Science and Technology Law
Science and Technology Legal Issues
Science and technology law encompasses bioethics, intellectual property, privacy and civil liberties, consumer protection, public policy and more. Many attorneys may work in one concentration of science and technology law, such as patents, without being specifically considered "science and technology" attorneys.
One challenge presented by this field is that innovations in science and technology often outpace the law. Legalities around many aspects of science and technology may be in flux or changing rapidly. Some discussions in science and technology law are more speculative in nature with an eye toward anticipated developments. Some other areas of the law include:
- public policy on technology and ethical challenges,
- issues around surveillance and privacy, including online surveillance, and
- genetic testing and research
Many of the ethical issues in science and technology law have a strong human rights component. The federal government and many states are now passing relevant laws.
E-commerce involves the sale of goods or services via the Internet. E-commerce legal issues range from state and federal taxation to the legalities of domain name and trademark protection. These laws encompass electronic transfer of funds, data protection and breaches, and other issues. Both consumers and businesses are affected by e-commerce laws.
The Federal Aviation Administration refers to drones as unmanned aircraft systems and regulates where they can be flown. The FAA is still in the process of establishing regulations about drones, and legal issues around drones may also overlap with privacy concerns. The FAA distinguishes between government and non-governmental drones and hobbyists in its drone regulations. Several states are also in the process of examining and regulating the use of drones.
Cyberlaw encompasses a huge swath of issues, like online privacy, data protection, driverless cars, robotics. This emerging legal discipline often overlaps with other practice areas. As with other aspects of technology and science, laws that protect people from stalking and harassment offline have led some states to deal with online harassment in a similar manner.
Use of Digital Data Upon Death
Privacy laws, cyberlaw and estate planning all intersect to deal with digital data on a person's death. State laws vary regarding digital data as do website policies. Some companies are still in the process of developing comprehensive approaches.
For example, Facebook developed options for families after a person's death including using the page to memorialize their loved one. It is wise for people to leave detailed instructions for their executors as to accessing digital accounts upon death. The legal trend is moving toward granting broad powers of access to executors.
Known as biolaw, this area deals with mental health, biomedical research, health care, bioethics and biotechnology. More specifically, biolaw addresses issues such as genetics and privacy, biotechnological inventions and nanotechnology.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.