Developing computer law

Advancing multimedia policy
Creating legal framework for cyberspace
Developing cyber rights
Investigation and prosecution of international high-tech crimes must be coordinated among all concerned States, regardless of where harm has occurred.

Legal systems must protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and systems from unauthorized impairment and ensure that serious abuse is penalized.

'Cyberspace' is the emerging invisible, intangible world of electronic information and processes stored at multiple interconnected sites. The digital revolution leads to 'convergence' (of telecommunications, computer/Internet and broadcasting) and to dynamic multimedia value chains. Deregulation and competition are major driving forces in the new interactive electronic environment.
A new international treaty with the working title of "International Convention on Cyber-crime" has been under development by a special committee of the Council of Europe since 1997. Unlike most recent international treaties, this new Internet Treaty was developed in relative secrecy. The Council of Europe's 43 member states helped to prepare the text; Canada, the United States and Japan, which have observer status, and South Africa were also actively involved. They will all be able to sign the Convention, which will cover most of the world's data traffic. The work was classified, until recently. The document evolved through 27 drafts before being approved by the committee June 22, 2001.

The treaty seeks to control internet crimes by requiring participating nations to create a specific, uniform body of laws to deal with unauthorized access, interference, fraud and forgery, child pornography, copyright infringement. Racism, and xenophobia are to be addressed in a separate protocol to be added later. It has three primary objectives: (1) Harmonization of the national laws which define offences; (2) Definition of investigation and prosecution procedures to cope with global networks; and (3) Establishment of a rapid and effective system of international co-operation.

The treaty addresses these "crimes:" (1) Offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems: illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices. (2) Computer-related offences: forgery and computer fraud. (3) Content-related offences: production, dissemination and possession of child pornography. A protocol is to cover the propagation of racist and xenophobic ideas over the web. (4) Offences related to infringement of copyright and related rights: the wide-scale distribution of pirated copies of protected works, etc.

The Convention embodies basic rules which will make it easier for the police to investigate computer crimes, with the help of new forms of mutual assistance. These include: (1) preservation of computer-stored data, (2) preservation and rapid disclosure of data relating to traffic, (3) system search and seizure, (4) real-time collection of traffic data, and (5) interception of content data.

To bring the treaty into force, the draft must first be approved by the leadership of the Council of Europe, then ratified by only five of the participating nations.

Information on the proposed treaty has caused an immediate response from the Internet user community. An international coalition of 28 organizations - from the United States, France, Britain, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark - has notified the Council of its opposition to the treaty. The concern is that the treaty process would force national governments to enact laws to broaden police power. The claim is that police agencies and powerful private interests acting outside of the democratic means of accountability are seeking to use a closed process to establish rules that will have the effect of binding legislation.

1. Lawyers, regulators, business executives, investment bankers, diplomats and civil society representatives need shared essentials of plurilateral 'governance' to safeguard both competition and public interest objectives, at a scale congruent to 'cyberspace', in the transition to an 'international law of cooperation'.
Constrained by:
Defending free speech
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies