Subject Outline, Objectives & Assessment
1. Focus and objectives
How do the law and other forces determine the structure or constitution
of 'cyberspace' (of which the Internet is the largest and best-known component),
both locally and internationally? How is cyberspace governed?
Cyberspace gives rise to the most distinctive and interesting problems
of information technology law, as it is the most pervasive conjunction
of computing and telecommunications technologies. The Internet is the focus
through which this course studies information technology law.
The topics in the course cover the most pervasive and general
forms of regulation that can affect most types of transactions, publications
and other interactions in cyberspace. The general notions of 'Internet
governance' and the 'constitution of cyberspace" are developed through
a focus on issues such as the following:
This course is intended to be studied before or in conjunction with other
information technology law subjects, and to provide valuable background
to many of them. In particular, this course is not concerned (except incidentally)
with the information content of cyberspace, which is studied in a separate
course on Internet content regulation (LAWS 3040) and in other IP-related
courses. Nor is there any systematic study of privacy law, which is covered
in a separate course (LAWS 3037).
the entities that make up cyberspace (eg computers, people and business
entities, and networks), and who or what allows/enables them to operate
in cyberspace; the role and regulation of new types of entities such as
Internet Service Provides (ISPs) and Certification Authorities (CAs) is
the distinctive technologies of cyberspace (eg. public key cryptography,
the Internet Protocols, methods of data surveillance);
the extent to which control of technology and standards acts as regulation;
the relationship between government regulation and self-regulation; and
the capacity of both public international law (treaties etc) and private
international law to cope with the 'borderless world' of cyberspace.
The legal content of the course is based on the law of Australia
(particularly New South Wales), considered in its international context.
The law of other jurisdictions is used to explore potential developments
in Australian law. The international nature of cyberspace also requires
consistent attention to both the effectiveness of purely domestic laws,
and to the development of international standards and the extent to which
Australian law adheres to those international standards. The development
of private international law methods of resolving cyberspace law conflicts
with multi-jurisdictional elements is also covered.
1.1. Objectives of the subject
The objectives of teaching and studying this subject are:
To examine whether and to what extent computing and data communications
technologies are giving rise to a distinctive new field of law (increasingly
called 'cyberspace law') and to attempt to identify the subject matter,
legal concepts and analytic techniques which are particular to such a field.
To provide a reasonably comprehensive survey of the main aspects of internet
governance relevant to Australia, with comparisons to other countries where
To facilitate an understanding of the interaction between the overall legal
and social contexts of cyberspace..
To facilitate an appreciation of the increasing inter-relationship between
domestic laws and international standards in this field.
To provide any opportunity for more in-depth understanding of particular
aspects of information technology law, depending on individual interests.
Prior computing experience or knowledge is not required for this subject,
except that students will have to acquire the necessary skills to use the
subject's internet resources - ie use of e-mail and use of the world-wide-web.
1.3. Topics and schedule
The specific topics to be covered may vary from year to year. This year
the topics will be:
Timetable on the course website <http://www2.austlii.edu.au/itlaw/>for
the topics which will be covered this year, the weekly schedule and the
Reading Guides and casebook readings for each week.
Introduction to the course and research skills
Structure and nature of the Internet / cyberspace
Internet access: Restrictions on users and providers
Domain names (Case study of internet access and regulation)
Theories of the regulation of cyberspace
Encryption and PKI (I) - Attempts to control uses of encryption
Encryption and PKI (II) - Digital signatures and Electronic transactions
'Borderless' cyberspace - Jurisdiction and conflict of laws
'eSecurity': Computer crime, cyber-terrorism and investigation
2. Teaching approach
This subject is being taught by a weekly seminar supplemented by `internet
delivery', in the forms of hypertext Reading Guides for each topic, and
an email discussion list limited to members of the class.
The principal study resources for the subject will be the hypertext
Reading Guides, and the documents on the world-wide-web linked from them
which constitute the required and recommended reading. These web resources
will be supplemented by print resources if and where necessary (which will
not be very often, from past experience). There is no compulsory textbook,
but students are recommended to purchase one of two suggested casebooks.
The weekly seminars will be based around assigned reading in the Reading
Guides for each topic, which will assist students to work their way through
both the www resources and the print resources for each topic, in a structured
way. The Reading Guides will indicate which readings are compulsory, and
which are supplementary.
An important mechanism for class interaction will be the e-mail
list. A few students will be assigned to start discussions on assigned
Discussion Questions each week. All students will be expected to participate
to some extent in the e-mail discussion each week. I will publish the list
of `discussion starter' questions, and the names of the students who are
to commence discussion on these questions via the class e-mail list, and
the students who are to respond initially to the `discussion starters'
(see details under `Assessment' below). As the subject teacher I will participate
in the e-mail discussion list, equivalent to a teacher's role in face-to-face
3. Internet and print resources for the subject
3.1. Obtain your e-mail and internet account(s)
All students in this subject require an e-mail account, and access to the
World-Wide-Web. The most useful thing you can do before teaching starts
is to make sure you have the e-mail and internet accounts you need.
3.2. Internet resources
The subject's internet resources are accessible at <http://www2.austlii.edu.au/itlaw/>
(the 'itlaw home page').
Wherever possible, the readings for the subject will be made available
via the world-wide-web. If they are so available, they will not be reproduced
in print form. It will be up to students to decide which, if any, internet
resources they need to print out for their own use (subject to copyright
restrictions, of course).
Class email list
Information on how to subscribe to the class email list (if you have not
been subscribed automatically) are available on the itlaw home page. A
Hypermail version of the class list is also available from the itlaw home
page, but access will be limited to class members by a password.
Other research resources
There are other resources from the itlaw home page which will assist you
in class preparation, and in preparing your research essay.
The following casebooks are recommended to supplement the web-based Reading
Guides, but are not compulsory:
Fitzgerald is a much more substantial book than Lim, and is preferable.
Brian Fitzgerald and Anne Fitzgerald (Eds) Cyberlaw - Cases and Materials
on the Internet, Digital intellectual Property and Electronic Commerce
(Butterworths, 2002). Normal price is $143 but it will be available from
the Law Faculty desk for $100.
Yee Fen Lim Cyberspace Law - Commentaries and Materials (Oxford,
Two useful textbooks are:
Books and articles in print will also be recommended in the Reading Guides
for each topic in the subject.
Olujoke Akindemowo Information Technology Law in Australia LBC Information
Services 1999. This book provides valuable background reading for many
of the topics in the subject , but is no longer up-to-date on many internet
aspects. A second edition is expected sometime in 2003.
Lawrence Lessig Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace Basic Books 1999
- This is an excellent and controversial book on the theory of cyberspace
regulation, and one that provides chapter by chapter a valuable perspective
on most topics in the subject. About US$20 from Amazon.
Details of books and journals on the topic in the Law Library
are available from the subject home page (and some will be placed at the
Law Library Reserve Desk).
4. Assessment (proposed)
Assessment on the basis of the following components is proposed, subject
to discussion in the first Seminar class. Assessment of written work will
be anonymous insofar as is consistent with the course objectives. The Essay
and Assignment must be submitted with a required cover sheet (which will
be provided with the topics). Deadlines for submitted work are provided
in the Timetable or will be advised via the class email list.
4.1. Research Essay (40%) - Maximum length is 3,000
Students may choose a research essay topic from a list of possible topics
that will be posted on the class web pages. Any student who wishes to write
on one of these topics will need no further approval from me. Any student
who wishes to propose another topic (or a significant variation on one
of the suggested topics) must obtain my approval (confirmed by an exchange
of e-mail) of the proposed alternative topic.
The maximum word length for the research essay is 3,000 words,
excluding citations and bibliography, but including any discursive footnotes.
This is a
strict word limit - penalties will apply to any essays
that exceed the word limit, and such text as is well over the word limit
will not be read. An important part of the skill of legal writing is to
be concise. The minimum recommended word length is 500 words less than
The due date for the Research Essay will be set after class discussion.
must be handed in, in print form. Essays may not be submitted
as e-mail attachments. If a student wishes to provide a copy of the
essay in hypertext form on the world-wide-web, so as to assist me to link
to URLs in footnotes and bibliography if I wish to check any of them, then
the URL where the essay is located may be indicated on the front page of
the essay. The print copy is the copy which will be assessed, and the hypertext
version (if any) may or may not be referred to. (This is not a course on
course on creating web resources, so no extra credit can be or is given
for attractive or inventive web presentations. Do not waste time doing
4.2. Take-Home Assignment (50%) - Maximum length
is 3,000 words.
The end-of-session assessment will consist of three questions (which may
be problems or essays), which will involve legal and policy issues ranging
over the whole subject, and the inter-relationships between them. There
may or may not be a choice of questions. The Take-Home will therefore require
you to have covered most or all of the topics in the course in order
to answer it successfully.
The maximum word length for the Take-Home Problem is 3,000 words,
excluding citations and bibliography, but including any discursive footnotes.
This is a
strict word limit - in the same sense as used for the
The Take-Home will be available at the end of the course, and
you will have approximately two weeks in which to complete it. The same
rules apply for the form of submission of the Take-Home Problem as apply
to submission of the Research Essay.
4.3. Class participation (10% ) - E-mail &
class discussion required
Class participation by contribution to both the discussion in the weekly
Seminars, and via e-mail discussions on the class list is compulsory and
assessable. A satisfactory mark may be obtained on the basis on a student's
contributions toward the compulsory email Discussion Questions. However,
a student's contributions to in-class discussions and to other online discussion
will be taken into account in the overall class participation mark.
For assessment purposes, the key requirements for satisfactory
`class participation' in the compulsory email component are the following
An assessment will be made of each student's overall participation at the
end of the subject, from the logs of email during the subject. The Hypermail
program allows all mail sent to the list during a session to be sorted
by author, which is principally how I will identify each student's email
class participation at the end of session.
`Discussion starters' and replies All students will be assigned
at leat one Discussion Question during the session where they are to `start
the discussion' on a particular question by sending a comment of about
300 words (or less) to the list, and other Discussion Questions where they
are required to respond to another student's `discussion starter' by a
response of about 200 words (or less). Questions for discussion starters
and replies will be assigned in alphabetic order - there will not be any
choice. 'The Rules' for contributing to the discussions will be emailed
to the list.
Voluntary replies to questions Some questions will be allocated
free for all students to answer.
`Gopher' question Students may also be allocated `gopher' assignments,
where they are required to find at least one valuable resource on the web
on an allocated sub-topic which is not included in the subject reading
guide, and to post a brief (100 word) explanation giving its URL and explaining
its value, for the benefit of the whole class.
Avoidance of excessive postings All students are of course welcome
to participate more frequently than is suggested above, and will be given
credit for valuable participation just as in a classroom, subject to two
requirements (also similar to classroom requirements): (i) avoidance of
unnecessarily lengthy postings; and (ii) avoidance of posting to the list
too frequently, so as to dominate discussions. Concise high quality contributions
to the discussion are the only form of contribution that will constitute
good course participation. Since I expect that all students will read all
postings to the list, and these are regarded as compulsory reading for
course assessment purposes (including the Take-Home Assignment), it is
clearly necessary that there be some limit on the amount of e-mail which
any student may submit, otherwise everyone will have an unacceptable reading
load. As a rough rule-of-thumb, I suggest that students consider whether
what they are posting is necessary, if they have already made two postings
that week (other than compulsory contributions). Of course, a high quality
discussion should be continued even if postings are more frequent than
* Appropriate standards of conduct All students must observe appropriate
standards of conduct when participating in the class e-mail discussions.
Inappropriate behaviour on a class e-mail discussion list which is not
conducive to other students' learning constitutes poor class participation,
just as it does in a classroom. Adherence to University rules concerning
conduct in the use of electronic resources is a condition of using this
email list, and breaches may have serious consequences
It is therefore important that you always send mail to the list
from only one e-mail address, so that it is easy to identify as having
come from you. If this is impossible, include your name in the heading
of the message.
4.4. Other assessment information
Citation and other issues of academic standards
The essay and the take-home end-of-session assessment must be documented
according to normal academic standards, even though many (often most) of
the resources you are likely to cite are found on the world-wide-web. The
full URL must be given for all world-wide-web resources cited (including
the Reading Guides).
Relationship between objectives and assessment
The objective of requiring a reasonably comprehensive coverage of existing
law, and assessing problem-solving skills, is satisfied by the Take Home
problems, whereas the Research Essay allows students to specialise in a
topic in which they are particularly interested, and to research, analyse
and argue policy questions. Class Participation assessment allows for continuing
assessment of analytic skills and course coverage.
5. Other information
No prize is offered at present.
5.2. Relationship to other subjects
This subject is primarily on `the law as it applies to computers and networks',
rather than `computer applications to law', which is the emphasis of the
subject LAWS 3035 Developing Computer Applications to Law'. The
subjects are complementary. This course is not concerned (except incidentally)
with the information content of cyberspace, which is studied in a separate
course LAWS 3040 Internet Content.
5.3 Contact information
Professor of Law, UNSW
Room: 991F (Level 9, Library Tower)
Phone: 9385 2233 (UNSW)
9569 5310 (Home)
Fax: 9385 1175 (UNSW)
12 February 2003