Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Book review: EU Electronic Communications Law

Subtitled "Competition & Regulation in the European Telecommunications Market", this is another second edition from OUP. The authors are Paul Nihoul, of the University of Louvain (a town with a particular place in my affections) and Peter Rodford, formerly of the European Commission. There are 536 pages and the prices is the same as the Fawcett and Torremans book reviewed earlier, £195. That makes it look rather less good value, doesn't it, half as many pages for the same money, but that's probably not the way to look at it - if EU telecommunications law floats your boat, an expression I can't resist on this great day for British Olympic rowing, the other work won't represent better value to you.

As it happens, EU electronic communications law doesn't do much for me, but that's not the way to look at it, either: as a practitioner, I generally deal with what comes along rather than what turns me on. I noticed (because it's something a decent reviewer needs to include) that it was published on 25 August 2011 - which means that my reviews are becoming just slightly more timely, but also causes me to wonder where the last year has gone. I don't know, except that exactly a year ago I added a part-time job to the existing portfolio, since when I have been acutely conscious of how one deals with the legal problems that come along rather than those one would like to handle. I guess my work tends to be client-led rather than confined to a particular area - and being in-house for a couple of days a week, that's certainly client-led.

None of my workload has anything to do with telecommunications law, though. Except in the sense in which many lawyers frequently encounter it, the area of what can broadly be called data protection and privacy, and that features in this book. And increasingly there is an important interface between competition law and regulation and the protection of intellectual property - the duties of carriers and service providers to take steps to prevent infringements. In short, in an era of convergence, the field described in this book is pretty close to the centre of things. So it's going to be something a lot of lawyers are likely to need.

Indeed, we all have online lives which become more and more significant, and electronic communications law in the broad sense is going to carry on growing like topsy. Quite apart from the legal side of things, though, we should try to keep a sense of proportion - to keep our online lives in the right place, as I was reminded by this excellent posting on John Hull's What about Clients? blog recently.

Regardless of the subject matter, though, this is a heavy piece of work. For one thing, it has only five chapters, plus an introduction sub-titled (ominously) "How to use this book". It is rich in headings of different levels, making it (as one of my lecturers at university, later editor of Newsweek, said of Karl Llewellyn's work) like reading a knitting pattern. But its purpose is to provide information, not to narrate or entertain, so while I might prefer more readable prose it's not a valid criticism of a utilitarian piece of writing. If you need a book to guide you through this particular legal maze, this is it, and if you don't think you need a guide to this maze you might have to think again.

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