Cybersecurity, European Copyright, and Blockchain Laws
This month we discussed a number of internet legal issues. We started by painting a picture of the current state of cybersecurity in the world. In the midst of increasing interconnectedness, countries can seize power over other states and even over private companies using the internet. As such, solutions must be tailored accordingly. We continued with a conversation about the status of European copyright laws, and potential legislation. Lastly, we revisited the blockchain laws, which pose novel legal queries into jurisdiction, contract, and intellectual property. Specifically, asset-backed tokens elude conclusive legal characterization.
We began the month discussing the current state of cybersecurity. It remains somewhat gray in face of the ever-changing laws of information science and technology. International treaties have supplemented domestic efforts to crack down on security, but are not wholly effective. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the lack of an offensive option. Most legal disincentives to cyber hacking are defensive. In recent years, state actors have more frequently become the launchers of cyberattacks, and private companies the victims. Recently drafted congressional legislation would give companies the power to legally "hack back" as a defense mechanism. This can mean anything from simply tracing an attack, to identifying the attacker, to actually damaging the attacker's devices.
International politics has fashioned the landscape of copyright law as well. In Europe, new legislation is brewing to adjust the state of copyright law to the digital age. The Directive on Copyright in the Single Market has asserted three legal innovations: (1) a right for press publishers; (2) filtering obligations, and (3) new text-and-data-mining stipulations. The right for press publishers would allow news companies to collect compensation when their stories are shared on social media platforms. The law's filtering provision would require all website-hosting providers to use filtering software that checks content against a database of copyrighted material. Text and data miners would be excepted to comply with these restrictions if mining for academic or scientific research.
A fresh and topical subject in the digital world is blockchain technology. It is a complex and decentralized technology with the power, accuracy, and security to replace traditional financial systems. In its unique nature, it runs up against jurisdictional issues because the location of a transaction is hard to pinpoint, and requiring compliance with every single potential location's rules would be overwhelming and unwieldy. It is also hard to pinpoint a locus for liability because it is decentralized. "Smart contracts" also leave questions about capacity, authority, consideration, offer and acceptance. Intellectual property and the appropriate associate policies are matters with broad implications.
Finally, asset-backed tokens on the blockchain are particularly fascinating. Constructing coinage systems on the blockchain backed by either commodities or fiduciaries are innovations that will help the world produce and conserve wealth. It is necessary for the courts decide how to treat such coins--as either assets in themselves or placeholders for the assets they represent.
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