Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

June 2017 Archives

Court Won't Act on Computer Glitch That Generates Bad Orders and Warrants

You could call it a glitch in the system, but this is criminal.

The Alameda County Superior Court's computer system has caused countless numbers of people to serve unnecessary jail time, be improperly arrested, and wrongly registered as sex offenders. The public defender's office has filed about 2,000 motions challenging legal process due to the faulty software.

While judges dealt with the problem in the courtroom, public defender Brendon Woods petitioned an appeals court to order the county to fix the software. But now there is a problem with the paperwork.

Tech Used to Track, Deport Immigrants

If you are an illegal immigrant, put down your cell phone now.

If you are slightly paranoid about government snooping, put down your cell phone now.

But if you have accepted the idea that immigrants and personal privacy are at risk in the Trump-tech era, then keep reading. It's getting real and the story is in your phone.

Colorado Green Lights Texting While Driving

From the state that brought you recreational marijuana, Colorado now invites you to text while driving.

Whether you are a resident or just passing through, apparently you can text, browse, or use your cell phone for selfies with one-hand while steering with the other. Just don't do it in a "careless or in an imprudent manner." In practice, this means don't text while your car is moving.

"Sounds like a political decision made under the influence of legalized marijuana," wrote Benno Kushnir.

The History of the Future and Back

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

It is natural for us to ponder the future and to wonder what is coming next. For example, right now we are considering how far will Artificial Intelligence (AI) go. Will more and more of our lives be facilitated positively by AI? Or, will AI robots ultimately work toward their own superiority and survival over that of their human creators? But let's also consider the history of the future. What were past predictions of the future? And what about future look backs to this present time?

Centuries ago, it is unlikely that most humans contemplated that not too long in the future that their descendants would talk to one and other over the telephone and would travel great distances by planes, trains and automobiles. Indeed, they would have struggled to even imagine lighting up the night with electricity and the many other functions that would be moved forward by electricity.

Law Firm Shares Best Practices for Startup Early-Stage Investment

If you have the next big thing but not the big thing budget, a BigLaw firm has just what you've been waiting for: a startup package of financing documents.

Cooley, exclusively through its microsite "Go," has released a free repository of documents for investors and business owners. The documents are for companies in the United States and designed for those incorporated in Delaware.

"It's a way for entrepreneurs and early-stage investors and business owners to access what the firm considers to be best practices for early-stage investment and to streamline the process for committing capital at the seed stage," according to TechCrunch.

Summer Reading for Legal Tech Pros

How many programmers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None. It's a software problem.

If that didn't make you smile, then you are not a programmer. But if you find pleasure in reading tech stuff -- even books that talk around the subject -- then you might enjoy this list of summer reading for legal tech pros:

Privacy, Security Risks When Telecommuting

If you telecommute from home, chances are you don't have a receptionist there.

Nobody screens phone calls or checks for identification, either. If you have a home office, it probably doesn't have a lock on the door.

The main office, on the other hand, typically has all of these features. They are part of the business, and they provide some security.

For the telecommuter's business, however, security and privacy begin at home.

Supreme Court Bumps 'Dancing Baby' Fair Use Case

If you love dancing babies and the First Amendment, watch this video.

The happy toddler is rocking out to "Let's Go Crazy," by Prince. The video has been viewed nearly 2 million times by people looking for a feel-good moment in a sometimes dreary day.

What could be wrong with that? A copyright violation lawsuit by the music company?! Are you baby-caca kidding me?!

Lethal Texting: When Is It a Crime?

Michelle Carter, the teen convicted of involuntary manslaughter for texting a friend to commit suicide, is today's poster child for texting gone way wrong.

Carter faces up to 20 years in prison for telling her ex-boyfriend, as he filled his truck up with carbon monoxide, to finish it. Get back in the truck, she told him.

"The time is right and you're ready, you just need to do it!" the Massachusetts teen texted.

Facebook Uses AI to Catch Terrorists

In a world where the First Amendment doesn't apply, Facebook has more power than the government to crush terrorism's ugly head.

For example, the company can keep terrorist pictures and videos off the largest social media site on the planet. An algorithm can detect such content and prevent it from seeing Facebook daylight.

So when ISIS tries to shock the world with a beheading video, they are not going to see it on Facebook.

Legal Tech Startups Founded by Lawyers

To build a better mousetrap, you have to know something about mice.

It's true in the legal tech business, too. After all, how can you create a better way to monitor a court docket if you don't really know how it works? Michael Sander, who created Docket Alarm, learned that lesson when he was working at an expensive New York law firm.

"Twice a day, we had a paralegal go to the court's website, enter a case number, see if there was anything new, and repeat that nine times," he told Wired.com.

Judge Orders Drunk Drivers to Download Ride-Sharing Apps

Judge Michael Cicconetti, who works at the Painesville Municipal Court in Ohio, has a reputation that reaches much farther than his jurisdiction.

Known widely for creative sentencing, Cicconetti once sentenced a woman to walk 30 miles for stiffing a taxi driver. He made a drunk driver go the morgue to view car-crash victims.

Now, as a standard condition of probation, he orders drunk drivers to download Uber and Lyft apps to their smart phones. How about a toast to technology?

Google Assistant Is Ready to Assist Your Law Practice

If you have fallen in love with Siri or Alexis, you can still take a peek at Google's digital assistant and be faithful to your first love.

These voice-enabled programs perform many of the same functions, but their makers are always trying to improve each model. Apple got to the market first with Siri on the iPhone; then Amazon breathed life into Alexis, the voice of the home-based Echo device; and now Google has released a new version of the Assistant.

So what's the fuss about Google's latest release and why should any Siri or Alexis lover care? Well, the Assistant is smarter. It can even learn to talk like a lawyer.

Lawsuit: Permit for Augmented Reality Game Violates Free Speech

Texas Rope 'Em is not exactly Pokemon Go, the wildly successful augmented reality game that has led millions to search for virtual characters in the real world.

But the virtual poker game does present a new legal twist in an augmented reality lawsuit pending in Wisconsin. Candy Lab, Inc., the video game maker, says a county park is violating its First Amendment right by requiring a permit for its users.

"This restriction impinges on Candy Lab AR's right to free speech by regulating Candy Lab AR's right to publish its video games that make use of the augmented reality medium," the company's complaint says.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Perhaps you saw the movie "Ex Machina" a couple years ago. In that movie, a male internet coder was drawn into an unusual experiment, as he engaged with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) being provided in the form of a very attractive female robot. Is this the stuff of science fiction, or are we already dealing with AI, even when we do not know that is the case?

Generally speaking, we hopefully know that we are not dealing with a live human being when we talk to Apple's Siri or when dealing with Amazon's Alexa. However, according to a recent article by Forbes, we often interact with AI unbeknownst to us. For example, we probably do not think about the fact that AI controls Google's searches for answers to our questions, and AI also controls how Gmail and Outlook know which emails to put in our spam folders.

Stupid Patent of the Month Sanctioned, Must Pay Attorneys' Fees

When does a stupid patent become a really stupid patent?

When a court orders the stupid patent-holder to pay an alleged infringer's attorneys' fees, that's when. And so it is with the "Internet drink mixer," also called a "Stupid Patent of the Month" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A federal appeals court said Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations must pay $43,000 for attorneys' fees as sanctions because the company willfully ignored pre-existing descriptions of its claimed invention. The decision could mark the beginning of the end of frivolous claims by companies like Rothschild, which had filed 58 cases against makers of almost anything that connects to the Internet.

Staring Down a Barrel, Uber Ordered to Hand Over Acquisition Report

It's not quite a smoking gun; more like a smoking engine in the self-driving car case against Uber.

A federal magistrate has ordered the company to turn over a due diligence report, which the company had when it bought technology that allegedly belonged to Google's self-driving car division. Google's Waymo is suing Uber, and the trial judge seems impatient about the defendant stalling.

"They have a right to get to trial on Oct. 2, and you're doing everything you can to throw roadblocks in the way," Judge William Alsup said.

Legal Tech Training Isn't Mandatory in Every State -- Yet

It's a strange new world, isn't it?

Florida, the state famous for hanging chads on its voting machines, is the first to mandate lawyers receive technical training.

Perhaps there is no irony in the legal developments, although the hanging chads case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court while the legal profession has been slow to recognize that technology has changed everything in the law. So is it time for mandatory technical training for attorneys everywhere?

Do Tech Companies Give Terrorists a 'Safe Space'?

Even as U.S.-backed forces launched an attack on ISIS headquarters in Syria, America's social media giants fought back claims they provide a "safe space" for terrorists online.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter insisted they work closely with government to flush out those who push extremist content, including terrorists like those who recently attacked on London Bridge. Prime Minister Theresa May had complained that terrorists had found a "safe space" to spread their message online and proposed more regulation of internet service providers.

The Internet lashed back, but it was not the first time social media has been at the center of the controversy. According to reports, social media is a breeding ground for terrorist propaganda.

Addicted to the Internet?

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

When we think of addictions, we typically think of alcohol and drugs. But, are many of us addicted to the internet? The answer apparently is a resounding "yes."

Indeed, according to a study conducted by scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom, habitual internet users often experience heightened heart rates and blood pressure when they go offline. And, according to an article posted on Scroll.in, these physical changes are similar to those found in people who cease their frequently used sedatives and opioid drugs.

ABA's New Email Opinion: A Quick Primer

After Yahoo announced hackers got into 1.5 billion email accounts last year, you had to know it was coming: new rules for lawyers to protect email communications with clients.

The American Bar Association has issued an ethics opinion, which says that attorneys need to consider more secure methods for electronic communications. It is basically a self-test, focusing on the sensitivity of the information and need for additional safeguards on a case-by-case basis.

"[F]act-based analysis means that particularly strong protective measures, like encryption, are warranted in some circumstances," the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility said.

Silk Road Ends at 2nd Circuit: Founder's Life Sentence Upheld

Ross William Ulbricht, founder of the notoriously successful Silk Road, didn't want the fame. He just wanted the fortune.

He didn't even want anyone to know that he created the website, which did more than $180 million in business in just a few years, for people to make "darknet" purchases. He worked anonymously because, after all, it was a drug-trafficking site.

The government discovered his real identity, however, and sent him to jail for life. Now a federal appeals court has affirmed the sentence.

Amazon to Refund $70 Million for Kids' Purchases

It was the $358.42 charge on her credit card that caught the attention of one Amazon customer.

According to a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission, the woman didn't know that her child had racked up unauthorized charges to her account. So the agency sued Amazon on behalf of everybody whose children were allowed to "spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items within the apps such as 'coins,' 'stars,' and 'acorns' without parental involvement."

After three years of litigation, Amazon has agreed to refund up to $70 million for unauthorized charges made by children. The company is sending refund notices by email now.