This article is written by Snigdha Pandey, Marketing Associate at iPleaders.
Law is an ever-evolving organism, albeit it is seemingly slow sometimes. With changing times, law should and does evolve to accommodate the changing trends in technology, society, politics and economy.
The changing trends like startups, entrepreneurship, government reforms necessitate the need for specialised laws to provide for a more nuanced outlook. For instance, earlier there was litigation to handle all kinds of disputes. However, the sheer number of such disputes created a backlog and it also became more expensive to litigate. Then the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like mediation, arbitration and negotiation came into the picture. It was economical and convenient to resort to these mechanisms and they grew popular.
In the decade or so, technology has revolutionised the economy. The applications and websites based companies are ruling the market with products and services like Google, Uber, Flipkart, etc.
Recently, the news of India’s largest internet company – Flipkart’s majority stakes being acquired by the global giant Walmart Inc., through foreign direct investment (FDI) captured everyone’s attention. The regulations for FDI in India are outdated and complicated which deters the investors. The restrictive regulatory framework does not allow Walmart to run an e-commerce retail venture in India on its own. Therefore, in spite of having an offer from Amazon, Flipkart went with the Walmart deal simply because it was structured to most likely appease and circumvent the regulatory complications. Legal experts and advisors in FDI are expected to come up with a specific plan of action for an optimal deal to ensure a successful transition by the end of 2018.
So how does one acquire such niche expertise in FDI and its regulations?
Well, while the hands-on experience of such transactions and deals are essential, there are online courses available on FDI and its regulations, commercial contract drafting which aids in gaining the much-needed knowledge of such specialised fields of law.
Thanks to the internet companies and innovations, the commercial law has branched out significantly, resulting in specialised fields like these:
Media and Entertainment Law
From our newspapers to our music, even our movies and shows, have all moved to our phones and computers. YouTube, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hotstar, etc. have revolutionised how we get our entertainment – we simply stream it!
Almost all the prominent news publications have an online presence through social media and websites. The news, streaming services, advertising, social media are online now. This is the age of instant information and access. So the need of the hour has changed as well.
Lawyers are needed specifically with expertise in this niche field. They need to be equipped to aid an author to protect the copyright in his book and the royalties thereof as well as manage the celebrity agreements with giant motion picture media houses. From obtaining the design patent and word trademark for a new product to litigating against representative bodies like the Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS) on behalf of performers, is a daily activity for these lawyers.
Any new product/service requires to procure a trademark of its name, patent the uniqueness of their product/service by searching the product/service by filing the correct applications before the Office of the Registrar of Trademarks and Patent Office respectively. Thereafter, the branding and marketing of the product may begin. The commercial agreements like master service agreements are entered thereafter for manufacturing of said product/service and the licensing agreements etc. are done so on and so forth. This is where the expert lawyers in media and entertainment law come in.
Media and entertainment lawyers are much in demand for talent acquisition and management, IP protection and monetisation, merger and acquisitions, etc. The skills required for a media and entertainment lawyer is significantly unique based on the industry and requires experience and knowledge. While the skills can be acquired through field experience, the specialised knowledge has to be attained through a constant learning regimen.
Data Protection and Privacy Laws
We are living in the era of information and access. Our dependence on technology is a daily affair and it ranges from Alexa, Siri, Google Assistants to GPS navigation, Uber, Facebook, Amazon and the likes. Technology is no longer invading our lives, it is a part of it. We rely on applications and websites for our basic information, news, groceries, clothes, socialising, navigation and everything in between!
This has resulted in an accumulation of data for the individuals which comprises of our personal information like address, interests, images, banking information, etc. In cumulation, our data can be studied for analysing our behaviour, tendencies, inclinations and the likes. This information can be in turn utilised for marketing, branding, advertising and maybe more.
Recently, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy, raised the red-flag on such information accumulation and privacy-related issues. The allegations included using millions of Facebook users’ data to sway the US Presidential Elections 2016!
This led to the much-needed discussion on data protection and privacy issues.
It even stemmed out a controversy in India, when it came out during one of the congressional hearings in Cambridge Analytica that it had used similar research and reports to influence the Indian elections in the past!
Unlike the European countries, there is no express legislation on data protection or privacy laws in India! They have been recently been a pertaining issue before the Supreme Court of India in the Aadhar Case, but there is a lack of a structured regulation and redressal system.
Presently the lawyers are working within the scope of the constitutional right to privacy in order to accommodate their clients’ interests. Even if the data protection and privacy law are not there at present, the legal issues persist, so the lawyers have to work within the constitutional law, information technology laws, etc. to make their case.
While the Indian legislation catches up to it, there is a lot of scope and need for legal experts and lawyers in the field of data protection and privacy laws from a global perspective.
Cyber Law and Technology Law
With an increase in digitisation and online activities like online banking, e-commerce, advertising, social networking comes the hacking of account, privacy issues, infringements, commercial transactions, cyber frauds, etc. The cyber laws in India are evolving steadily.
The innovation in technology products like Amazon Echo, applications for gaming, music, apparels, etc. need relevant intellectual property protection under design laws, patent laws, copyrights laws, etc. These product and services require policies, terms and conditions, technology contracts and overall protection for both the companies and the customers or audience.
Google, Facebook and other tech giants have recently modified their privacy policies after the Cambridge Analytica controversy in order to gain the trust of their users as well as adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines which came into effect on 25th May 2018 in all 28 European Union member countries.
Back in India, according to the National Crime Bureau, there has been a surge in cyber crimes in India between 2009-2016 from 636 (2009) to 12,317 (2016)! But there is a dearth of expert lawyers and consultants in cyber laws. So, there are plenty of opportunities in the legal-technological space and need for knowledgeable and experienced consultants, advisors and experts.
There are various full-time and online courses available for lawyers who are looking to gain the specialised knowledge of the different kinds of technology contracts (like software license and ownership agreements, IT services agreements, cloud services agreements, technology license, video game development agreement, etc.), cyber crimes, cryptocurrencies, payment banks (such Airtel, PayTM).
These specialised fields have a lot of potential for lawyers and legal consultants in the near future. The area may get more streamlined or branch out more to make room for newer specialised fields. However, at present, these areas of law are in dire need of technically sound experts. Considering the time it takes to gain industry knowledge, only the early birds will gain the most by starting their training in these upcoming fields of laws.