As part of this project, existing laws on computer offenses will be examined in comparative fashion. The goal is to identify the current state of international and national computer crime legislation, examine best practices and alternative strategies, and clarify issues of legal harmonization.

Com­puter crime is a glob­al phe­nomen­on: crim­in­al of­fenses may be com­mit­ted from any­where in the world and may have ef­fects bey­ond the bor­ders of the of­fend­er’s coun­try, across en­tire con­tin­ents, or even on a world­wide scale. The pre­ven­tion and pro­sec­u­tion of these crim­in­al acts re­quire all af­fected coun­tries to co­oper­ate and to de­vel­op the ne­ces­sary leg­al in­stru­ments. Up to now, the Coun­cil of Europe’s “Con­ven­tion on Cy­ber­crime” of 2001 is the most in­flu­en­tial in­ter­na­tion­al in­stru­ment in the field. Still, it cov­ers only some com­puter-re­lated crim­in­al of­fenses and leg­al is­sues. Fur­ther prob­lem areas are reg­u­lated by oth­er in­ter­na­tion­al in­stru­ments or they are not reg­u­lated at all.

The pro­ject takes broad aim at cur­rent com­puter-spe­cif­ic is­sues of sub­stant­ive crim­in­al law and crim­in­al pro­ced­ure as well as at se­lec­ted re­lated is­sues. As far as the sub­stant­ive crim­in­al law is con­cerned, the main fo­cus is on of­fenses against the con­fid­en­ti­al­ity, integ­rity, and avail­ab­il­ity of com­puter data and sys­tems (the so-called CIA of­fenses); ad­di­tion­al areas of ex­am­in­a­tion in­clude oth­er com­puter-re­lated of­fenses, “il­leg­al con­tent,” in­fringe­ments of in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­erty, as well as pri­vacy of­fenses and the gen­er­al prin­ciples of crim­in­al li­ab­il­ity of In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders. In the area of crim­in­al pro­ced­ure, com­puter-spe­cif­ic, co­er­cive in­vest­ig­at­ory powers and the law of evid­ence are be­ing ana­lyzed as are ques­tions con­cern­ing the ob­lig­at­ory re­ten­tion of tele­com­mu­nic­a­tion data for evid­en­tiary pur­poses and the pro­tec­tion of civil liber­ties dur­ing the crim­in­al pro­cess. Re­lated is­sues in­clude the law on in­ter­na­tion­al co­oper­a­tion, jur­is­dic­tion over In­ter­net crimes, block­ing or­ders against In­ter­net pro­viders, and fur­ther per­spect­ives for self-reg­u­la­tion and pub­lic-private co-reg­u­la­tion in the area of cy­ber­crime pre­ven­tion.

The pro­ject has sev­er­al ob­ject­ives: (1) First of all, the present state of in­ter­na­tion­al har­mon­iz­a­tion in­stru­ments for the pre­ven­tion of com­puter crime will be ana­lyzed. (2) This will be fol­lowed by a com­par­at­ive ex­am­in­a­tion of the ex­tent to which these in­stru­ments have been im­ple­men­ted in se­lec­ted leg­al sys­tems and how much na­tion­al reg­u­la­tions dif­fer from each oth­er and from the in­ter­na­tion­al stand­ards. (3) Based on this eval­u­ation, “best prac­tices” and al­tern­at­ive pre­ven­tion strategies will be de­veloped. (4) Since the har­mon­iz­a­tion of cy­ber­crime le­gis­la­tion takes place in quite dif­fer­ent areas of law, the pro­ject will also ex­am­ine ques­tions of leg­al har­mon­iz­a­tion, such as why har­mon­iz­a­tion is more suc­cess­ful in some areas than in oth­ers, who the agents of change are and how the forces be­hind them can be de­scribed, as well as where norm­at­ive con­flicts might oc­cur among the vari­ous pro­vi­sions. Thus, the pro­ject is not only an im­port­ant ele­ment of the In­sti­tute’s re­search pro­gram con­cern­ing the func­tion­al bound­ar­ies of crim­in­al law, es­pe­cially with re­spect to com­plex crime, but is as well a cent­ral ele­ment of the In­sti­tute’s activ­it­ies re­gard­ing crim­in­al law in­teg­ra­tion and the de­vel­op­ment of a the­ory on the har­mon­iz­a­tion of crim­in­al law.

A first step in­volved the pre­par­a­tion of a com­pre­hens­ive re­view of ex­ist­ing in­stru­ments of in­ter­na­tion­al har­mon­iz­a­tion. This re­view was at­tached to the ques­tion­naire sent to the coun­try re­port­ers and will be part of the fi­nal gen­er­al re­port. Coun­try re­ports have been ar­riv­ing at the In­sti­tute since the end of 2009 and are cur­rently un­der­go­ing re­vi­sion; the com­par­at­ive cross-sec­tion­al ana­lys­is is un­der­way.

The pro­ject is part of the pre­par­a­tions for the 18th In­ter­na­tion­al Con­gress on Com­par­at­ive Law, which is to be held in Wash­ing­ton, D. C., in Au­gust 2010 by the In­ter­na­tion­al Academy of Com­par­at­ive Law. The coun­try re­port for Ger­many as well as the com­par­at­ive gen­er­al re­port are be­ing writ­ten at the In­sti­tute; the oth­er coun­try re­ports are be­ing writ­ten by ex­tern­al pro­ject mem­bers. Prof. Ul­rich Sieber is the gen­er­al re­port­er. The res­ults of the study will be dis­cussed with an in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity of ex­perts at the Wash­ing­ton Con­gress.