Jul 1, 2016

Mowunmi Abdulkareem: ICT/IT-Legal Issues

Information and Communication Technology

Information and Communication technology law is the field of law that makes available the legal framework for collecting, storing, and disseminating electronic information in the in both local and international marketplace. A lawyer who specializes in this area of the law represents individuals and businesses from all different sectors. They structure and construct ICT/ IT-related transactions in a way that maximizes the client’s economic benefit and ensure regulatory compliance. Attention is always given to anticipating potential sources of dispute between the parties to a transaction, and crafting agreements that address these fears, and hence reducing the risk of litigation.

Sometimes disputes arise in this field of law and surely it is a lawyer specializing in these types of cases can prove a powerful advocate compared to a general legal practitioner. Such a lawyer is more effective at explaining technical concepts to the Court; and will likely have contacts within the industry that make finding consultants and expert witnesses less difficult. Clearly, information technology law is a forte practice. 

Software Licensing Issues
It is not in doubt that businesses often change or update their operating software in an effort to keep pace with technology. Switching software programs can lead to greater profitability, but it can also present any number of legal pitfalls for unsuspecting business managers. For example, a typical software licensing contract will contain provisions relating to performance warranties, installation and troubleshooting, user training, limited liability and indemnification of the vendor, infringement disclaimers, payment and finance terms, and more. Despite the complexity of these agreements, some software company representatives purposefully wait to provide a copy until shortly before the sale closes. 

Owners and managers who find themselves presented with a licensing agreement that they do not completely understand should resist pressure from the sales representative to sign the document with little or no time for meaningful review. Any “deadline” imposed by the vendor is likely nothing more than a high pressure sales tactic. There is simply too much at stake in the event the software fails to meet the needs of the business. The wisest course of action is to demand additional time, and hire an information technology lawyer to analyze and explain the contract and to point out terms that should be inserted or removed.

Data Privacy and Security
Much of the litigation that occurs in this field of law results from enterprises failing to keep customer and employee information secure. Now that it is primarily stored in digital format, sensitive information is prone to theft on a scale unimaginable in previous generations. Hackers and other cyber criminals routinely target financial institutions, e-commerce websites, and ordinary businesses, sometimes gaining access to thousands of customers’ data all at once. This can lead to various legal claims, from government enforcement actions to class action consumer lawsuits.

Companies that have any presence on the internet should act proactively to avoid these problems. Information technology lawyers are available to audit security systems and policies, and to recommend any necessary changes; and defend against civil litigation brought by private parties. Data privacy and security issues can arise at any time. To succeed in today’s business environment, it is critical to stay ahead of the curve and make safeguarding digital information a priority. 

Electronic Signature
Another growing cause of concern for many businesses involves electronic signatures. Like digital storage, electronic signature software has the potential to dramatically streamline operations for businesses willing to embrace new technology. At the same time, care must be taken to avoid compromising sensitive customer data and/or violating government regulations on the subject. It is pertinent to mention at this juncture that the Electronic Transactions Bill 2015 which is currently awaiting presidential assent represent giant strides in the facilitation of electronic transactions and recognition of electronic signatures in Nigeria. The Bill, if passed into law, could help to address certain issues affecting electronic transactions in Nigeria and (also to a large extent) prevent against some inequities that occur in several electronic transactions.

The Bill will also allow companies to replace traditional paper signature documents with electronic forms. By virtue of the said Bill (if passed to law) the Customers will be able to agree to contractual terms with the click of a computer mouse, speeding up the turnaround time for a transaction considerably as long the electronic signatures comply with rules relating to customer consent disclosures, record retention, and document reproduction capabilities. Again, engaging a lawyer to conduct a compliance review in this area is highly recommended.

ICT/IT Lawyers
If you conduct any type of business activity online and you care to know whether your current practices are exposing your business to potential liability; or you are about enter into any ICT/IT-related transaction, contact an information Communication technology lawyer today.



Ed's Note: This article was originally published here.