Tag: Definition

What is meant by “Website”? by Dr.Debarati Halder

We are in 2022 and the pandemic has not left us yet. News channels are tirelessly sharing updates on surging cases, further closure orders for schools, virtual hearing of the courts etc. Where are we sharing the information? From where are we getting some information? It is “websites”. There are millions of websites hosted and also managed by different stakeholders who share different information on WorldWideWeb. Strangely, we do not find the definition of the term website in majority of legal documents but when we see from the perspective of cybercrimes, we cannot avoid the role of websites as websites provide a platform for sharing contents which may be offensive.

The term website is connected with the concept of world wide web which was invented in 1989  by British scientist Tim Barnes Lee who worked on Interlinking of webpage and websites as a scientist with European organization for  nuclear research (CERN). Lee’s work led to connect creation of worldwide web to attributing ip address, domain names, .ccreation of hypertext markup language , uniform resource locator (URL) etc. The major reason behind creating the web was to facilitate the demands of information sharing between the government stakeholders including the military, scientists in the universities and other institutes all over the world for the purpose of information sharing, gathering and strengthening national security including cyber security infrastructure and military intelligentsia. However, very soon in the millennium tech companies started appearing to create, host, maintain etc., of websites which were interactive, passive or hybrid types of websites and which could be used for either e-commerce purposes, or for interaction, peer to peer networking and information sharing or for all. At this juncture it became necessary to explain the term “website”. Even though, we do not get to see any uniform definition of the term in specific legal documents, the term has been attempted to be defined by different stakeholders. It may be broadly explained as collection of hyperlinked pages over the web and related contents which may be identified by common domain name and which may get published on world wide web by some web server.

Now we are dependent completely on different kinds of websites and we manage our homes and offices through these websites. Presently we get to see many legal persons, i.e., companies which may create their own websites which may be used mainly for information sharing, e-commerce purposes and interacting with people. There are different technology companies like Meta (earlier known as Facebook), specifically created for sponsoring, creating, maintaining websites and webpages who also collect data of the users/subscribers/.  We have heard a lot about liability of the websites. But websites in general are inanimate. They become legal persons only when they are operated by people who may create websites, connect to web pages, get a domain name for the websites, publish contents and facilitate peer to peer networking and/or share information as a passive website. Liability of the websites therefore depend on their activities that are decided by the creators/administrators/distributors/users of the websites.

Intermediary and Website are not the same: Even though there are several laws and policy guidelines have been made worldwide to consider liabilities of the websites including The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, we have not yet seen the proper definition of website.  Even though S.2w of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) defines the term intermediary as any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that record or provides any service with respect to that record and includes telecom service providers, web-housing service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online auction sites, online market places and cyber cafes”, the same should not be confused with the term ‘website’. An intermediary however can create, maintain a website.

Please note: Please  do not violate the copyright of this writeup. Please site it as Halder Debarati (2022) What is a website? Published in https://internetlegalstudies.com/2022/01/03/what-is-meant-by-website-by-dr-debarati-halder/ on 03-01-2022

Computer: Basic legal understanding

BY : Dr.Debarati Halder, LL.B., M.L., Ph.D(Law)(NLSIU, Bangalore)

During the Board Exams in 2019, several exam centers across the country including Gujarat, found unique “cheating” ways by student examinees: many had smart watches which was used to download the answers. They had apparently accessed the answers by simply tapping on the watches which revealed the answers; some had gone to the wash rooms and clicked pictures of the question papers to send circulate it to their aides who would instantly send them the answers via communication apps.[1]

We can see here two types of “computers” : a smart watch which would not only show time and date, but also can store images/contents and display the same through its screen; a general mobile phone which can take pictures, store the images, circulate information, receive signals and information and display the same to the user. As such, the meaning of the word “computer” has been  expanded to include many things which previously were not considered as a “computer”.

Computer is an inherent part of our lives now. It has not only made our lives easy, it has also created many security risks as well. While many may agree with the first part of the above mentioned statement, they may not agree with the second part of the statement : the main reason behind this is, many may not know the basic definition of computer as per legal terms. Popularly, the term computer has many simple definitions; for example, according to Cambridge dictionary, computer is an electronic machine that is used for storing, organizing, and finding words, numbers, and pictures, for doing calculations, and for controlling other machines.[2] Again, whenever anyone searches the meaning of computer on Google, one of the first definition that appears is computer is  “an electronic device which is capable of receiving information (data) in a particular form and of performing a sequence of operations in accordance with a predetermined but variable set of procedural instructions (program) to produce a result in the form of information or signals”.[3]

 The definitions would show the common understanding about computer. Hence it may be explained as follows:

  • It is an electronic device.
  • It can receive, store and process certain data or information
  • It may be operating under the command of certain person
  • It needs to have procedural instructions for operation
  • It can control other machines
  • It can be connected with devices
  • It may necessarily have input and output devices

Computer therefore may mean any electronic  device which may perform several functions of receiving information, storing, processing etc of data and performing some other functions  including operating other machines which may get connected with the main computer through electro-magnetic  mechanisms. Seeing from modern perspectives, computer may necessarily mean an electronic magnetic device which may be connected with internet.

Presently, computer is being considered as one of mechanism to perform crimes online as well as offline.  But computer as a machine may never be considered as a “perpetrator “because this is infact “used” to commit crimes. It is therefore necessary to understand how the term has been defined by laws:

The 2001 EU Convention on Cyber Crimes, also known as Budapest convention, defines “computer system” as follows:

  • Any device or a group of interconnected or related devices,
  • one or more of which, pursuant to a program,
  • Performs automatic processing of data.

What we get from it is, computer system means

Now let us see how the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) defines it:

S.2(i)  of the Information Technology Act , 2000(amended in 2008) defines the term “Computer” .  it says  “Computer” means any electronic, magnetic, optical or other high-speed  data processing device or system which performs logical, arithmetic, and  memory functions by manipulations of electronic, magnetic or optical  impulses, and includes all input, output, processing, storage, computer  software, or communication facilities which are connected or related to the  computer in a computer system or computer network

Hence, this definition explains the term from 4 main aspects:

  • Nature : any electronic, magnetic, optical or other high-speed  data processing device or system
  • What does it perform :  performs logical, arithmetic, and  memory functions
  • How does it perform the task :  by manipulations of electronic, magnetic or optical  impulses,
  • What else can it do: and includes all input, output, processing, storage, computer  software, or communication facilities which are connected or related to the  computer in a computer system or computer network.

As such, it may be seen that there are several devices which may be termed as “computer”, including:

  • A simple mobile phone which is not a smart phone, but can store data like phone numbers, SMSs, images etc.
  • Smart phones
  • Smart digital cameras
  • Ipads, laptops, desktops, pen drives, smart TVs , Smart toys etc.
  • Any other electronic gadget which has the facilities of input, output, processing, storage, computer  software, or communication facilities which are connected or related to the  computer in a computer system or computer network

All of these can be used for committing cybercrimes including monetary crimes, crimes against women and children, crimes involving infringing privacy, cyber stalking and even cyber terrorism.

Hence, be careful while buying and activating all electronic gadgets, buying second hand gadgets and also while using such gadgets. Misuse of such gadgets for ulterior purposes may attract imprisonment which may be as high as life imprisonment in certain cases.

Stay safe, be safe !

Note: Please do not violate the copyright of this blog. If you wish to use it for your assignment/ writeup/ research etc, please refer  it as Halder Debarati (2019) Computer: Basic legal understanding. Published in Gender and Internet @ https://internetlegalstudies.com on 11-03-2019

[1] See for more @https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/board-exam-2019-students-caught-with-smart-watch-and-mobile/articleshow/68338515.cms Accessed on 10.03.2019

[2] See https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/computer. Accessed on 02-01.2019

[3] Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHBF_enIN822IN822&biw=1366&bih=608&q=Dictionary#dobs=computer  on 02.01.2019