As a gross generalization, the legal system may be thought of as having two major forms: criminal law and civil or tort law. Criminal law provides for prosecution of certain offenses against society and its members; we’ll mention some issues of criminal law in the next chapter. Civil law generally provides for settling disputes in commerce and personal life among various parties. Thus, if you are running a business and someone breaks a contract or calls you nasty names, you may have recourse under tort law. You exercise that option through lawsuits, by suing the parties that caused you harm.
In the following sections, we’ll mention several areas where lawsuits might and have occurred in relation to web and Internet commerce. These are areas where new ground is being broken every day by imaginative and aggressive attorneys. As tort law depends on precedence as a guide, we can only remind you again to have a good relationship with an informed lawyer or two of your own lest you be taken by surprise by some newly developed precedent!
Computers and networks give us great opportunities for communicating with the world. In a matter of moments, our words can be speeding around the world destined for a large audience or for someone we have never met in person. Not only is this ability liberating and empowering, it can be very entertaining. Mailing lists, “chat rooms,” MUDs, newsgroups, and web pages all provide us with news and entertainment.
Unfortunately, this ...