Information: Control and Power

Course summary

Judith Rauhofer, Lecturer in IT Law at Edinburgh Law School, talks about the 'Information: Control and Power' course.

This course will investigate, through a range of legal disciplines and perspectives, the growing focus placed on, and value attached to, information by society and individuals; concerns as to its control and misuse; and the impact of this on business and government, particularly in the light of the opportunities and challenges of evolving and converging technologies.

This course will consider legal regimes relating to privacy, freedom of information and data protection. It will examine the extent to which present regulatory, co-regulatory and self-regulatory systems conform to expectations in respect of information privacy and access.

We will investigate the extent to which basic data, information and content is or should be protected by intellectual property or other information rights, particularly in the light of new means of creating, obtaining, recording, sharing and exploiting that information. Human rights law and policy, with particular reference to (online) privacy, electronic surveillance, access to information and the conflict between freedom of expression and reputation and image rights will also be examined.

The course will also cover the ability of competition law and policy to intervene in respect of misuse of information and its control by individuals, companies and groups, by the use of existing and ground breaking technologies. The impact of the WTO and the possible impact of different regulatory structures will also be covered. A wide-ranging international approach will be adopted, with contributions sought from students in respect of their own jurisdictions.


  1. Introduction to Information Law
  2. Regulation, co-regulation and self regulation
  3. Information privacy
  4. Data protection
  5. Freedom of information
  6. Control of online content 1: copyright enforcement and web-blocking
  7. Control of online content 2: user generated content and social media
  8. Surveillance and social control
  9. Competition and technology transfer
  10. Reputation and image rights

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course the student should be able to:

  • Assess when rights or obligations arise under data protection and freedom of information legislation;
  • Evaluate when information should and should not be recorded, retained, re-used or shared;
  • Analyse the extent to which developments in information and privacy can impact upon individuals and business, and the appropriate balance between these interests;
  • Form a view on the roles of IP, competition, world trade law and regulation, human rights and ethics in the field of information control, and the implications for private, public and corporate interests wherever situated;
  • Assess when, if ever, and to what extent control of information should be possible and identify situations where rights to create, share and access information may conflict with rights to privacy and personal autonomy.

Components of Assessment

One Essay, 4000 words (60%); one piece of assessed course work (20%); participation in online activity (20%).

Terms and conditions

Please note the University reserves the right to make variations to the contents of programmes, including the range of courses offered, and the available choice of courses in any given year may change.

Find out more about the University's terms and conditions