What is the difference between a law and an act?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In general, a law is any binding rule that is passed by a legislature.  When a law is passed, it becomes something that all people in a given country (or smaller part of a country) must obey.  Laws can be contained in acts.  An act is a specific piece of legislation that is passed by a legislature.  An act can contain many different laws.  In the United States, for example, there are various laws against racial discrimination and discrimination based on sex.  Some of these laws were contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The laws are the rules, the act is the piece of legislation that contains them.