International and UK Law and how it relates to IT and Computers

Even when I was in university, I used to be both fascinated and confused by law. It was just as well that I had to contend with just one module of law as I made a conscientious decision that when I embarked on my career, I would leave the law and related computer crime etc to lawyers. As most of my regular readers know by now, I am usually sat around subconsciously searching for a topic. I don’t usually have a list of topics lying around and usually during the week something happens that leads to an article being posted. Well, it’s either that or on the weekend, I have a sudden panic attack that leads to me writing or babbling on about something. A few days ago, something similar happened that has led all of us to this post.

While researching, I came across an intriguing paper by Warren B. Chik, titled Challenges to Criminal Law Making in the New Global Information Society: A Critical Comparative Study of the Adequacies of Computer-Related Criminal Legislation in the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore. This led me to find another interesting paper released by the UK home office on The police recording of computer crime that seeked to contribute to the Home Office and law enforcement efforts in tackling the lack of visibility of computer crime offending, a situation that was hampering efforts to assess and tackle the problem.

Let me clarify a few things first before we go international. British law is based on common law. The underlying principle of common law is the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions. IT and computers are not likely to be governed by common law, unless there is a case precedent.

The next one is Tort law concerns civil wrong doings and is used as a civil action by one citizen against another. Tort law may be used in some cases of IT/Computers, for example under the Tort of negligence and copyright infringement.

The last one that I want to discuss is statutory law. This is the law that has been passed by parliament. ‘Statute’ is generic and collective, while ‘act’ is specific and singular. An act is thus a statute, and the acts generated by a legislative body are collectively referred to as satutes, but ‘act’ is normally used in the formal title of a statute. You could thus talk about ‘the statute on rural land use planning’ or ‘the statutes regarding rural land use planning’, but the title(s) of the actual statute(s) would be something such as ‘Rural Land Use Planning Act’.

As the UK is part of the European Union, the UK is subject to the Law of the European Union. That means that EU law has direct affect within the member states and overrules any other existent law.

In addition to the measures above, internationally, many governments assist each other through Extradition treaties. This is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal. In the UK, the Extradition Act 2003 underpins the high profile case of Gary McKinnon.

As I said in a previous post, the ugly side of social media, UK’s national law is adequate for dealing with national social media abuse but there are no international agreements/treaties in place where a cross border offence happens, for example, significant online abuse is concerned involving two individuals in two different countries. The encouraging factor I found during the investigation of that post was that even countries such as Pakistan have produced legislation to combat electronic crimes. The main act to combat computer crime within the UK is the Computer misuse act 1990

The scope of Computer law is to protect individuals and liberty, so these are the current laws applicable within the UK:

Human Rights

  • Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (not enforced in UK until November 2000)
  • UK Human Rights Act 1998
  • Consumer protection act 1987

Freedom of Information

  • UK Freedom of Information Act 2000

Data Protection

  • Data Protection Act 1998 (extended the scope of data protection beyond automatically processed data)
  • The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 – EC Directive

Health and safety

  • UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, supplemented by
  • UK Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

Rights of disabled  people

  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2004

Intellectual property rights

  • Registered Designs Act 1949
  • Design Rights (Semiconductor) Regulations 1989
  • Patents Act 1977
  • Trade Marks Act 1994
  • Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 amended by:
  • Copyright (Computer Programmes) Regulations 1992
  • Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997
  • EC Directive  on  the  Harmonisation  of  certain  aspects  of  copyright  and  related  rights  in  the  information  society  2001 (should  have  been  implemented  in  EC  countries  in  2002;  is  proving  controversial  and  has  not  yet  been  implemented  in  UK  law)

Contracts  for  computer  systems  and  software

  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (Software)
  • Sale of Goods Act 1979 (Hardware)
  • Misrepresentation Act 1967 (Hardware)
  • Unfair contract terms act 1977

Electronic  commerce  and  contracting

  • Consumer protection – Distance Selling Regulations 2000


  • Civil liability may attach to a person independently of the existence of a contract; I.e. negligence, defamation, malicious falsehood and nuisance
  • Computer  Misuse  Act  1990  is  now  in  urgent  need  of  reform,  but
  • Computer  Misuse  (Amendment)  Bill  2002  was  not  passed  by  parliament

Unlawful  data  use  and  data  publication, Obscenity  and  pornography

  • Obscene  Publications  Act  1959
  • Protection  of  Children  Act  1978
  • Criminal  Justice  Act  1988 e.g.  Harassment
  • Telecommunications  Act  1984
  • Protection  from  Harassment  Act  1997

About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

One Response to International and UK Law and how it relates to IT and Computers

  1. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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