminate the gaps in the legal system by giving non monitory compensations. Equity has also been responsible for the development of the law of the trusts. So it is necessary to consider about Equity when it comes to IT law since fines and damages are not the only method of compensating the injured party. Religion and Customs Due to the presence of various religions in the country, it is necessary to create laws considering the differences among them. According to their religion people’s mind sets and their behaviors are different. A crime in one religion may not be a crime in a different religion. Certain features set customs to be apart and classified as law. English Law European Union Law Other Sources Legislation Equity The Customary common Law Court of Justice So it is necessary to consider these areas to create new IT laws, since Sri Lanka is a multi-religious and multi-cultural country.
Cyber Crimes A cybercrime is any criminal dealing done by computers or networks. This type of crime has increased significantly with the introduction of shopping websites that require sensitive information to be passed across the web. The following are related examples . Theft of information contained in electronic form – Involves the theft of data that is stored in hard disk or removable storage devices. Email bombing – Sending a large number of e-mails to the user which causes the victims mail account or serve to crash. Data diddling – The attack focuses on changing the raw data before processing and changing the data back soon after it has been processed. Denial of service attack – This involves making the computer handle a large number of requests at a single time which results in a crash and also a denial of service to the authorized users. Hacking offences – This will affect reliability, accessibility, and privacy of a computer system or network. These can done by using viruses, worms etc. Other than this unauthorized obtaining or viewing of information from a computer or storing medium, selling, introducing or issuing any device or computer access code or password, providing access information to a unauthorized personnel or in breach of a contract are also computer crimes. Intellectual Property Intellectual Property rights are introduced to protect the interests of creators by giving them property rights over their creations . Intellectual property refers to creations of human mind. There are two basic categories. They are industrial property and copyright. Industrial property includes inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications of source. Copyright includes artistic creations, and is specially related to our subject as it includes technology based work such as computer programs and multimedia productions. Some extra examples are blueprint of architecture, music and song lyrics, plays and screenplays, audiovisual recordings such as movies and sound recordings. Printing a web page or its HTML code related to the site and downloading an image to hard disk are ways to violates copyright law when using web sites. Computer programs are also protected under the copyright law. Software piracy is a main concern especially in the Asian part of the world. Several Acts have been passed to minimize this issue. Ex: Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)-United States copyright law Contracts Online A contract is formed when the following features have been fulfilled. An on line contract also falls into this category . Offer – A supplier might not want to make his products available to all. Therefore we must determine to whom the offer is being made to. For example an online wine merchant doesn’t want to sell alcohol to anyone under eighteen or to person in Saudi Arabia where alcohol is illegal. Acceptance – The acceptance of an offer creates a contract .An offer is accepted when a clear confirmation received. This includes any clear signal to accept the offer conversed to the person making the offer. By clicking “I Accept” on a web site or sending an e-mail is also a legal form of acceptance. Consideration – An exchange of promises creates sufficient consideration for a contract to be formed. For example a customer clicking “I Accept” and providing credit card information, this will be become consideration for a promise that the advertised goods will be supplied. However there are variations. Allowing downloading freeware or shareware from a web site free of charge is an example. Intention to create legal relations – Evidence to be legally bound by a contract is not a necessity. The duty of proving that there wasn’t an intantion is on the party who declares that no legal outcome was intended.
Since the increase in IT usage has expanded over the resent years IT law has been introduced as a method to govern the process of handling information digitally. The legal protection extends to different areas that relate to computer software, access and usage control etc. It is important to handle these crimes to protect all the users because nowadays it is hard to find out somebody who is not using computers or Internet in their day to day life. The following are methods that have been devised to archive this. Local and Foreign Acts For ICT to contribute to the growth of the economy, users must have a guarantee on the safety and dependability of these technologies. Acts enacted by the parliament helps achieve this objective. These Acts govern the prosecution of computer-related crimes. These are now widely used in many countries including our country. Some mostly used Acts are listed below.
Copyright Act Computer & Information Technology Council of Sri Lanka Act No 10 of 1984 The Communications Decency Act of 1996 Electronic Transactions Act – No.19 of 2006 The National Stolen Property Act Computer Crime Act No.24 of 2007 Mail and wire fraud statutes Payment Devices Frauds Act No.30 of 2006 The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Electronic Transaction Act No.19 of 2006 The Child Pornography Prevention Act Information Communication Technology Act-No.27 of 2003 The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 Intellectual property Act 36 of 2003 Dispute Resolution Dispute resolution is used to describe the ways an industrial dispute, whether or not it has resulted in industrial action, may be settled . There are many services available for dispute resolution. Creative Dispute Resolution is one of them that provide mediation, arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services. This has designed to help resolve conflicts of individuals, attorneys and companies etc. ADR’ s. main advantage is that it provides services to individuals and organizations to resolve their conflicts out of court. It provides administrative services to contact with mediators and arbitrators. Some areas distribute Resolution services addresses are employment, intellectual property, and technology. Many countries have implemented dispute resolution policies for Internet domain names. Ex: ir Domain name dispute resolution policy for.
IT is a fast moving industry all around the world. Each day new technology is being added and the previous versions evolve beyond recognition. The legal system must be able to sustain this rapid development. Interconnections through networks cut across geographical boundaries and have defined a new set of boundaries that is known as cyberspace. This environment needs laws and legal institutions of its own as territory based legal systems are not sufficient. Throughout the increase in complexity of IT, the legal operations that have been enforced for its protection has not been sufficient. It is an issue that is being faced all around the world and Sri Lanka is also one of its many victims. Although the government has taken many measures such as to enforce major set of Acts such as Computer Crimes Act, information and Communication technology act etc. it has still not been enough to match the flow of development in the field of IT.
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