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Abstract

This article provides an interesting historical look at the early days of the Internet. Giving the article more of the feel of a business journal article than a legal analysis, it introduces the uninitiated to the legal framework surrounding the development of the Internet. The authors begin with a brief overview of the Internet's creation, from a decentralized military and scholarly network to the commercial entity it is today. Moving into a description of who is fueling the growth of the Internet as a commercial endeavor, the authors describe how several large telecommunications companies, including cable television and cellular telephone companies, are merging in an attempt to diversify their business and provide consumers with a greater array of packaged services. The authors then move into a description of regulatory action intended to protect Internet users from improper use of information. While admitting that the Internet is growing at rate that cannot be matched by legislation, the authors describe a series of bills and statutes designed to protect consumer credit information, cable television information, financial records, criminal justice information, medical histories and public records from misuse. An extremely useful appendix is included at the end of the article, which highlights the relevant text within these bills and statutes. The authors then include a section on the commercial structure of the Internet, detailing the positives and negatives of doing business in cyberspace. Finally, in a section entitled "Avoiding the Potholes," the authors provide broad-based advice for practitioners who might be advising clients involved in Internet activities. The authors provide information on trademark and copyright issues pertaining to Internet distribution, personal jurisdiction problems arising from Internet commerce and some privacy issues. They conclude that the Internet will require lawyers and their clients to move "in the fast lane."