The Objectives of Establishing
The Information Network Law Association
The New Era of Information Network Society
The digitization of information and the networking of computers, accompanied by the development of information technology, continue to have a significant impact on all aspects of society. This impact is not limited to technical aspects but extends to all aspects of social life, including political, economic, and legal issues. Various transactions and contracts, including securities trading, investments, finance, ordering, entertainment, and welfare services, are conducted through computer networks, and digital content has become a major commodity. Labor, including SOHO (Small Office and Home Office) and telecommuting, is also carried out using this network environment. In addition, not only government activities such as government procurement and the provision of administrative services via the Internet, but also judicial activities are increasingly utilizing network technology. In response to these changes, existing social organizations are undergoing significant transformations.
The Necessity of Information Law (Cyber Law)
This change also affects the law. For example, in the field of property law, existing laws have been built on the legal theory and system centered around “property” as tangible objects. Ownership, possession, and security interests are such examples, and contracts are also made through paper documents. Evidence and litigation management have also been centered around written documents. In the field of criminal law, legal theory and systems have mainly been built around physically existing objects such as property and human bodies, primarily with domestic crimes in mind.
However, in the newly emerging information network environment, “information,” which is replicable and has a weak connection with tangible media, becomes the central “legal interest.” Crime occurs in a networked space beyond national borders. In the field of intellectual property law, business method patents are executed on the network without being fixed to any tangible media, and digital content is starting to circulate on the Internet.
As can be seen from these facts, the fundamental principles that underlie existing legal theories are being shaken. It is necessary to promptly conduct legal research, develop legal system, and improve judicial operations that can appropriately address new events that occur in the information network environment, taking into account their characteristics, while protecting basic human rights that humanity has established through years of effort, in light of this significant shift from “property as tangible objects to property as information”.
“Freedom of Expression” in the Information Network Society
The development of information technology has provided an environment for many people to realize their own expression, which is a welcome development as it means that the “freedom of expression,” which was previously monopolized by existing media such as publishing, newspapers, television, and government bulletins, has now been taken back by individual citizens. While at the same time, it brings about a situation where legal issues related to individual expression activities have become more prevalent. As the number of users involved in information networks continues to increase, disputes over expression activities may also increase. Nevertheless, to protect the most important basic values for humanity, i.e., freedom of thought and conscience, it is not appropriate to easily and thoughtlessly impose legal regulations. Some disputes related to expression activities should be resolved within society, not by regulations, and such disputes contain parts where the law should not intervene. The setting of the boundary between what should be done and what should not be done by law must be made with a deep insights and understanding of the basic structure of the information network and its cultural background.
In information network environments, all transactions can be executed by computer programs. Therefore, it has become possible that the parties to such transactions outnumber living human beings, as seen in contracts by software agents and automatic settlements by computers. The current legal system does not assume such phenomena of transactions automatically made by computer programs, and legal analyses and legislation to address such situation is still insufficient.
Cyber Terrorism and Cyber War
In the field of criminal law, it is now possible for one perpetrator to create countless bots using cracking techniques such as computer viruses and Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS Attacks) to carry out acts of terrorism in cyberspace (cyber-terrorism). The same techniques can also be used for military activities in cyberspace. The US government has already identified such situations as “cyber warfare” and regards them as challenges to national security and defense.
Necessity for Legal System that Addresses Ongoing Social Change
Furthermore, as seen in electronic shopping malls, small-scale electronic commerce, online auctions, and electronic publishing on the network, the structure of players engaged in transactions is shifting from the traditional “manufacturer – distributor – seller – customer” model to what Alvin Toffler calls “prosumers”. This not only means that existing industries are evolving to adapt to electronic transactions, but also means that labor is changing and that industries that are no longer socially useful will disappear. One of our urgent task is to conduct legal research and support developing legal system and judicial system which keep pace with these ongoing social changes.
Global Implications of the Network System
The use of digital information is undermining traditional notions of sovereignty based on geographical boundaries. This gives rise to a new form of borderless sovereignty, which poses unique legal challenges such as conflict of laws and cross-border enforcement. Furthermore, while the digital network has the potential to enhance democracy, it also poses a threat of widespread surveillance and control. Despite the challenges, it is imperative that we confront these possibilities and broaden our horizons of legal thoughts.
The Importance of Addressing the Uniqueness of Information Network Society
Considering the changes in society as described above, it is a duty for legal scholars and lawyers to study and propose balanced and rational responses to information technology, based on an accurate understanding of its characteristics. Moreover, for those who work in the business world related to information networks, it is clear that without such legal considerations, it is not only difficult to achieve the expected return on investment but even survival may be at risk.
Thus, it is urgently necessary for us to conduct legal research, develop legal system, and improve judicial operations that can respond to this situation, though we understand it is a difficult challenge, as such legal studies and legal practices involves various fields of study and business.
Based on this recognition, we have organized small research groups consisting of experts in various fields, such as the Cyber Law Study Group, Cyber Law Research Group, and Legal Informatics Research Group, and have been seriously addressed these issues and published our research results for the benefit of society. Such research activities, led by experts, should continue in the future.
Necessity of Interdisciplinary Research
Modern society needs to address various legal issues from larger aspects. It is necessary to establish a platform which engages not only lawyers but also non-lawyers in order to create good feedbacks, so that true essence of phenomena can be shared broadly. It is important for non-lawyers to truly face and understand issues from both the legal and information technology aspects, and to be provided with information on the whereabouts of experts from whom they can obtain the necessary specialized knowledge. At the same time, for legal experts, it is necessary to broaden their horizons by sharing thoughts with non-experts on the above-mentioned changes.
The present-day society, however, requires a larger framework to discuss the issues where both experts and layperson or specialists from realms other than law, can join. We need to develop a platform to exchange opinions utilizing the network, and in so doing, share real understanding of the upcoming issues. We need to be able to locate experts who have such understanding in their own fields, be that law or technology. At the same time, it is necessary for legal experts to broaden their horizons by sharing thoughts with non-experts to serve society with wisdom supported by public interests.
Foundation of Information Network Law Association
With an awareness of these issues, we have made the decision to establish the Information Network Law Association. As we acknowledge the valuable role of traditional academic associations, we are committed to utilizing them for our own organization, even if they may eventually become obsolete in the future. At this point, we believe that traditional academic associations remain the optimal means of attracting individuals with diverse areas of expertise, allowing us to better serve and contribute to our society.
We hereby declare the foundation of the Information Network Law Association, and invite like-minded persons.