what the LAWYERS say

Robbie Downing, partner at Baker & McKenzie

Three definitions:

1. Techie

Essentially comprises two elements which address the question: is this particular communication over the internet? First, is the communication in the standard internet format, known as TCP/IP? Second, is the communication dispatched over a network which, directly or indirectly, is connected to the internet backbone?

2. Business

From a business point of view, the internet represents the ability to make information available cheaply and conveniently to a vast number of businesses and individuals, and potentially the ability to trade online.

3. Public

The internet represents virtually ubiquitous email connectivity, as well as an amazing resource, but with some security fears, particularly relevant to online trading.

Graeme Maguire, solicitor at Linklaters & Alliance

The internet is the medium that allows convergence of content – the message. Content can be endless: a radio webcast of an American football game on a Sunday evening; World Online's live coverage of the MOBO/Dancestar awards; voice telephony; your favourite vortal [industry environment-focused portal]; Microsoft's Web TV. Convergence means that all of them are available to you at the same time in your armchair, or perhaps anywhere.

Why put it that way? Because for many clients what it means is more than knowing that the internet is merely a global network of networks, currently mainly narrowband, accessed by users with a computer and a modem via a service provider; that the convergence most often talked about is making telecoms, television and interactive services available over the same medium; and that the internet is an increasingly important medium for such services.

Michael Chissick, head of IT and e-commerce at Field Fisher Waterhouse

In the space of four years, we have seen major changes, particularly in the meaning of the internet and how clients associate themselves with it. When I first started advising internet clients in 1996, "internet law" was very much in its infancy. Internet clients were fringe techie clients and the work involved applying traditional legal concepts to new areas. In 1996 there was no case law and no internet-specific statutes. Therefore, one looked to the US for inspiration.

During the late 1990s, everyone wanted to be associated with the internet. Established companies were quickly adding the "clicks" to their "bricks" and millions of pounds were pouring into new e-commerce ventures.

Since the crash of boo.com and the relative disappointment of lastminute.com, there has been a move away from clients associating themselves with the word "internet". Now, clients describe their activities, whether they be business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), as being "online". The internet is just seen as one of several new channels through which to communicate with customers and sell goods and services, the others being the WAP-based phone and digital interactive television. Accordingly, it is now more appropriate to speak of clients who are exploiting digital convergence technologies to sell goods and services, rather than clients with an internet presence.

Alexander Brown, solicitor at Simmons & Simmons

The internet means the global network of interconnected computer networks using transmission control/internet protocol (and/or other such common network interconnection protocols as may be adopted from time to time).

Richard Kemp, partner at Kemp & Co

Communication using internet protocol (IP) or a related rule set.

Christopher Millard, partner at Clifford Chance

Technically, the internet is a global network of networks via which any kind of information can be transmitted in the form of digital "packets". Politically and legally, because it transcends traditional concepts of jurisdiction, the internet is a significant challenge for governments, legislators, regulators and courts. Commercially, the internet is a disruptive technology that represents a major opportunity – and threat – for businesses and their legal advisers.

Quentin Solt, partner at Berwin Leighton

Electronic communication that enables interaction between the sender and recipient, whether or not that interaction is operational.

Taylor Johnson Garrett, Denton Wilde Sapte, Olswang and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were also asked to supply definitions, but did not respond. For the full definitions visit The Lawyer's website at www.thelawyer.co.uk.