Internet and the Law

Information, knowledge and culture are vital for the human freedom and human development. The greatest value of internet – the access to information and knowledge has turned into the biggest challenge for the contemporary law. Many people mistakenly believe that internet is an essentially free zone, terra nullius , but the truth is that the significant part of the information recourses and the content belongs to and is controlled by companies, governments, organizations or is a property of individuals , protected by copyrights and other related rights.

The technological revolution grants exclusive rival advantages to the business in several key areas. In particular, factors

  • Time
  • Space
  • Substance
  • Customizing products/services according to the individual needs of the client
  • Elimination of the intermediaries through direct contact with the customers
  • Replacement of costly human recourses by technological solutions

And while the Internet and technologies continue upward trend and companies increasingly invest considerable resources in e-commerce and Internet-based solutions, traditional law faces serious difficulties in interpreting virtual activity in adequate laws. Currently national legislations respond to these challenges differently. There are too many discrepancies in the boundary line – Allowed / Disallowed in determining the legality of the online activity of entrepreneurs and consumers.

For example, for the distribution of pornographic materials on Internet Bulgarian law provides for imprisonment and fines. In other countries, like U.S.A. / in certain states/ this activity is allowed within the restrictions related to the pedophilia and other special cases. On the other hand, U.S.A. imposes severe penalties for hacking and other activities, associated with the illegal penetration in the computer systems or breaking the copyrights in Internet. The extreme severity of these laws in the U.S. (The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Digital Millennium Act) and the recent tragic death of web activist Aaron Swartz (co-founder of social networking site Reddit and one of the creators of RSS) will be the subject of serious discussion in the U.S. Congress.

Serious differences in the legal systems of individual countries may be found in many other areas related to the Internet. In terms of the Tax Law exists different approach regarding the tax event and the taxpayer. Those questions are extremely important for the taxation of the income of the transactions with virtual goods and services. The game industry and its constantly growing incomes generated from users from every corner of the planet, poses very serious challenges in front of the tax authority of the different countries and companies which are supposed to declare and account those incomes.

Another basic question for the internet development is the personal data protection. This topic is extremely sensitive for the online users in the whole world. How and from whom are stored our personal data, which we use for registration when using online services and content, whether and how it is submitted to third parts, how our data are protected etc., are only a part of the questions on which the law must give clear answer and provide legal mechanism for the protection and the inviolability of our data.

Some of the main Bulgarian laws regulating fundamental rights and duties of the providers and Internet users are: Law for protection of the personal data, Law of the protection of the consumers, Law on the electronic commerce, Law on the copyrights and related rights, Law for electronic communication, Law for the electronic document and electronic signature. The violations on the Internet, for which one is liable to prosecution, are stipulated in Chapter 9 “a” of the Penal Code as well as in separate provisions for other crimes, committed in Internet.