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'The Cloud' Touches Every Area of Law: What Lawyers Need to Know

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 18, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You've heard about the cloud, but what is it exactly? Simply put, someone else's computer. Or rather, computer farm. The cloud allows you to store and access a virtually unlimited amount of information remotely, without having to build up any of the infrastructure on your own.

The cloud isn't just going to transform the way people work, it already has. But the cloud also poses major legal questions. For example, how should attorneys apportion risk when negotiating cloud contracts? What privacy rights are afforded to documents stored in the cloud? Does information uploaded to the cloud count as an export?

The Cloud and... International Arms Sales?

Yes, the cloud has implications for everything, including international arms sales. The Arms Export Control Act allows the president to place restrictions on the import and export of defense articles, which he has done through the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Those regulations define "defense articles" as both physical items and technical data. Thus, uploading technical information about defense articles to, say, a cloud whose server farm is based in Iceland could possibly count as an illegal export of arms.

And that's not all. Cloud "exports" can implicate general export regulations, foreign export control laws, and even economic sanctions regulations.

The Cloud and... Everything Else

Assuming your practice isn't devoted to the international weapons trafficking, or even international exports, the cloud has little relevance to you, right? Of course not. Other cloud-related legal issues include:

  • Federal and state tax laws
  • Intellectual property protection and infringement
  • Constitutional privacy protections
  • Employment issues "on the cloud"
  • Liability for cloud-based crimes
  • Government contracting on the cloud
  • Federal procurement disputes
  • Personal jurisdiction and the cloud
  • And more. Much more.

It's almost too much to wrap your head around. Thankfully, you don't need to know everything about the cloud and the law -- you just need to know where to find the necessary information.

The "Cloud Computing Legal Deskbook" has all of that information and then some, soon to be published by Thomson Reuters. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.) Coming in at over 400 pages long, but organized into discrete, easy to access sections the deskbook is a must have for anyone working at the intersection of law and technology -- so, you and most lawyers.

If you're a novice, it will guide you through the basic definitions and regulations. If you're an expert, it will help you hone in on complex legal issues. If you're a lawyer, it should be on your bookshelf -- or your eBook library.

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