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University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series

Faculty of Law, UNSW
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Moses, Lyria --- "Agents of Change: How the Law ‘Copes’ with Technological Change" [2012] UNSWLRS 2

Last Updated: 7 February 2012

Agents of Change: How the Law ‘Copes’ with Technological Change

Lyria Bennett Moses, University of New South Wales

This paper is available for download at


This paper was published at Griffith Law Review (2011), Vol.20, no.4, pp. 764-794. This paper may also be referenced as [2012] UNSWLRS 2.


The difficulty of adapting legal frameworks to changing circumstances is often represented by images of “law” losing a race. Such visions are commonly raised in scholarship concerned with particular problems that arise in applying existing legal rules to new situations, particularly situations involving new technologies. The dilemmas encountered in adapting legal frameworks to technological change rarely persist indefinitely, however. While no institution or methodology is exclusively concerned with changing the law in response to technological change, parliamentary committees, government departments, royal commissions, law reform organisations, technology assessment agencies, ethics bodies, courts, the Productivity Commission and an array of individuals and ad hoc bodies have all been sources of adjustment at various points in history. The diverse array of organisations represents a multiplicity of disciplinary perspectives and evolving methodologies. Each one focuses on part of the story of the mutual adjustment between technology, society and law. This article represents an initial attempt to survey the landscape in order to understand better how Australia has dealt with both technological “crises” and the more mundane process of ensuring that legal rules operate sensibly and predictably in an evolving technological environment. From this, the article will explore briefly the gaps in Australia’s current mechanisms for ensuring law “keeps up” with technology.

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