The first project I picked up at EFF this summer was to research and analyze restrictions on exporting digital tools to Syria. Suffice it to say, they are a mess. The first major result of the project is this blogpost on the EFF Deeplinks blog, which we hope will incite the Obama administration to clarify that exporting tools that promote communication and self-organization among Syrian citizens is not only legal, but encouraged.
The most compelling argument to me is the effect of the Berman and Free Trade in Information Amendments, which specifically prohibit the President from directly or indirectly regulating the export of “information or informational materials.” This restriction has been narrowly implemented however; the Treasury Department continues to regulate services for information creation, alteration, or promotion. This creates a lot of confusion about whether a social network or e-mail client is exempt from export regulation. Seems to me that regulating such a service would be an impermissible indirect regulation of information under those amendments.
Looking forward to seeing if this gets traction. Let me know your thoughts.
A post I wrote a few months ago about the rise of desktop 3D printing has just been published to my law school’s Student Intellectual Property Society blog:
For the past few decades, copyright law has been struggling with the relatively new ability for the average person to create perfect digital copies of music, videos, images, and text at effectively zero cost. In the coming decades, copyright law will face an entirely new and potentially more harrowing challenge: the rise of the ability to create perfect physical copies of pretty much anything and everything, by anyone and everyone.
Seriously though, what a fascinating context for copyright. Could a court order a tattoo removed or covered if it infringed another’s copyright? Can a tattoo artist really assert exclusive rights when the medium in which their work is fixed is the skin of another human being? What counts as “making money” from a tattoo? Does a tattoo – especially one on the face – become part of the bearer’s persona so as to implicate their exclusive right of publicity?
The article also provides great insight into the nature of the Product Counsel team, for which I worked as a legal assistant for two years. This excerpt, describing the team’s role in product development and launches, follows a discussion of Google’s admitted missteps in the Buzz launch:
Google employs about two dozen lawyers to avoid this kind of thing. When new projects are launched, these product lawyers are assigned to bake a legal component right into the design. The idea, says associate GC Mike Yang, is to encourage lawyers and engineers to communicate and develop friendly relationships. When the engineers realize that lawyers are there to facilitate rather than delay product releases, together they can front-load the problem solving. It’s better than launching a product “and have lawyers throw rocks at it,” Yang says.
But the process failed on this occasion. “We feel that we let users down with that launch,” he continues. The company admitted as much at the time, and promptly fixed the problem. But they don’t try to excuse it. “We can always do better as a company,” adds Yang’s colleague, product counsel Brian Downing. Google “cares deeply about privacy,” he says, “but the answers don’t always leap out.”
The good news, they emphasize, is that generally the process works pretty well. “More often than not, what we’re trying to help the company do,” says Yang, “is apply cutting-edge technology to antiquated laws.” Like the cars driven entirely by robots that Google tested on public streets last year-there was no legal road map for that.
They try to figure out what’s right and give their best advice. But the engineers understand that it’s a litigious world. What’s most important, adds Yang, is that he’s never heard one of them say, “We got sued. It must be legal’s fault.”
Although I agree with Jason Kottke that it has a slightly discomforting Polar Expressuncanny valley vibe, I’m still pretty excited about the Adventures of Tintin movie. Folks say that I remind them of Tintin because of my hair flip. Really, not because I’m an French-speaking, death-defying everyman with a fondness for terriers and adventure? C’mon!
Poster after the jump for your comparison pleasure.
All opinions that I express online are entirely my own. They do not necessarily reflect the positions of my firm, clients, or any other organizations with which I am or have previously been affiliated. I am a lawyer, but probably not yours: nothing I post here is intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such.