n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - The growing expansion of vicarious liability in the information age (part 1)

Volume 2006, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0257-7747
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2207



The use of the Internet and email in the corporate environment is an everyday occurrence. Although the benefits attached to the use of electronic communication systems are numerous, many companies fail to realise that there are inherent dangers in the unauthorised and inappropriate use of corporate computer systems and resources by their own employees. Courts may find that any information system relied upon by a company is vicariously relied upon by all those who depend on the company. This subsequently places a duty of care on companies not only to guard against cyber attacks being launched against them directly, but also to ensure that they are not used as a vehicle to attack another company. Consequently, companies may be exposed to legal liability in cases of inappropriate use of corporate Internet and email facilities, for harassment, discrimination, defamation (resulting from ill-conceived wording in an email), copyright infringement (where the employee carelessly downloads and disseminates copyright material and software), criminal liability (if child pornography is downloaded) and even liability under contract law (where an employee inadvertently concludes a contract through an email).

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