Computers, the internet and mobile cellular devices have changed society. Americans can now order products or services, pay their bills and organize their lives from the comfort of their homes. However, the information age has also given rise to a number of thorny legal issues. Completing financial transactions online provides opportunities to those with malicious intentions. Furthermore, technology that makes it easy for entrepreneurs to launch new commercial ventures also allows them to infringe on the intellectual property rights of others. Attorneys who practice technology law deal with such matters as protecting copyrights, trademarks and patents, safeguarding consumers from online fraud and assessing how First Amendment protections apply to online communications.
The virtual world has become a haven for all manner of scammers and identity thieves. Therefore, companies engaged in e-commerce are expected to take all reasonable steps to safeguard confidential information and protect their customers. These steps may include ensuring that credit card and Social Security numbers are encrypted when orders are processed.
However, scammers may seek to circumvent these protections by tricking consumers into downloading malicious software that tracks their internet activity and can even log their keystrokes to learn passwords. The federal agency tasked with investigating online fraud and stopping unfair or deceptive business practices is the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Individuals and businesses can also be fooled into installing ransomware that locks their computers and denies them access to their data. Identifying the criminals behind such schemes has become even more difficult for law enforcement in recent years due to the introduction of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that were developed to provide anonymity. Lawyers knowledgeable in technology law can help victims in such a pursuit.
Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but the argument over how this protection should apply to social media posts and other forms of internet communication has often been contentious. Online stalking, bullying and harassment have become alarmingly common. This is a developing area of technology law, and some of America’s largest companies are on the front lines. The courts have been extremely reluctant in the past to place limits on the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court ruled in June 2017 that speech is protected even when it demeans or offends members of a race, religion or ethnic group.
The law protects intellectual property in several ways. Copyrights are used to safeguard the rights of authors, composers and photographers; trademarks are used to protect logos and other images that define brands; patents apply to inventions and formulas; and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which has been adopted in the majority of states, deals with proprietary business methods, techniques and processes. The internet has made it easy to use protected intellectual property without authorization, but it also provides attorneys who are experienced in this area with electronic evidence that can be used to track down infringers and hold them accountable.
Algorithms and computer programs are often crucial business assets, and keeping them secret has become a major legal priority for companies in recent years. Attorneys often achieve this goal by drafting detailed nondisclosure agreements and implementing comprehensive cybersecurity measures. Legal counsel may also suggest that businesses restrict access to sensitive information and provide thorough training to employees who have access to it.