E-Commerce: An Introduction
years ago, the sum total of knowledge about e-commerce could be
contained in one bucket of bits. Two years from now, one might float
on an ocean of digital signature regulation alone. Almost every
area of substantive law has been touched by an "e-issue"
and it is all a cyber-attorney can do to keep his or her head above
broadest definition of e-commerce is "the conduct of transactions
by electronic means." In the interest of water safety, this
series will sail in a smaller pond. We will focus specifically on
purchases of goods and services from online stores on the Web. Because
this is an introductory course with a limited schedule, we will
focus our study around the needs of a fictional e-enterprise, ComeStudyAbroad.com,
which has no bricks-and-mortar counterpart, deals only in electronic
information, and does not engage in sales of physical goods. (website)
the most significant characteristic of the Internet is its fluid
and ephemeral character. Web pages disappear in the blink of an
electronic eyelash. Users pass through cyberspace at speeds formerly
restricted to comic book Superheroes. Identity is largely self-selected.
Rights are speculative, remedies ethereal. The technology is changing
daily, creating a continuous stream of new causes of action. The
law comes striding slowly, ponderously through the eddy, leaving
footfalls in the mud that are sometimes deep enough to cause diversion
in the flow, but are more often irrelevant to the traffic that continues
swimming along the surface.
legislative beavers and social engineers have lost their fear of
the water and have begun busily constructing their dams and bridges.
In unprecedented fashion, they are reaching across the waters to
like-minded enthusiasts on the other side, seeking a uniformity
of design that will result in stronger spans (website)
(Canada). One wonders how much longer the
stream will flow with full force and abandon.
series will look primarily at those steps in the e-commerce venture
that are unique to the online experience itself such as the terms
of hosting and website development agreements, common advertising
arrangements, digital signatures, encryption technology, consumer
privacy, and the emerging field of online dispute resolution. It
is designed primarily for use by practicing attorneys who are new
to e-commerce. Our time is unfortunately too limited to cover many
important e-commerce developments. For example, the first thing
a startup might do is set up its corporate structure, establish
ownership shares, line up a management team, hunt for seed or paid-in
capital, rent an office, and hire staff. This type of information
is not covered in our program nor are industry-specific developments
such as with online securities trading (website)(Bell).
with the Outline link to read the text materials. You may prefer
to listen to them in their audiotaped equivalents. Visit the homepage
of our mythical enterprise, ComeStudyAbroad.com. There are frequent
links to more detailed background papers on many topics which are
optional reading. The Library is a useful page of reference links.
The most lively part of the program is the Discussions forum where
one may raise questions about the content and communicate with instructors
and other participants. These exchanges have often proved one of
the most effective ways to absorb knowledge about our topic. Only
the Outline text (or its equivalent audiotape) is required reading
for CLE credit.
this stage of Internet development, it is often the case that the
information presented today is obsolete by tomorrow. This lecture
is only a glimpse of todays e-commerce legal issues. The flow
of information continues to change as new issues driven by new technology
come to the surface. We hope that this series will help the practitioner
steer around some of the larger shoals in the stream of e-commerce.
Please jump in now--the water is only chilly at first.
30 April 2001
- United Kingdom Joint Statement on Global Electronic Commerce and
E-Government, available at <http://www.e-com.ic.gc.ca/english/inter/72d4.html>.
Blake Bell, ed., available at <http://www.cybersecuritieslaw.com/>.