4 IT Legal Issues You Need to Pay Attention to Now

By School of Professional Advancement | Date Monday, Aug 13th, 2018


If you want to become a successful CIO or CTO, you need to pay attention to the news, trends and IT legal issues. As the legal system tries to keep up with rapid changes in technology, it can seem like rulings are made almost every day. These can have profound effects on your business: Clients and partners expect tight security to protect their personal data; they expect you to follow a lawful path to achieve commercial goals, and if you miss a new law or legal ruling you could hurt your company, its brand, and the people you do business with.

Here are four IT legal issues you need to pay attention to right now:

Net Neutrality

The issue of net neutrality is a contentious one. Net neutrality is the notion that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all online data equally; for example, if Comcast and a large news publication were owned by the same parent company, that company could use Comcast to block or disrupt Internet service to the publication’s competitors—net neutrality prevents this. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality late last year. So far, ISPs maintain they will not “throttle” customers’ Internet service (increase or decrease bandwidth for reasons like pricing), but they have the ability to send shockwaves through the IT industry. If you are the IT executive at a small- or medium-sized company, provide cloud computing services, or deal in media streaming, you could be affected.

A legal showdown is also brewing at the state level. The State of California has two net neutrality bills on the table, and both bills need to pass or neither will be enacted into law. The fight is taking place nationwide. To date, governors in six states have signed executive orders and three states have enacted net neutrality legislation.

Data Protection

People need their personal information and online data to be safe and secure. If you work with the personal information of partners, clients or stakeholders, you need to cover your bases and confirm the structural soundness of your network, patch it as needed, prevent cybersecurity breaches, and be transparent with the people whose data you hole. Major corporations like Facebook and Google recently updated their data sharing policies to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a data protection regulation for Europe. When you consider that here in the U.S. Facebook is under fire for leaking user data to consulting firm Data Analytica during the 2016 Presidential election, you realize the gravity of the situation and the potential extent of legal repercussions. On even a larger scale, the Equifax breach of 2017 exposed the data of more than 143 million people. All of these cybersecurity fails send negative ripple effects through businesses, the economy and the entire country.

IP Theft

Have you ever heard of “patent trolling?” It is when a massive tech company, like Apple for example, buys up patents to better vie with its market competitors instead of through the creation of its own product or service. In April 2018, Apple was on the losing end of a legal battle concerning patent trolling and was ordered to pay VirnetX Holding Corp. a settlement of more than $500 million for infringing on patents related to secure communications. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has been criticized for creating a patent environment that fails to protect against trolls, while causing large settlements to clog the court system.

Patent trolling is just the tip of the IP theft iceberg. It can include patent trolling, trademark infringement, software pirating and counterfeit production. And it is happening on a global scale. China accounts for 87% of counterfeit goods seized coming into the U.S. Overall, the cost to the U.S. economy is estimated to be as high as $600 billion. The U.S. has stepped up its IP protections since the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property released its first annual report in 2013 but there are still short-term and long-term solutions that need to be taken.

Non-compete Laws

People do not stay in the same job for as long they once did. With frequent transitions, non-compete clauses have become a legal challenge. Non-competes are agreements you sign with employers that prohibit you from going to a rival company when you leave. The tech industry has been particularly vocal in opposition to non-competes, charging that the clauses stifle innovation and hinder startup activity. Conversely, proponents say non-competes protect their business interests and trade secrets.

A Brookings Institute Hamilton Project report earlier this year suggests reform. Ideas include the standardization of how employers obtain signatures from employees so they are not ambushed by contracts and can seek legal counsel if necessary; state regulation over enforceability since non-competes do not achieve their impact via lawsuits; and empowerment for state attorneys general to sanction firms if they abuse or manipulate non-compete practices.

Tulane University’s online Master of Professional Studies in IT Management program is designed to give you a critical perspective on business and IT. Our courses will teach you how to apply real-world solutions to IT legal issues and consider their implications on strategy, risk, and goal achievement. Learn more about Tulane’s MSP in IT Management program today.