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JILT 1997 (2) - Nicola Clare

Computers, The Internet and Electronic Publishing

The Impact on Scots Law

Saturday 8 March 1997
Edinburgh University

Reviewed by
Nicola Clare
University of Strathclyde

This is a Conference Report published on 30 June 1997.

Citation: Clare N, 'Scots Law and The Internet', Conference Report, 1997 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>


Murphy's Law #1: Whenever you are attending a conference on a Saturday - the Scottish weather decides to be agreeable. After a week of rain this particular Saturday was the picture of sunshine. Murphy’s Law #2: Even when you arrange to stay with friends the night before and they tell you where exactly you have to get off the bus the next morning - you end up going one stop too far and then spend ages walking round in circles trying to find the right building (and I wasn't the only one!)

Well at least I wasn't the last to arrive. John Sturrock of the Faculty of Advocates welcomed us all due to the late arrival of the Chairman for the day, The Right Hon The Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, the Lord President of the Court of Session.

The conference was split into five topics with an interesting list of speakers. Chris Reed was first up to the front of the floor to give us an 'Overview of the Issues' ranging from the growth in Electronic Commerce being carried out over the Internet to the first of many mentions of the day of the Shetland Times Hyperlinks Case - the first Scottish Internet Case to make headlines over the world. (The full court hearing is scheduled for 16 October 1997 which will be nearly a year after the interim interdict made the headlines).

How to Protect your Web Site

Charlotte Waelde and Professor Hector MacQueen (both from the home side of the University of Edinburgh) had the job of covering between them Trademarks and Domain Names, Copyright on the Web (Yes that got the second mention for the Shetland Times) and the Database Directive and the Internet. Professor MacQueen wrestling successfully with a live Internet connection at a conference (something always greeted with trepidation from both sides of the podium - I know I've been there and settled for the powerpoint presentation thank you very much). showed us the Shetland Times Web site and the Shetland News site. This was really helpful in highlighting the technical nature of the Hyperlinks Case.

Electronic Publishing and Protecting Yourself from Liability

After break for coffee, Alistair Bonnington then proceeded to enlighten us to the woes of the broadcasting duty solicitor in the age of 24 hour news. (Fan of current affairs news programmes that I am, I need my sleep). This was an excellent presentation on the Cross Border Issues that arise where one jurisdiction's (e.g. Scotland) particular laws (e.g. contempt of court) are so strict that absolutely no details of a crime that are prejudicial to the potential accused's fair trial are allowed to be publicly published before the trial. The Dunblane Tragedy of the year before attracted so much media attention the world within two hours of it happening yet it was some time later before police would confirmed that Thomas Hamilton had killed himself. In such an electronic environment can we continue to enforce our domestic law. Lilian Edwards took the floor to present the problems of Defamation on the Internet in light of the Defamation Act of 1996.

Doing Business on the Internet

To take us up to lunch, Chris Reed returned to the conference platform to tell us how to do business on the Internet and get paid for it.

Contracts in the Electronic Age

After a lunch break spent networking (3 items in this issue of JILT can be traced back to this conference) and catching up on who's training where in terms of my contempories, trying (and failing miseably) not to eat too much of the wonderful buffet and trying to catch up with as many JILT contributors (past and future!) as well as catching some of the sunshine it was back in to the conference room to hear and see Professor Ian Lloyd (University of Strathclyde) taking the low-tech approach to presenting with the use of overheads and felt pens in elucidating the problems of the formal validity of digital signatures in relation to Electronic Contracts.

Professor MacQueen followed this by discussing Shrink Wrap Contracts and other aspects of software contract terms focussing on another Scottish technology case, Beta v. Adobe [1996 SLT 604) and the latin maxim jus quaesitum tertio.

In Practice in the Information Age

The final session of the day after another coffee break was given over to two practising QC's. Paul Cullen, the (now former) Solicitor General for Scotland asking the question Computers and Crime: Does Scots Law meet the challenge? and Stuart Gale QC expounded the Impact of Modern Information Technology Upon Civil Practice and Procedure and Evidence in Scots Law.

All in all this was an enjoyable conference that was also useful. It will be interesting to see the proceedings in book form when they appear.

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