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Book Review: Corporate Information and the Law Print E-mail

book_corpinflaw_cover.jpgSecond Edition, 201 6

Author: Leif Gamertsfelder

Publisher: Lexis Nexis Butterworths

Reviewer: Michael Green SC [1]

This concise and coherent book displays the author's mastery of complex and evolving terrain.

Three years ago, Mr Gamertsfelder produced his first edition. That book marked itself as the only work which, so comprehensively and in so few pages, articulated the diverse issues inherent in this area of law. The book organised legal principles into a framework to make life a little Jess complex for lawyers.

The second edition is no less impressive. Comparing the two editions, one can see that Mr Gamertsfelder has imparted the additional wisdom and expertise he gained during the intervening period.

Corporate information is not a discrete area of law. It cuts across numerous specialisations such as intellectual property law, information technology law, corporate and securities law, privacy law, and consumer protection law, as well as being affected by our Australian federalism.

It is increasingly regulated, frequently, inconsistently, [2] and by a multiplicity of existing and new agencies.

The present substantial revision demonstrates that the engagement of the law with information is one with no settled boundaries. The interplay throws forth some of the most interesting ethical issues that question the place of the legal enterprise in modern information­ based societies. The pace of change is rapid: artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing - to choose just the beginning of the alphabet - are rewriting the rules and policy considerations. While we may be in awe of technological advances, these developments threaten the very norms upon which our society is based.

Should we permit cybernetic decision-makers to rule our lives? How should that activity be reviewed and should we, as information subjects, be entitled to initiate that review? Should we be entitled to know what is known about us and where (physically) that information is held? Should the rules be different for corporations and Government? Should some interactions be protected, regardless of the competing risks?

In this uncertain environment, there is a need for Mr Gamertsfelder’s unique work. Despite the breadth of issues covered, it is neither bloated nor facile. It does not impose its own world view. Like a virtuoso, the author makes the accurate and concise manner in which he tackles corporate information appear to be effortless.

The book delivers on its promise to provide an illustration of the principles and an indication of the tensions, whilst drawing from case law and legislation. Its focus remains that of an experienced corporate lawyer with a deep knowledge of information technology and the law. When the author makes suggestions, those are ones that clearly demonstrate his long experience.

The rise of the information society, the difficulty of protecting intangibles in the innovation economy, the protection of the information subject and obligations of disclosure could each be a separate text book.

Perhaps Mr Gamertsfelder may venture to create a franchise in which the present book can be seen to be a valuable collection of preparatory essays for those later works.

In the technological space, we have coined the phrase "information management" to suggest that these changes are within the control of those working in the space.

In the legal space, the phase "information governance" is more apposite.

For those charged with the responsibility of managing corporate information, and answering difficult questions of information governance asked by boards and senior management, this fine book should be on their shelf, and be well-thumbed.

 


[1] Senior Counsel , 13th Floor, St James Hall, Sydney. green@stjames.net.au

[2] Notably, and thankfully, the author avoids travelling down the rabbit hole of 'data retention' by carriers.


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