Predictions 2012: Matching the law with user expectations

In 2012, Lowndes Jordan partner Rick Shera wants to see New Zealand develop law for the internet that is balanced and realistic

When asked for his predictions for the ICT industry in 2012, Rick Shera wrote: "I’m a lawyer so I’ll stick to my knitting". Here are his thoughts on the coming year.

The issue that will continue to loom large is how we realistically match our law to the expectations of internet users. This plays out in all sort of areas - copyright and privacy are perhaps the most obvious but you also see it in areas as diverse as raising capital for startups, name suppression for those accused of crimes and convergence of media regulation.

In all of these areas the internet has changed the old scarcity model, which meant, by and large, it was too difficult for individuals to engage in wide scale activity over long distances – whether for good or bad. Home taping was never really going to kill music despite what the music industry thought in the 1970s.

Under the old model, we were able to target non-criminal law at least to catch the most egregious commercial evildoers. In doing so, the law set standards which made sense to most people. Now, if you’re online you’re a product and privacy is a malleable concept, it’s now feasible to crowdfund capital $1 at a time but impossible for New Zealand law to prevent a celebrity accused’s name from appearing online and there is often no difference in scale between commercial copyright infringement and private sharing.

It all seemed quite simple when you could just lend a book to a friend but when lending an eBook equals copying equals copyright infringement and one device licensing means you can’t read it on the beach, it’s no wonder that people start to lose respect for the law.

So, there’s the opportunity; make sure New Zealand develops law so it is balanced and realistic - take advantage of the internet’s collapse of distance and scarcity, rather than seeing that collapse as a threat that needs more and more restrictive legislation … oh, and world peace!

* This fortnight Computerworld is featuring a series of opinion pieces by leading ICT professionals in which they look at what's in store for 2012. Tomorrow: Vodafone CEO Russell Stanners and Telecommunications Carriers Forum CEO David Stone.

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