Missouri State University

Wayne Anderson

  • Professor
  • Springfield, MO

Learning laws and loopholes in the information age

If a significant life event was posted on Twitter but no one saw it, did it really happen? 

Regardless of how you fall on the issue, Wayne Anderson thinks people need to consider the risks of social media before sharing.

“My training has got me scared to do any of that,” chuckled Anderson, professor in the department of finance and general business.

Anderson, who jokes that he’s been on campus forever, was practicing law in the state of California when he became interested in the issues of software development and started writing articles on the topic from the legal perspective. After teaching business law at Missouri State for more than 20 years, the computer information systems graduate program coordinator recruited Anderson to teach a course on legal issues in the information technology arena – a course that changes each semester due to new issues and nuances that appear.

“I wish there was a silver bullet for spoofing. Backtrack to see if it's really coming from who you think it's coming from.  Always use throw away e-mail addresses when corresponding with an unfamiliar source. Have a separate banking account for questionable transactions. Just use a little precaution.”  

“I am not in it to create junior attorneys. Instead, it’s my job to put an alarm system in you so that maybe you don't remember what the law is from what we talked about, but you smell a rat in this,” he said.

The students in his courses are often IT professionals, working toward an advanced degree, so they bring forward research topics for articles and discussions that are applicable to their daily lives. Anderson works closely with those students to produce articles for publication on a variety of topics affecting the IT industry, ultimately co-authoring 19 articles in the last seven years.

“It's phenomenal how many I've been able to get published for them.  That's nice for everybody.”

Can you keep a secret?

Much of the course work focuses on intellectual property issues, including patents, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets. Anderson also addresses contracts, criminal law, hacking and spoofing.

“It's getting to be very difficult to keep anything secure,” said Anderson. “Of course, you clicked on the ‘I Agree’ button or you wouldn’t even gain access to many of these sites from day one.  Before you clicked, you failed to look at the 32 page document that covered that.”

With intellectual property, Anderson stressed how time-consuming and monetarily expensive it can be to protect a product or service. The owner must also be willing to bring the action to court.

“A lot of people assume that if there’s infringement, someone else - like a governmental agency – will step in to enforce it.”

That’s the exception rather than the rule, he pointed out.

So as a lawyer, mentor and researcher, Anderson feels compelled to stay abreast of the latest regulations in the technological industry, which helps to influence discussions with his students. He delves into the morality of the actions and whether a law exists to influence a decision.

“Sometimes, I want to tell my students how to protect themselves from the people that they work for, as well as protect the people that they work for,” he said. “Because, when things hit the fan, unfortunately, sometimes the company will be looking for someone to be held responsible.”