What is Law and Informatics?
The subject legal informatics deals with the interaction between the law and information technology (IT). In the modern information society, the forming of legal rules and their application is increasingly taking place in the digital environment, such as the Internet. This in turn affects, for example, legal formation due to the fact that legal decision-making now takes place at an earlier stage than it otherwise would have. Already with the development of document handling systems within public authorities and electronic commerce, it is important to take a stance on – and take programming steps - for example at what point a document shall be considered to have arrived at a public authority or when a binding offer shall be seen as having reached a party to a contract. In the practical legal sphere, the lawyer must interpret and apply not only laws and other decisions that are in no way adapted to the digital information environment, but also entirely new legislation that has been drafted solely for the purpose of regulating situations such as, for example, the automatic treatment of personal information.
Changing prerequisites for legislative development
Traditionally, legal systems have developed from the starting point that different types of information are handled manually. It can be information that is part of a matter at a public authorities or even information related to a lawyer’s clients. In keeping pace with the digitalization of society, an increasing amount of processing of personal information as well as decision making of legal importance is occurring automatically, be it either partially or wholly. Legal automation is therefore not fiction but a reality. This legal development gives rise to basic questions about, among other things, liability as well as to what extent automation can be allowed within the legal sphere.
Another IT-related change to basic legal system functions, is that various types of documents that previously were in paper form, are instead now digital. A consequence of this is that the legislator, for example, has adapted the laws regarding access to official documents to include so-called recordings for automatic processing that are available to a public authority with its own technical means, and it is no longer necessary that it exists in paper form at the public authority.
To a large extent, law deals with the communication between different legal subjects. The provision of advice, the concluding of contracts and other legal processes are just a few examples of legal activities that depend upon the exchange of information. The increased usage of IT has resulted in previous boundaries between organizational departments, for example at public authorities, being blurred. This is due to the fact that nowadays communication can occurs in networks and entrepreneurial activities take place in so-called virtual organizations that encompass many legal systems. In this context, there arises a wide range of legal questions, for example, which country’s laws are applicable should a dispute arise and how can one erect market places on the Internet that are compliant with the law.
The fact that the manual treatment of information has to a large extent now been replaced by the automatic processing of information, that documentation that formerly existed in paper form now exists electronically and also that communication is increasingly taking place in global digital networks, changes the prerequisites for legal work. For the practicing lawyer it is therefore necessary to have knowledge of how information technology affects both the creation of legal regulations and their application as well as how it can be utilized as a tool in the solving of varying legal problems.