Although it’s not a popular opinion, Wayne Anderson, professor of business law at Missouri State University, doesn’t trust social media. In fact, he thinks people need to consider the risks before posting.
“It’s getting to be very difficult to keep anything secure,” said Anderson. “Of course, you clicked on the ‘I Agree’ button or you wouldn’t even gain access to many of these sites from day one. Before you clicked, you failed to look at the 32 page document that covered that.”
Anderson, who jokes that he’s been on campus forever, was practicing law in the state of California when he became interested in the issues of software development and started writing articles on the topic from the legal perspective.
After teaching business law at Missouri State for more than 20 years, the computer information systems graduate program coordinator recruited him to teach a course on legal issues in the information technology arena — a course that changes each semester due to new issues and nuances that appear.
“It’s my job to put an alarm system in you so that maybe you don’t remember what the law is from what we talked about, but you smell a rat in this,” he said.
Much of the course work focuses on intellectual property issues, including patents, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets. Anderson also addresses contracts, criminal law, hacking and spoofing.
With intellectual property, Anderson stressed how time-consuming and monetarily expensive it can be to protect a product or service. The owner must also be willing to bring the action to court.
“A lot of people assume that if there’s infringement, someone else — like a governmental agency — will step in to enforce it.” That’s the exception rather than the rule, he pointed out.
The students in his courses are often IT professionals, working toward an advanced degree, so they bring forward research topics for articles and discussions that are applicable to their daily lives. Anderson works closely with those students to produce articles for publication on a variety of topics affecting the IT industry, ultimately co-authoring 19 articles in the last seven years.
So as a lawyer, mentor and researcher, Anderson feels compelled to stay abreast of the latest regulations in the technological industry, which helps to influence discussions with his students. He delves into the morality of the actions and whether a law exists to influence a decision.
“Sometimes, I want to tell my students how to protect themselves from the people that they work for, as well as protect the people that they work for,” he said. “Because, when things hit the fan, unfortunately, sometimes the company will be looking for someone to be held responsible.”
By Nicki Donnelson, public relations specialist at MSU. This article appeared in the August 16 issue of the Springfield News-Leader and can be accessed online here.