Information Technology and the Law

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Orla Lynskey and Dr Valerie Verdoodt


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BSc in Business Mathematics and Statistics, BSc in Statistics with Finance and LLB in Laws. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.


This course does not require an in-depth understanding of contemporary computer technology – we are primarily interested in the implications of the use of information technology, and the intended and unintended consequences of regulating that use. 

Course content

This survey course enables students to assess critically a selection of fundamental legal issues in the field of Information Technology (IT) Law. It begins by introducing students to key debates in IT and internet governance: do we need distinct legal rules to regulate IT? Who does, and should, control the Internet? Is and should the Internet be a ‘neutral’ network? Once students are equipped with this knowledge of Internet governance and the challenges this poses for the law, we consider how the law has responded to the challenges of IT and the extent to which legal issues have shaped the development of information society policy. This will be done through a detailed examination of topics such as online data protection, computer misuse and hacking and freedom of expression.

The focus will initially be on English law, although the global nature of IT law means that there are strong EU and US legal influences upon the English system. Therefore, comparative aspects will be introduced in places, and readings will include materials drawn from, amongst others, US law journals.

This course does not require an in-depth understanding of contemporary information technology – we are primarily interested in the legal implications of the use of IT, and the intended and unintended consequences of regulating that use.

Aims and Objectives: At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Critically evaluate ongoing developments in law relating to IT;
  • Display an understanding of how these developments relate to one another;
  • Examine areas of doctrinal and political debate surrounding rules and theories;
  • Evaluate those rules and theories in terms of internal coherence and practical outcomes;
  • Draw on the analysis and evaluation contained in primary and secondary sources.

Indicative Content: For a more detailed outline of the syllabus visit the course’s Moodle page.

Part I: Internet Governance

  • An Introduction to IT Law
  • Digitisation and the Information Society
  • Regulating the Digital Environment
  • Net Neutrality

Part II: Data Protection and ePrivacy

  • Introduction to Data Protection
  • The Application of the Data Protection Rules Online 
  • AdTech, Profiling and ePrivacy
  • State Surveillance and Communications Interception

Part III - Online Freedoms

  • Cyber Speech and Free Expression online
  • Cyber-defamation
  • Filtering, Ranking and Digital Speech Management

Part IV – Digital Culture and Intellectual Property Rights

  • Copyright in the Digital Environment
  • Digital Creatives and Copyright Law
  • Trade Marks and Domain Names

Part V – Computer Crime

  • Computer Misuse
  • Criminal Speech in the Information Society
  • Policing for the Future: Legal Challenges

Part VI – Current Issues in the Digital Economy

  • The Emergent Legal Issues of the Sharing Economy
  • Robotics, Risk and Ethics
  • Regulating Decentralised Networks: Blockchain and Beyond

The above is the provisional 2019/20 programme. Due to the fast changing nature of this subject changes may occur to the syllabus at any time.


20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Indicative reading

Murray: Information Technology Law: Law and Society 4th ed (Oxford: OUP, 2019)  (Recommended for purchase).

Lloyd: Information Technology Law 8th ed (Oxford: OUP, 2017).

Lessig: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace ver.2.0 (New York: Basic Books,2006).

Suggested Initial Reading:

Reed: Computer Law 7th ed., Introduction.

Murray: Information Technology Law: Law and Society 3rd ed, Ch.1.


Take home exam (60%) in the ST.
Continuous assessment (40%) in the MT and LT.

Students will be asked to complete a portfolio of short reports in the style of blog entries or commentaries throughout the year. The portfolio will consist of three 1000 word short reports, two of which will be submitted in Michaelmas Term and one in Lent Term. The best two entries into the portfolio will be recorded (the third entry will be discarded) and will make up 40% of the overall mark. The remaining 60% of the overall mark will consist of a single take-home exam question in the Summer Term which students will be required to answer in 8 hours. This exam question will take the form of an extended practical case study. Students will be provided with specific guidance on how to approach both the portfolio pieces and the take home examination before completion of this work.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2018/19: 55

Average class size 2018/19: 14

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills