Law is an organized system of laws designed and enforced by governmental or social institutions to regulate conduct, with its exact definition subject to ongoing debate. It is commonly defined as the knowledge of justice and a discipline concerned with the regulation of conduct. This can be viewed as a body of theory or knowledge and it includes a number of other legal fields including tort law, which is the body of law related to disputes between private parties. Civil law covers matters not involving commerce or organizations and is focused on issues affecting the members of society. The courts also play a major role in ensuring that the rules of law are observed, including cases dealing with family law, wills and trusts.
Law has many important social and economic impacts. In particular, law and legal systems produce and enforce rules that shape property rights, societal conduct, personal rights and responsibilities and religious beliefs. Some areas of law are considered beyond the jurisdiction of government, including customary law, state jurisdiction and even international law. There is a tendency for regions or social systems to develop their own common law, although national courts tend to supervise and regulate these jurisdictions. For instance, in Canada there is a common law system based on the Canadian Constitution, although there have been instances where the federal government has overruled local jurisdictions.
A number of important areas of law are categorized within the realm of civil law. Civil law is not the same as criminal law, but there are a number of differences. Civil laws deal with disputes between individuals, organizations and governments. They cover matters such as property rights, corporate law, family law and marriage law. There are also some common law areas that differ from state and federal civil law.
There are two types of legal systems: common law systems and universal law systems. In the United States, common law is a number of centuries old court systems developed by indigenous American Indians. It includes cases that occur under tribal law, common law family systems and English common law. It is not influenced by the European or Latin common law systems. This type of law tends to be more flexible than the systems of civil law.
Shariah law, or Islamic law, is a relatively new field. Shariah law is derived from Islamic law developed in the middle east and north Africa, and it is now used in a number of countries including Pakistan, Singapore, Nigeria, Egypt and Afghanistan. It is seen by many as being based on religious principles and it therefore has the potential to affect non-Muslim communities negatively. The United States government and other democratic governments have opposed efforts to introduce sharia law into the country.
International laws become known as human rights laws when they are developed by states in accordance with the human rights standards that are recognized around the world. International law began with the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights and its subsequent enlargement through the International Labor Organization, the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Health Organization. These international legal bodies began developing rules and regulations to protect all human rights. For instance, the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to an education, freedom of speech and an equal enjoyment of cultural activities and sports. International trade agreements develop rules and guidelines for businesses to comply with human rights standards when providing goods and services to non-governmental organizations and other foreign nationals.