CS 302 Professional Issues

Chapter 8 - Legal Considerations

§8.0 Basic Arrangements §8.1 Background Issues

Previous Reading: Ethical Considerations

§8.0 Basic Arrangements

In any developed scheme of law, there come to be two broad divisions

Both divisions work in terms of broad principle, with the detailed application being worked out at the time of application; thus we have

These two patterns (civil and criminal, statute and case law) apply generally across the world, although the manner in which they are applied - and the terms used - vary from country to country.

Note also that there can be various levels of law; for example, in Scotland we necessarily operate under the Scottish judicial system, but the laws which come to be enforced there - or, to be more precise, the penalties for failing to observe those laws which are applied there - derive from a hierarchy of law-giving systems, at Holyrood, at Westminster and at Brussels / Strasbourg.

Already in previous chapters we have referred to many issues dictated by statute

But there are many other relevant areas in which the law will impinge on computer scientists

And how about

We will start with the latter, and then work our way back up the list. But first let us look at how a new set of laws can come into being.

§8.1 Background Issues

The first and fundamental question has to be - why should a new tool or a new technique require a new law? But that quickly leads on to more detailed questions:

The usual pattern in law making is very definitely one of making haste slowly - and that pattern is normally a very wise one! Of course what we are talking about here is really a reflection of change in the practices of society: the system can move pretty quickly when it has to, for example to attempt to forestall a terrorist threat, or even to implement the electoral promises of an incoming government.

The second major question then follows from trying to identify the new issues that have emerged - what previously existing legal background is there that is of relevance?

For example, think of the legal problems associated with the data handling area: perception of truthfulness and of lack of bias

How can and should existing patterns be adopted?

Against this background, two specific sets of computer-related acts have emerged in the UK (with a similar pattern applying for many other countries)

It is this last area, of computer misuse, which is the one we first consider.

© Paul Goldfinch 2008 Next Chapter Return to CS 302 Menu