Lucie Audibert, of Taylor Wessing, reviews a book that demonstrates that tech law is not a niche
If anyone ever tells you “What’s Technology Law? Sounds like a pretty niche area…” show them this book and prove them wrong. With 67 chapters, covering topics from software licensing through cloud computing to autonomous vehicles or the spirit-heater artificial intelligence, they’re in for a mind blow. Because yes, technology is all around us, and lawyers, whether they realise it or not, have to deal with it in myriad ways, shapes or forms.
As the foreword acknowledges, “the law that underpins all of these areas is diverse”, and to be a well-rounded technology lawyer, one needs a good understanding of a range of subjects, from basic contract law to more complex stuff like telecommunications law.
So this book is what it says it is — an introduction. Do not expect to come out of it as an expert in Technology Law, nor even as an expert in any of the more specific topics covered. But for young lawyers who have never taken a course on it (and no, Intellectual Property is not all there is to Technology Law), this book is an excellent collection of pointers to the countless issues raised by old and new technologies and to which areas of law to turn when faced with them.
Each chapter starts with a crisp introduction to the technology or concept covered (such as. what’s 5G? Or, what’s the deal with Net Neutrality?). Some useful market insights or examples of where these technologies come up in everyday practice then reassure you that you’re not wasting your time reading the rest. The bulk of the chapters then cover a bunch of issues to look out for when dealing with these technologies and point to relevant sources of law or policy to manage them in the most lawyerly way possible.
As the law in these areas is often non-existent or constantly unsettled, this book provides coverage beyond pure black letter law. It fills the gaps with some discussion of softer policies, recommendations or opinions from institutions like BEREC in the field of telecommunications, or the ECB on blockchain. This is welcome as a useful way to get a feel of where the law is likely to head and is a genuinely interesting read.
While the book covers an impressive range of topics, some important ones might be missing. For example, the management of online content and speech, with all its cross- border human, social and political implications, does not appear anywhere (aside from a short paragraph on defamation on social media). The recent and growing spread of online fake news and hate speech would have warranted a discussion of the legal position (however messy and unsettled it is).
Overall, this book works as a great springboard for further research when one does not know where to look. Not for academic research – the lack of academic references is striking for a fresh-out-of-law-school newbie like me – but for “real world” practising lawyers it’s everything you need. A welcome addition to any modern lawyer’s bookshelf.