Friday, September 12, 2014

Legal issues facing IT today

In "Lawyer Up," Dian Schaffhauser writing in Campus Technology describes the six biggest legal issues facing IT today, and how CIOs can avoid a run-in with the law. It is a topic I can relate to; before joining the University of Minnesota in 1998, I worked for a company owned by lawyers (we provided services in the then-cutting edge field of electronic document management for production/discovery). Schaffhauser begins:
"Putting a CIO and a lawyer together in the same room may give you the start of a pretty decent joke, but it could also save your institution millions of dollars in legal fees. While the IT chief understands the systems that fall under the purview of compliance, the attorney is the go-to pessimist for identifying the "gotcha" elements when it comes to the law. Working together, they are equipped to anticipate—and resolve—legal worries before they mushroom into headaches."
The six issues, according to the article:

1. Digital Defamation
"When a student publishes a derogatory post about other people, particularly a statement that could damage their reputation and cause injury, that's cyberbullying. Even if the post doesn't break a state criminal law, the poster may still face a lawsuit for libel or violation of state privacy laws."
2. Intellectual Property
"With increasing numbers of faculty and students developing apps on campus, the question of intellectual property (IP) rights has moved front and center. Depending on law and policy, deciding what a campus can do with the output of instructors is commonly the purview of the faculty-governance entity, such as the faculty senate. What schools can do with products or content developed by students, however, is often less formalized."
3. Illegal Downloading
"For higher ed institutions, the legal ramifications of copyright infringement could become far greater depending on the ultimate outcome of legislation under consideration in Congress." While PIPA (the Protect IP Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) were ultimately unsuccessful, we can expect these to return in future, though in different forms.
4. Data-Privacy Compliance
"According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, data-breach notification laws are on the books in 46 states. These laws are layered on top of other federal regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). And that may be just the beginning."
5. Cloud Computing
"Once you get past the technical and financial aspects of implementing a cloud solution, you need to sign a contract with the service provider. If you're relying on the vendor to supply that contract, though, it's time to get your legal people involved."
6. Distributed Antenna Systems
"Seldom are CIOs involved in deals where a vendor wants to pay the institution. But setting up a distributed antenna system (DAS) is one of them … negotiating the right DAS deal for your school poses potential legal challenges."
image: Chris Potter/

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