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Cyber Law on Obscenity

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Smith and Hogan state that the ordinary meaning of obscene is filthy, lewd or disgusting. In law the meaning in some respects is narrower, in other respects, possibly wider5 The test provided for under the law for obscenity of an item is that if its effect, in general, tends to deprave and corrupt persons who have access to it.6 While earlier versions of the Act covered only published material, it was amended in 1994 to also include material transmitted over the Internet, including the possession or ownership of such material. This was modified by further legislation in recent times.7 Furthermore, the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 has also made it illegal for a user to download pornographic or obscene material if the service provider does not permit it. The provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which are applicable in many countries of the world can also make an ISP responsible for offensive content that is available on its website8 and in some cases, criminal liability may also be imputed.9Cyberspace has been defined as the total interconnectedness of human beings through computers and telecommunication without regard to Physical geography9 and crime has ceased to be largely local in origin and effect.10 According to Greenleaf, cyberspace is better regulated by law – not through its limits as the regulating factor. rather through the exercise of the law in modifying the natural architecture of cyberspace that will render it a more effective tool.11 Cyberspace architecture is relatively plastic, and the law can be applied to require changes or modification of the software, codes, or minimum standards.12 Crimes could be multifaceted and multinational, raising issues of the local jurisdiction. For example, in a recent case involving Yahoo, USA, a French Court found Yahoo liable under its local jurisdiction.