Module Identifier LA32610  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Professor Diane Rowland  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Miss Allison Coleman  
Pre-Requisite LA10110 or LA30110 or LA15710  
Course delivery Lecture   20 Hours Two one hour lectures per week  
  Seminars / Tutorials   4 Hours Seminar. Four one hour seminars during the semester  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours  100%
Supplementary Assessment By Examination.   
Professional Exemptions Not Required for Professional Purposes  

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
Students will gain an understanding of the way in which the flow of information is regulated by the law and the way in which this is influenced by policy considerations, particularly in relation to confidential information of a commercial, private or governmental nature. They will appreciate the way in which the increasing use of computers has led to challenges to traditional legal concepts and have the confidence to apply established legal principles to new and innovative technology. This will, in turn, give them the ability to formulate responses to the practical challenges which such technology causes for practitioners, the courts and the legislature. In particular students will:

- understand the rationale behind official secrets legislation and freedom of information legislation and the tension between them,
- understand the scope and extent of the legal controls on governmental information in the UK and the EU,
- appreciate the relationship between privacy and data protection and the extent to which data protection legislation is protective of the privacy of data subjects,
- be able to apply the substantive provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 to practical situations,
- be able to appreciate the policy issues underlying any decision to protect confidential information in a commercial environment,
- be able to apply the common law and equitable obligations of confidence to a range of practical situations,
- appreciate the difficulties in classifying information as confidential and protectable in employment cases,
- be able to evaluate the roles of the civil and criminal law in protecting trade secrets,
- understand the legal difficulties arising out of the increasing use of global computer networks for the dissemination of information of all types.

Brief description

In recent years the world has undergone an information revolution. Information is a very valuable commercial asset and the balance of computing power can have noticeable side-effects on the world economic and strategic order. Information is an asset which challenges traditional legal concepts as most laws were developed to deal with tangible assets such as land, books etc. In addition, the ability to flip data around the world in the blink of an eye requires international legal consideration, as well as domestic.

Information is a very powerful commodity for those who hold it and those who suffer as a consequence of the misuse of information will look for redress. Whether or not they are successful may depend on the type of information in question. The aim of the course is to study information in its many manifestations be they private, governmental or commercial and to evaluate the legal controls on its access, use and disclosure. These will be studied in the context of the complex interaction of public policies with the intention of raising awareness and stimulating interest in legal response to technological change. The advent of computers has had a profound effect on the way information is used and handled and part of the course will concentrate on some of the legal issues this has raised. However, no familiarity with computers or computer skills are necessary and any technical terms will be explained!


To study the response of the law to information, whether private, governmental or commercial, and evaluate the legal controls on its access, use and disclosure. To foster understanding of the complex interaction of the public policies governing these areas. To analyse and assess the effect of computerisation on the way in which information is manipulated and stored and the legal response to technological change.


1. Introduction

1.1 What is information law?

2. Government and Information
2.1 Approaches to the regulation of government information
2.2. Arguments for and against freedom of information
2.3 Aspects of freedom of information legislation in other jurisdictions
2.4 Freedom of information in the European Union
2.5 Government and information in the UK
Official Secrets legislation
Freedom of information

3. Personal information and Data Protection
3.1 Background to the legislation
3.2 Council of Europe Convention
3.3 Data Protection Act 1984
3.4 Data protection and privacy
3.5 The EC directive on data protection and the Data Protection Act 1998

4. Commercial Confidentiality
4.1 The nature of breach of confidence
4.2 Employees and breach of confidence
4.3 The division of breach of confidence: criminalisation and the Law Commission'r proposals

5. The Information Highway - Legal Issues
5.1 The nature of the problem
5.2 Regulatory issues and the Internet
5.3 Approaches to the problems in different jurisdiction
5.4 Categories of computer misuse and the Computer Misuse Act 1990

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Diane Rowland and Elizabeth Macdonald (2000) Information Technology Law 2nd. Cavendish
Chris Reed & John Angel (2000) Computer Law 4th. OUP
** Recommended Background
Patrick Birkinshaw (2001) Freedom of Information, the law, the practice and the ideal 3rd. Butterworths


This module is at CQFW Level 6