Professor Andrew Murray of the London School of Economics has achieved the admirable feat of writing a textbook that one would be mistaken for thinking wasn't one if given it without a cover. Murray's second edition of Information Technology Law is an essential, yet delightful collection of the legal issues surrounding the Internet. What is most impressive about Professor Murray’s book is the manner in which he writes about cyber-law. His style can be defined as a great story teller or casually relative. Consider the news over the last couple of years about Sally Bercow’s defamatory tweet or Paul Chambers tweeting a faux bomb threat to Liverpool's airport and the two chapters on cyber-speech and defamation are particularly apropos for understanding the interlinking and challenges that the Internet presents.
His style is clear and direct, and Murray weaves seamlessly in and out of the third and first person narrative making the reader forget at times that he or she is reading what will no doubt be on many a university academics desk. Murray's narrative starts by looking at the competing theories of regulating cyberspace, recounting cyber-libertarians claims that the web is a space that cannot be regulated, discussing the Johnson/Post debate about the jurisdictional challenges of the Internet before moving through Lawrence Lessig's compelling argument that code is a regulator (in its role making up part of the Internet's architecture), before discussing his own more advanced theory of network communitarianism in cyberspace. Although network communitarianism has not made its way into the mainstream in the US, Murray explains his theory in an understandable manner which often evades academic textbooks. Most of his book is looked at from this angle…that the Internet is a regulated space, and effective regulation comes from understanding how people, within the network, operate, rather than looking at the Internet as a through popular yet vague phrases like “tool for democracy” or “a tool for communication”. And considering his academic credentials at the London School of Economics - the "regulation" Mecca of the United Kingdom, when it comes to the law- the reader gets a good sense of the broad strokes that regulate cyberspace.
It is one of the cyberlaw's most exciting features - that it is a rapidly changing and developing field. And although it is no fault of Murray’s own, some parts of this book actually feel dated. No more is this evident in the section about online pornography. This has been the hot topic of the summer 2013 thanks to British PM David Cameron's insistence that search engines and ISPs tackle the problem of easy access to pornography in cyberspace . Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s PRISM program don’t even make the cut! (To be fair – this is probably because of the gap in time between when Murray submitted the manuscript to the editors and the event, but serves as a reminder as to how quickly things can happen on the web.
Those that come to Murray's book from a business background will enjoy how easy it is to read and understand. Complex directives and regulation in the field of e-commerce are explained with relative ease, and a playful section on social media and the law is going to prove handy for marketing managers and social media gurus within a commercial context. This book will not look out of place in various types of businesses, let alone law libraries. His chapter on privacy, in the context of data protection, will enlighten those who collect personal data in the course of a business. In the same manner, those entrepreneurs thinking of starting up in cyberspace, or moving toward the Internet as a source of income, will be grateful for the chapters on copyright, software, domain names and trademarks, and electronic payment and processing payments. With the UK market it now heavily reliant on protecting Intellectual Property, it is handy that Murray has provided information on Intellectual Property rights in the digital environment, including "apps".
Hopefully, the textbook will be made available in e-book and for the Kindle. Professor Murray informs me that it was proofed to make it available in electronic format, so hopefully the OUP will make it available for download shortly. Professor Murray and the Oxford University Press have also promised to release online updates to bring the content within the book up-to-date with the current developments. A quick look of the update page looks promising – including links to his blog, flashcards, audio updates, and audio lectures.
Murray’s textbook will find its place in students rucksacks up and down the country as “essential reading”, but the greatest impact of this book is that your business competitor will likely be buying a copy too. Professor Murray’s textbook is available on Amazon for £37.99
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