Information Technology Law
History and actual position of information and communication technology law in Hungary is a theme that affects me personally. This is why I beg the pardon of the reader for the subjective tone I use in this short article. I am involved into ICT law since 1988. The Faculty of Law of Janus Pannonius University – now it is the University of Pécs – has employed a new assistant lecturer for a new subject in that year. This discipline was called as “law and information technology”. The task was very ambitious; to unfold the modern and positive content of this subject, to develop a new curriculum and teaching material, to joint the international cooperation of this field. This was a long way. After 20 years I am happy to look back the achievements.
Social impact of information technology and utilization of computers in legal profession has been also studied in Hungarian legal education by the end of 1980’s although not particularly in Pécs but in other law schools. PROF. DR. JÓZSEF KOVACSICS has been settled the Department of Statistics in the Faculty of Law of ELTE Budapest. Beyond the discipline of statistics his workshop also focused on the research of information technology applications in public administration. The other important vanguard of Hungarian ICT law research was the Department of Public Administration in the Faculty of Law of University of Miskolc. The department headed by PROF. DR. TIBOR KALAS commenced research and development for data processing in public administration. At early 1990’s the department – PROF. KALAS and his colleagues – developed the VIR, an integrated database system supporting the information requirements of local authorities. Also these early results and efforts may represent that law and information technology has several point of intersection as the statistics, demography, organization theory, public administration.
In the beginning of 1990’s the Hungarian IT lawyers concentrated their efforts for the technical side of this relationship. To convince the pretty conservative community of Hungarian lawyers about the importance and benefit of information technology; this was the primary challenge of that time. Word processors, spreadsheets and other office applications were the first IT resources on the desktop of advocates. 1994 was a turning point in Hungarian legal history. In that year KERSZÖV Kft. launched the CompLex, the first widely accessible, full text, off-line legal database of Hungarian legal system. The CompLex has been triggered a revolution in legal profession. From this moment the legal material became electronically accessible and easy to survey for both lawyers and non-lawyers. There were no more doubts whether the IT should facilitate the legal culture for both legal science and practice.
From the middle of 1990’s up to now another theoretical problem, the structural analysis of IT regulation has been claiming the attention of Hungarian IT lawyers. This is a kind of challenge like shooting at moving target. Both the global and national Hungarian IT industry is changing and enhancing quickly so the concerning regulation is not stable. More and more phenomena of modern life have got a relation to information and communication technology in consequence the scope of ICT law is widening. Recently we may refer the ICT law as the legal framework of information society. Development of information society is a sociological, economic and political paradigm and action plan for both the European Union as a community and for the member states individually. During the last years most of the Hungarian ICT law initiatives were interpreted in relation with the EU law.
The EU promulgated the COM/97/0623 that is the Green Paper on the convergence of the telecommunications, media and information technology sectors and the implications for regulation. This was the first high level declaration of the convergence and its impact on the existing legislative framework in the related areas.
By this time the Hungarian legislation has achieved significant development in the field of converging technologies. Most of the ICT activities are regulated by relevant legal norms. The act on the protection of personal data conforms to EU norms of privacy protection. The act of 2005 on electronic freedom of information is an important guarantee of openness in the information society. This act finally made electronically accessible the court decisions and by this way provides a fundamental value for the rule of law. Electronic commerce is also regulated on the base of e-commerce directive of the EU. The Hungarian act on copyright meets the international standards of intellectual property rights. Our national legal material also encompasses fundamental rules of infrastructural issues of information society as telecommunication, electronic signature, IT security. Hungarian legal system also criminalizes several typical misuses of information technology.
In spite of these merits and achievements the Hungarian IT lawyers also have to face many opened questions and unfinished jobs. We have particularly hot problems in the filed of media law. The digital shift is scheduled for the beginning of 2012. However this positive technological result may intensify the concentration in media market and underline the inconsistency of the concerning regulation.
The electronic public administration is also a very problematic territory. International duties and national action plans also claims to develop and improve the services of electronic public administration, make more interactive and electronically accessible the public authorities. Hungary has only very few and weak effective results in this area. Notwithstanding we have and a recent act on general rules of administrative proceeding and services comprising the electronically provided services, and certain branches of public administration – first of all the taxation – has fulfilled significant development projects the lack of well-tailored and comprehensive concepts results in isolated and often inadequate applications.
The shape of electronic litigation systems is worse than electronic public administration. ICT equipments and the provided or applied electronic services of Hungarian courts are far below the expected and predictable level. A long range, sophisticated and solid development project is highly needed in this filed.
Finally let me mention a few positive outcomes in the filed of legal education. Most of Hungarian law schools launched some sort of seminar on IT law mainly on undergraduate level during the recent years. Most of these courses are optional. Faculty of Law of University of Pécs runs a compulsory course on ICT law. During the last 15-20 years this Faculty has become the leading workshop of ICT law in Hungary both in education and in research. Since 2004 the ICT related activities are coordinated by the Research Center for Information and Communication Technology Law (IKJK). Beyond the undergraduate course the IKJK manages PhD program, education of ICT law experts, maintains an annual conference chain since 1999 and edits the bimonthly periodical of “Infokommunikáció és Jog”. I and my colleagues do hope and believe that the IKJK is an important and progressive center of Hungarian legal education.
Zsolt György Balogh