I. INTRODUCTION

"Over the last 50 years, the people of the developed world have begun to cross into a landscape unlike any which humanity has experienced before. It is a region without physical shape or form. It exists, like a standing wave, in the vast web of our electronic communication systems. It consists of electron states, microwaves, magnetic fields, light pulses and thought itself."...

"It is familiar to most people as the "place" in which a long-distance telephone conversation takes place. But it is also the repository for all digital or electronically transferred information, and, as such, it is the venue for most of what is now commerce, industry, and broad-scale human interaction. William Gibson called this Platonic realm "Cyberspace," a name which has some currency among its present inhabitants."...

"Whatever it is eventually called, it is the homeland of the information Age, the place where the future is destined to dwell."[1]

"Computer information systems," as the term is used in this paper, refers to a variety of computer services that, together, make up "Cyberspace." Cyberspace is the realm of digital data. Its shores and rivers are the computer memories and telephone networks that connect computers all over the world. Cyberspace is a hidden universe behind the automatic teller machines, telephones, and WESTLAW terminals which many of us take for granted. It is also a way for computer users all over the world to interact with each other instantaneously. At ever increasing rates, people are beginning to see the advantages of this new electronic medium and incorporate travels into Cyberspace as a regular part of their lives.[2] However, the growth of electronic communication and data manipulation has not been matched by an equal growth in understanding on the part of legislatures, the judiciary, or the bar.

This paper examines the current regulatory structure in the United States governing a few of the "Empires of Cyberspace," such as bulletin board systems, electronic databases, file servers, networks and the like. Different legal analogies that may apply will be illustrated, and some of their strengths, weaknesses and alternatives will be analyzed. We will begin by looking at different types of computer information systems, and then the major legal issues surrounding computer information systems will be surveyed in brief.[3] Next, the different legal analogies which could be applied to computer information systems will be examined. These different analogies provide an understanding of how courts have seen various communication technologies, and how more traditional technologies are similar to computer information systems. Liability for improper activities - both defining what is improper and who can be held responsible - has been determined by the analogy the courts decide to apply. Finally, an evaluation will be made of where the law affecting computer information systems now stands, and how it should be developed.

Copyright 1994 - 1995 by P-Law, Inc., and Kenneth M. Perry, Esq. All rights reserved. Reproduction is permitted so long as no charge is made for copies, no copies are placed on any electronic online service or database for which there is a fee other than a flat access charge, there is no alteration and this copyright notice is included.

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