The tangled web we weave: a short history of internet law in verse  (with apologies to Dr Seuss)

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Imagine a time where there was no online a scary thought I am aware, but one I feel I must share

But perhaps there's a way to tell this story right here without filling your mind with intolerable fear 

For it was not always so, that people would choose  to jump on the 'net to buy some new shoes

They would go to the shops and talk face to face they would go to the stadium to watch the big race


And then came the 'net, of which I spoke earlier its origin story could not be more curlier

It started with the spread of TCP/IP  it was open access protocols that did set it free

Like fire it spread, to homes and businesses too a universal invention, it grew and it grew

But as its spread reached so far and its reach spread so wide how to control its use became hard to decide

Do we shoehorn it all in to laws that exist? or do we think of new ways and draw up a list?


First there were contracts, they come into existence when? when the man clicked the mouse or at half past ten?

A statute appeared, as if almost divine the Electronic Transactions Act of 19991 This gave some certainty to those who would then use the internet to contract without use of a pen


But as the 'net spread ever so wide and so far it opened up doors that were not yet ajar

Delivery of music without having to pay Your favourite new song just a mouse click away

This new service soon grew ever faster and faster And so it was dubbed the one and only Napster

Yet a group of white knights upon steed did they ride they sought an injunction and so they applied

The Court heard from the parties about all that was done and granted the knights' wish in 20012


But just as the courts had foiled one evil ploy there was a regular habit that began to annoy

Email here and email there emailing a bald man to straighten his hair

Spam was its name and to stay it was here but 2003 was a mighty fine year

Legislation was passed that caused smiles and much glee and so it was dubbed ... the Spam Act of 20033

This law armed us all  with a number of tools to make those dear spammers follow the rules

So when you receive an email that, to you, seems contrived you need not panic: just breathe ... and unsubscribe4 ---

Crisis averted I hear you mumble to yourself but it is not yet time to put this story on the shelf

You see, people connect and the 'net made it easy  Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, how cheesy

But what began as a set of social connection tools were being used for purposes that were really quite cruel

Venom and lies spat all over the place the courts got involved and made this their space

As people cried foul and picketed the nation a judge opened wide and he spoke 'DEFAMATION!'5


Napster was the first but by no means the last for the 'net looks ever forward, and is not trapped in the past

A new tool arose which some call abhorrent a nifty little thing known as BitTorrent

Not just music, but TV and movies were shared On a scale to which nothing could yet be compared

To the battleground again, but who should be sued? Perhaps ISPs (so the movie studios mused)?

iiNet was the one, as we all now know who was forced to defend a claim from Roadshow

The Court found it hard to accept Roadshow's sketch in fact, blaming iiNet, the Court said, was a bit of a stretch

To the highest court in the land did the fight end up going with no change in the outcome (though a sumptuous showing)6


So as we're online and we're surfing around the question remains: to what terms are we bound?

Those tucked away or must we tick a small box?  the eBay case came and then turned back the clocks7

Back to old doctrines, 'reasonable notice' was needed in order to rely on your terms being heeded

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There is one thing I must say before we let the sun set it is that we must not always trust what we find on the 'net

And before you commit and buy fantastic new pottery It's highly unlikely that you've won the Nigerian lottery

As forces beyond tried to use it for evil our protective authorities began an upheaval

Multiple changes to acts near and far the location? Australia! Cyber security the star

Telecomm, crimes and mutual assistance as well surely those villains would now beg for the bell8


In 2013, the Parliament again had its say your personal information protected in a new way

The Privacy Act was changed to address use and disclosure that had failed to impress

But as we all know, no tort yet exists so be careful with snaps of your naughty bits

There may however be a way, if your set of facts suit for confidential information to give you a route

We have seen it in Giller9 and in WA10 but damages for mental distress, 'tis still shrouded in grey


So now that you know what you can and can't do be careful to ensure that you do not get sued

Stream Netflix and Presto and Stan to your den in brand new 4K, with fast NBN

Our commander in chief has a strategy for our nation I didn't quite catch it, but it involves innovation

And I think, at this stage, and am willing to bet that innovation will involve, at least in some way, the 'net


Spies all rejoice though some have privacy fears Metadata is accessible, at least for two years11

And in Australia, unlike Europe, we do not have quite yet the right to tell Google to erase and forget

Again, we turn to a topic so repeated piracy repeats and this time it's heated

You should be walking away with a valid ticket stub at least that's the contention of Dallas Buyers Club12

We find once again the ISPs are involved but the problem, to us, still seems very far from solved


The 'net, as you know, invades the realm of the book  but soon you will see it's everywhere that you look

Open your fridge, there's the 'net you will see and when it gets hot, it will control your A/C

Everything linked, like a mighty big chain with a level of security one would hope to maintain

iWatches, iDishwashers and maybe iRings? it's a wonderful time for 'the internet of things'


So thank you for reading and listening too you may not believe me but what I have said is quite true

Times are exciting, with much anticipation but we must help the 'net grow, with the right regulation

Because nobody can guess what the 'net has in store but chances are strong, it will be ahead of the law