While there are emerging new uses of the Internet in government, education, science, medicine and the arts, commercial transactions between buyers and sellers are at the heart of Internet growth. These transactions can be business-to-business or business-to consumer. They can involve any kind of produced goods or services. They can use traditional means of distribution and order fulfillment or new electronic means. Equally important, these transactions, the parties to them and the products involved, can all be subject to regular commercial law principles and, often, to government regulation at federal, state or international levels.
While Internet transactions and the growth of the Internet as a commercial medium of exchange both occur at very high speed, the law moves at a much slower pace. The result is often delay, doubt or confusion as to whether, and how, commercial law or government regulation apply to particular kinds of transactions. Nonetheless, traditional forums of rule making authority have expanded their guidance to the Internet. For example, the Federal Trade Commission now applies more than thirty of its rules and guides to Internet transactions. The Federal Trade Commission has numerous useful publications on its website located at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-internet.htm.
This state of flux and transition between the law and the Internet means that anyone developing an Internet site for commercial transactions needs to pay careful attention to issues like jurisdiction, taxation, digital signatures, advertising and unsolicited e-mail, privacy and the formation of contracts. These and other subjects are addressed in the other posts within this series.