Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Law is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of
institutions. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways
and serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people.
Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading on
derivatives markets. Property law defines rights and obligations related to
the transfer and title of personal (often referred to as chattel) and real
property. Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial
security, while tort law allows claims for compensation if a person's rights
or property are harmed. If the harm is criminalised in a statute, criminal
law offers means by which the state can prosecute the perpetrator.
Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the
protection of human rights and the election of political representatives.
Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies,
while international law governs affairs between sovereign nation states in
activities ranging from trade to environmental regulation or military
action. Writing in 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle declared, "The
rule of law is better than the rule of any individual."
Legal systems elaborate rights and
responsibilities in a variety of ways. A general distinction can be made
between civil law jurisdictions, which codify their laws, and common law
systems, where judge made law is not consolidated. In some countries,
religion still informs the law. Law provides a rich source of scholarly
inquiry, into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis or sociology. Law
also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and
justice. "In its majestic equality", said the author Anatole France in 1894,
"the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the
streets and steal loaves of bread." In a typical democracy, the central
institutions for interpreting and creating law are the three main branches
of government, namely an impartial judiciary, a democratic legislature, and
an accountable executive. To implement and enforce the law and provide
services to the public, a government's bureaucracy, the military and police
are vital. While all these organs of the state are creatures created and
bound by law, an independent legal profession and a vibrant civil society
inform and support their progress.
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Primary legal materials and links to a wide
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Cornell Law School.
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Intellectual Property Law
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