Volume 15, Number 1 (2016-2017)
Date posted: 9-30-2016
Cyber-attacks have become increasingly common and are an integral part of contemporary armed conflicts. With that premise in mind, the question arises of whether or not a civilian carrying out cyber-attacks during an armed conflict becomes a legitimate target under international humanitarian law. This paper aims to explore this question using three different analytical and conceptual frameworks while looking at a variety of cyber-attacks along with their subsequent effects. One of the core principles of the law of armed conflict is distinction, which states that civilians in an armed conflict are granted a set of protections, mainly the protection from direct attacks by the adversary, whereas combatants (or members of armed groups) and military objectives may become legitimate targets of direct attacks. Although civilians are generally protected from direct attacks, they can still become victims of an attack because they lose this protection “for such time as they take direct part in hostilities.” In other words, under certain circumstances, if a civilian decides to engage in hostile cyber activities (or “hacktivities”), they may well become a target of a direct lethal attack. I will argue that although the answer is highly nuanced and context dependent, the most salutary doctrinal revision that can be made in this area is that the threshold of harm must adapt to the particular intricacies of cyberspace.
Topic: CyberCrime, International
Date posted: 12-12-2016
In CBS Corporation v. FCC, the D.C. Circuit struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s rules for protecting confidential information that it collects during certain merger proceedings. In response, the Commission released a new order, pursuant to the Charter, Time Warner, and Bright House merger proceeding, for protecting confidential information. This iBrief analyzes the policy and legal implications of the Order, arguing that the Order is unlawful because it violates the Trade Secrets Act and notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements.
Topic: Media & Communications
Date posted: 12-14-2016
Digital technologies present museums with tremendous opportunities to increase public access to the arts. But the longstanding “permissions culture” entrenched in the museum community—in which licenses are obtained for the use of copyrighted materials regardless of whether such uses are “fair,” such that licenses are not legally required—likely will make the cost of many potential digital projects prohibitively expensive. Ending the permissions culture is therefore critically important to museums as they seek to connect with diverse audiences in the Digital Age. In this issue brief, I argue that such a development will require clear and context-specific information about fair use that enables museum professionals to better understand the appropriate boundaries of fair use, and that a community-based code of best practices—like the College Art Association’s recently released Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts—is likely the best means to achieve this.
Topic: Copyrights & Trademarks
Date posted: 1-5-2017
3D-printing is gradually becoming widely accessible to the population, and with accessibility come enthusiasm, participation, and ingenuity. Its continued development reflects a potential surge in technological advancement, bestowing on any person with a computer and the right software the ability to design and create. So far, the utilitarian benefits of designs such as blueprints, schematics, and CAD files have always been safeguarded from copyright over-protection through the doctrine of copyright severability. However, the doctrine is applied inconsistently across different circuits and different factual scenarios. This inconsistency can chill innovation by making it impossible to distinguish aesthetic designs protected by copyright from functional designs that are not. Thus, copyright severability does not do enough to protect innovation as 3D-printing begins to make product design more accessible to the general public. A more suitable solution may lie in the abstraction-filtration-comparison test from the software context of copyright infringement.
Topic: Copyrights & Trademarks
Date posted: 1-9-2017
The characteristics and capabilities of civilian drones have proliferated in recent years, giving rise to a burgeoning industry. The popular media and academic literature have predominantly focused on privacy concerns, devoting considerably less attention to the regulatory challenges created by the new technology. Congress instructed the FAA to integrate drones into the National Airspace System in 2012, but rulemaking delays and a moratorium on commercial uses hampered the industry and withheld benefits from the public. Final regulations are now in place, but the new rules revive legal uncertainty over the constitutional limits of federal authority and the ambiguous vertical bounds of private property rights. Low-altitude local drone use is one of the most promising aspects of the technology, and lies at the outer edge of federal authority. Much of the current debate gets key questions exactly backwards. Under current Supreme Court precedent, the proper legal question is not whether federal airspace authority can extend lower to govern virtually all drone use, but whether drone use pushes private property rights in airspace higher, limiting federal authority. Therefore, this Issue Brief joins the scholarly criticism of FAA efforts to date and calls for a greater focus on clear property rights.
Topic: Patents & Technology
Date posted: 1-27-2017
The ability to alter the genes of future generations no longer belongs in the realm of science fiction. The genetic modification capabilities of modern science are advancing rapidly. Mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) represents the first crossing of the germline barrier in humans, and as of February 2015, it is the first procedure of its kind to be legalized in the Western world. How Congress decides to regulate MRT will influence future regulation of all genetic manipulation technologies. This brief argues that the current patchwork regulatory framework established in the United States is insufficient to deal with the complex issues MRT presents. As such, the creation of a new regulatory agency specifically focused on the oversight of reproductive and genetic biotechnologies may be necessary to balance the goals of ensuring the safety of research participants, promoting public debate, and stimulating continued scientific progress.
Topic: Health & Biotechnology
Date posted: 2-4-2017
The way we consume media today is vastly different from the way media was consumed in 1976, when the Copyright Act created the compulsory license for cable systems. The compulsory license allowed cable systems, as defined by the Copyright Act, to pay a set fee for the right to air television programming rather than working out individual deals with each group that owned the copyright in the programming, and helped make television more widely accessible to the viewing public. FilmOn, a company that uses a mini-antenna system to capture and retransmit broadcast network signals, is now seeking access to the compulsory license. In three concurrent legal cases in New York, California, and D.C., FilmOn argues that it meets the statutory requirements to classify as a cable system. This Issue Brief examines the legal history of cable systems and considers the effects of agency influence, policy concerns, and the lack of judicial or congressional resolution regarding FilmOn’s contested legal status.
Topic: Copyrights & Trademarks, Media & Communications
Date posted: 2-28-2017
Under the Supreme Court’s holding in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, public schools may only restrict student speech where the speech is reasonably forecasted to cause a “substantial and material disruption.” With online forums calling into question who may control speech and forecast its impact, the circuit courts have granted public schools broad authority to monitor, and punish, their students for online activity that occurs off-campus. The Supreme Court recently declined the opportunity to reverse this disturbing trend by denying certiorari for Bell v. Itawamba County. As a result, questions remain unanswered regarding students’ right to free speech and how courts should address First Amendment cases in the digital realm.
Topic: Media & Communications
Websites as Facilities Under ADA Title III
Ryan C. Brunner
Date posted: 3-14-2017
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public accommodations—private entities that offer goods or services to the public—to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. There is an ongoing debate about whether Title III applies to websites that offer services to the public, but this debate may be resolved in the coming years by litigation or Department of Justice regulations. Assuming for the sake of argument that Title III will eventually be applied to websites, the next inquiry is what that application should look like. The regulatory definition of “facilities” should be amended to include nonphysical places of public accommodations. This change would open the door to a multilayered approach to accessible websites, wherein existing websites are subject to relatively lax requirements but new and altered websites are subject to stricter requirements.
Topic: Media & Communications
Date posted: 3-17-2017
Advancements in information technology allow information to be collected and analyzed quickly within a corporation. As a result, technology also allows the quicker release of information to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)—much quicker than the Form 10-K and Form 10-Q releases that are currently required for publicly traded companies. Although publicly traded companies must also disclose certain significant events in Form 8-K, the reporting requirements for publicly traded companies are not nearly as expansive as they could be considering the easy access these companies have to their business information. Even with this in mind, the SEC is well into a reevaluation of Regulation S-K primarily because requirements have accreted over time to become not just burdensome to companies but also blinding to investors who are overwhelmed by the volume of disclosure thrown at them. This paper expounds on these arguments and posits additional arguments for why the SEC should not expand reporting requirements for publicly traded companies. Specifically, expanded requirements are associated with high compliance costs; market forces already induce higher-quality disclosures; the more information companies file with the SEC, the more advantages they give to their competitors; and both the liability concerns and the doctrinal issues already associated with the current requirements will be exacerbated with an expansion of the requirements.
The Dawn of Fully Automated Contract Drafting: Machine Learning Breathes New Life Into a Decades-Old Promise
Kathryn D. Betts and Kyle R. Jaep
Date posted: 3-29-2017
Technological advances within contract drafting software have seemingly plateaued. Despite the decades-long hopes and promises of many commentators, critics doubt this technology will ever fully automate the drafting process. But, while there has been a lack of innovation in contract drafting software, technological advances have continued to improve contract review and analysis programs. “Machine learning,” the leading innovative force in these areas, has proven incredibly efficient, performing in mere minutes tasks that would otherwise take a team of lawyers tens of hours. Some contract drafting programs have already experimented with machine learning capabilities, and this technology may pave the way for the full automation of contract drafting. Although intellectual property, data access, and ethical obstacles may delay complete integration of machine learning into contract drafting, full automation is likely still viable.