Buying IT? Get a lawyer

Installing a new computer system? Consult your lawyer about it. Rick Shera, from Auckland law firm Lowndes Jordan, says any new system implementation needs a comprehensive agreement between the provider and user.

Installing a new computer system? Consult your lawyer about it.

Rick Shera, from Auckland law firm Lowndes Jordan, says any new system implementation needs a comprehensive agreement between the provider and user.

Shera is one of a very few lawyers in New Zealand specialising in information technology law and acts for a number of computer software developers, Internet businesses and technology developers. He has even been known to assist clients with setting up their systems and is currently doing a thesis at Auckland University about law and the Internet.

Shera says he derives a lot of interest from the field of information technology because it is where the legal areas of intellectual property, trademarks, copyright and consumer guarantees come together.

He says his main role is to educate companies about copyright and intellectual property law and how it applies on the Internet, Web page design and technology projects.

Shera thinks the Internet needs international regulation because national laws differ from each other so much that content on a Web page in the country where it originates could be breaking the law in another country where the page is seen.

“National laws don’t necessarily cope very well with it.”

Shera believes international conventions such as those governing shipping and sales of goods can be used as an example of the kind of global legislation needed for the Internet.

He thinks world trade organisations could form a treaty for the Internet similar to GATT and that agreements like this are not far off — “the force will come from larger countries like the United States with a high level of intellectual property to protect”.

In New Zealand the legal implications surrounding actions on the Internet and the registration of domain names have not really been tested yet.

“We’ve had a couple of clients who are in competitive industries where they can clearly see content has been taken and used on someone else’s Web page. So far they’ve been stopped by negotiation or simply by our clients making enough noise.”

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