Course Syllabus

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus are subject to change. Instructors will notify students of any changes and students will be responsible for abiding by them. Even if you print this syllabus, please check the online version often.


IST 432: Legal and Regulatory Environment of Information Science and Technology (3 credits) - This course serves as a required course for the Information Context: People, Organizations, and Society option and as an elective for the other options in the IST major. It is also a required course for the SRA major. Additionally, it can serve as an elective for related programs in other colleges.

Students in IST 432 will explore legal, regulatory, public policy and ethical issues in connection with all aspects of information science and technology, with a focus on new and emerging technologies. The course examines the legal, regulatory, and political environment within which intellectual property rights and e-commerce are evolving in the information technology environment. The course will include examination of contracting issues, licensing of information and products, data protection, patents, cyberspace regulation, and implications of technology for personal privacy. A fundamental goal of the course will be the manner in which legal and regulatory principles have evolved and been reinterpreted by courts and lawmakers in order to deal effectively with the challenges posed by new information technologies that characterize today's Digital Age.

The semester will be divided into eight discrete, yet interrelated units. The course will begin with an examination of basic legal principles in order to provide the necessary framework for onward discussion of specific legal, regulatory and policy issues. The class sessions of Unit One will consider the legal process generally, including sessions on civil and criminal law and procedure.

Unit Two will focus on the policy and regulatory framework in the United States, with a particular emphasis on those policies and regulations that impact laws relating to information technology. The unit will also include an overview of the U.S. policymaking process as it relates to information technology.  The interplay of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and legal efforts to regulate Cyberspace will also be addressed.

Unit Three will consider the fundamentals of contract law -- the basis for many legal issues and disputes concerning information technology and electronic commerce -- and the application of tort law and legal concepts to tortious action in the Digital context.  The impact of information technology on employment and employment contracts will be considered.

Unit Four will focus on general "cyberlaw" issues.  The challenges for legislators, lawyers and judges in dealing with various types of electronic evidence will be considered, along with the related topic of electronic data discovery, which refers to the rules and procedures used to obtain electronic evidence for use in legal proceedings.  Unit Four will also include an examination of jurisdictional and choice-of-law issues relating to information technology, followed by an overview of "e-commerce" law issues.

Units Five and Six will include an overview of laws and polices relating to the various types of intellectual property, including trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks and patents.  Unit Five will begin with a consideration of trade secret law, followed by a discussion of copyright issues, both generally and in the context of digital, software and Internet copyrights.

Unit Six will focus on legal issues relating to trademarks and Internet domain names.  The unit will conclude with an examination of patent laws, regulations and procedures as they apply to cyberspace.

Unit Seven will cover issues related to information security.  The issue of data security will be discussed, including the growing problem of database breaches and laws and regulations that aim to address this.  Unit Seven will also include a discussion of cybercrime and cyberterrorism in terms of information security.

Unit Eight will focus on privacy, including a consideration of issues related to the collection and use of personally-identifiable information by the government and private sector entities.


  • SRA 231 or IST 301, completed with a grade of "C" or better


By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Summarize the legal process and explain how judges and lawyers use critical reasoning
  • Compare, contrast, and evaluate the various types of intellectual property protections
  • Apply contract and employment law principles to real-world issues in the Internet and technology sectors
  • Describe applicable laws and governmental regulations relating to digital privacy, security, and computer crime


  • TBD


  • There are no materials to purchase for this course. All necessary materials will be provided.

Assignments & Grading

Course Grading Breakdown
Grading Category Total Points Percentage of Final Grade
Quizzes 400 40%
Group Research Project 280 28%
Homework Assignments 265 26.5%
Discussions 30 3%
Peer Evaluation 25 2.5%
TOTAL 1000 100%

Course Grading Scale

The following are minimum cutoffs for each grade:

  • 93.00% = A
  • 90.00% = A-
  • 87.00% = B+
  • 83.00% = B
  • 80.00% = B-
  • 77.00% = C+
  • 70.00% = C
  • 60.00% = D
  • less than 60.00% = F

Course Policies and Expectations

  • Logging into Canvas - Students are expected to login regularly to check for course updates, announcements, emails, discussions, etc.
  • Emailing through Canvas - Students are expected to use Canvas for all course email communication.
  • Attending virtual meetings - Students are expected to use specified virtual meeting tool(s) for collaboration, meetings, presentations, etc., as needed.

Academic Integrity

Penn State and the College of Information Sciences and Technology are committed to maintaining Penn State's policy on Academic Integrity in this and all other courses. We take academic integrity matters seriously and expect you to become a partner to the University/College standards of academic excellence.

For more information, please review these policies and procedures:

WARNING: In addition to other policies, using any material in any media format - from “answer sites” (such Course Hero, Chegg, and all others) and/or other type of sources - is considered CHEATING and will not be tolerated. Sanctions range from failure of the assignment or course to dismissal from the University. Contact your instructor with questions related to this topic.

University Policies

Review current information regarding various Penn State policies (such as copyright, counseling, psychological services, disability and military accommodations, discrimination, harassment, emergencies, trade names, etc.) on the University Policies page.


Find extensive information and links to many Penn State and IST resources (including the Penn State libraries, video conferencing tools, technology and software, writing and research help, and much more) on the Resources page.

Technical Requirements

Standard World Campus computer technical specifications are assumed for this course. Please test your computer for requirements. In addition, a webcam and a headset with a microphone are REQUIRED for the course. These may be used for virtual meetings, virtual office hours, interactions with classmates and your instructor, and group presentations - which are all conducted with virtual meeting tools. No special software is required.


The following schedule outlines the topics covered in this course, along with the associated time frames, readings, activities, and assignments. All due dates reflect Eastern Time (ET). Specifying the time zone ensures that all students have the same deadlines, regardless of where they live.

Course Summary:

Date Details