Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has gathered 20 independent information technology (IT) and legal experts to come together to form an advisory group to provide voluntary free legal information to Singapore online users of their rights and responsibilities.
The idea of forming a powerhouse of experts to advise individuals and small businesses was first mooted in 2007 by the group of IT and legal professionals themselves. Amongst them was Professor Ang Peng Hwa, Director of NTU's Singapore Internet Research Centre (SiRC), which is part of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. Prof Ang, the former Chair of the Wee Kim Wee School and a lawyer by training, focuses on research in Internet governance.
Known as the Community of Information Technology Experts (CITE), the voluntary group hopes to raise users' awareness and promote their engagement with online information and communication, so that they can optimise the potential of the Internet in the long run.
CITE will offer online-related legal information to individual Internet users and small businesses, whose financial circumstances and lack of resources may prohibit them from obtaining legal information elsewhere.
Prof Ang said, "NTU's Singapore Internet Research Centre is excited to partner such a diverse group of experts and stakeholders in the Internet community. We all share several common beliefs-we believe the Internet is critically important to the future of Singapore, we believe we need more Singaporeans who are able and willing to put content on our Internet and we believe that the informational model we are proposing can make a difference.
"I am confident that the CITE can help to address many of the concerns and some mistaken notions that individuals and small companies may have about the content on the Internet. In doing so, I believe that CITE can enhance people's engagement with online information and communication."
The expert grouping will provide information on online matters including intellectual property, such as copyright and trademark issues; defamation or liability; domain name disputes and user protection against unauthorised access.
For example, one increasingly common issue facing private individuals is defamation action by corporations over postings on an Internet blog or message board. A major issue for small companies that operate a website or conduct e-business is liability.
Such enterprises tend to be exposed to licensing and copyright matters, including Intellectual Property and trademark infringement that can be potentially damaging to their bottom-line.
The group will also conduct information sessions and publish articles on the SiRC website to educate and inform the public about their rights online. For requests that are beyond CITE's purview, the SiRC may assist in recommending suitable qualified lawyers to provide advice on an individual's case.
The members in CITE are well known figures in the technology and law of the online world. Besides corporate lawyers, the members also include academics from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU).
They include former Nominated Member of Parliament Mr Siew Kum Hong, a corporate counsel specialising in Internet and technology law; Mr Wong Siew Hong, Director of Infinitus Law, with extensive experience in civil and criminal litigation; technology law and intellectual property law expert, Visiting Professor Lim Yee Fen from the Faculty of Law, NUS; and Mr Bryan Tan, Director of Keystone Corporation, one of the leading individuals in IT and telecoms law, who had handled the world's first mass e-mail defamation case and registrar-level domain name dispute.
Speaking on his motivation for supporting this new initiative, Mr Tan said, "I think it is a worthy cause to provide some basic information on the law for people to understand it and be educated especially in an area which is fast-changing. Technology is pervasive and its widespread adoption means that, more than any other area of law, technology law touches most lives, no matter how young or old, how rich or how poor."