Richmond Journal of Law and Technology

The first exclusively online law review.

Month: September 2013

JOLT 2013-2014 Outlook and Announcement of 20th Volume Alumni Celebration

by Benjamin Fox, Editor-in-Chief

Following the announcement of the new staff members in August, JOLT turned its full attention to Volume XX.  I would like to take a few moments to discuss our outlook for this year, and announce some special plans.  First, however, I would like to say a huge “Thank You” to Editor-in-Chief Laura Cahill and the rest of the JOLT Volume XIX Editorial Board for all their exceptional work last year and help in the transition process.  In addition to publishing four issues and organizing an e-Discovery Symposium, the Board oversaw a complete re-design of the website, which now offers blog posts, reader and author interaction, and advanced searchable features.  We hope to build upon their advances.

Our staff is hard at work editing articles for Issue One and looking for quality articles to publish throughout the year.  We strive to continue JOLT’s tradition of publishing insightful, informative, and well-written articles that will drive discussion on a topic.  It is this tradition that has made JOLT the second most cited science, technology, and computing journal in judicial opinions over the past eight years.[1]  Furthermore, we have expanded our blog post section and will continue to increase the number and frequency of posts, so check back often!  Our blog posts present an opportunity to address evolving issues at the intersection of law and technology as they emerge.  As always, we appreciate your comments.  Additionally, while many of our blog posts come from JOLT staff, we welcome submissions from all sources.  Therefore, if you are interested in writing an article or blog post, please contact us at jolt@richmond.edu.

JOLT’s Annual Symposium is scheduled for February 28, 2014, and looks to be our biggest yet.  This year’s Symposium will focus on e-Discovery and Information Governance, with topics including the ethics of data retention, privacy and security of data, the importance of developing and implementing information governance procedures, and the effects of the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  We will provide updates under the “Symposium” tab on the site and will publish blog posts from a number of the authors and speakers in the months leading up to the Symposium.

Finally, it is with genuine excitement that I announce the JOLT 20th Volume Alumni Celebration.  On November 15, 2013, we will be hosting a reunion event for all University of Richmond JOLT alumni and their families.  JOLT alumni should be on the lookout for a save-the-date and a formal invitation with more information.  We will provide further updates on the website, but in the meantime, if you have questions about the event, please contact our Managing Editor Morgan Ackerman at morgan.ackerman@richmond.edu.  We hope to see many of you then!


[1] Law Journals: Submissions and Ranking, 2005-2012, Wash. & Lee Sch. L. L. Libr., http://lawlib.wlu.edu/LJ/index.aspx (search by selecting “Science, Technology and Computing” under Journal Criteria and “Case Cites” under Ranking Criteria)

Blog: Should Search Engines be Responsible for Personal Information on the Internet?

by Spencer Mead, Associate Staff

Should Search Engines be Responsible for Personal Information on the Internet?

 

            Advances in technology and the Internet have revolutionized how human beings interact. 20 years ago, embarrassing moments were rarely caught on camera. However, those recorded gems started one of the most popular television shows in recent history, America’s Funniest Home Videos. People knew that their embarrassing moments had a possibility of making it on TV to be viewed by hundreds of thousands of Americans. Thankfully, video recorders were fairly large and recognizable so people generally knew when they were being recorded.

 

Fast forward to today. The widespread availability of the Internet, vast improvements in video recording capabilities, the advent of YouTube, and the explosion of smart phone usage allows videos to be recorded at any time, without someone being aware they are being recorded, and accessible to the entire world in a matter of minutes. Now, an embarrassing moment can be seen by millions in a few weeks’ time. There are even TV shows that get all of their material strictly from YouTube. Information spreads so quickly across the internet that it can be almost impossible to fully remove something from the public realm. But what if you want one of your embarrassing or personal moments, that should not have been placed in the public realm to begin with, wiped from the Internet for good? Is it even possible to do?

 

Internet Search Engines, such as Google, are extremely complex and modifying the search algorithm is not easily done. Therefore, making it difficult to permanently remove items from the search engine’s databases. However, most Internet search engines have mechanisms in place to remove unwanted items from their search results.[1] But this does not mean the information is actually removed from the search engine. People can still find this information. Sometimes just changing the search terms is all it takes to find the information through a different search on the same search engine.

 

One man thinks the solution is permanently altering the search engines to remove the information from their databases.[2] However, this raises several public policy concerns. This would be a very expensive process, and it might not be economically feasible for search engines to accomplish this without the services offered to the public suffering. Also, it raises concerns about free speech under the First Amendment. Where should the line be drawn between the public having full access to as much information as possible and protecting an individual’s private rights? A French Court will decide where this balance lies on October 12.[3]

 

This ruling might not be on U.S. soil, but it raises many concerns that could have worldwide implications. If Syria does not like all the negative press it is receiving, should it be able to force Google to remove the articles from its database? Should only individuals have the ability to make such a request? Should the First Amendment right to freedom of speech trump all requests for personal information to be removed? The answer is not known, but we as Americans need to be aware of these concerns to make sure the right balance is struck.


[1] Remove a Page or Site from Google’s Search Results, Google, https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/164734?hl=en (last visited Sept. 8, 2013).

[2] Google in Fight Over Content That Appears in Search Results, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/technology/google-in-fight-over-content-that-appears-in-search-results.html?ref=technology (last visited Sept. 8, 2013).

[3] Id.

Blog: NCAA Getting Out of the Video Game Business?

By Kevin Conneran, Associate Staff

 

With the beginning of a new football season, every college football fan is acutely aware of the challenges that his or her school will face this season. However, more pressing than your school’s mid-October game against its in-state rival is the issue of player compensation.

 

The debate over compensation is nothing new in college sports. For years, there have been calls to more fairly compensate student-athletes. Is tuition, room, board, and books fair compensation for athletes who generate millions of dollars for their schools? South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier has been outspoken in his support for player compensation, stating that he wished he could give players a “piece of the pie” that they help create.[1]

 

The latest development that has reignited this debate is the 2009 lawsuit filed against the NCAA by former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon that has been joined by current and former football and basketball players. Detailed information on that lawsuit can be found here. The O’Bannon lawsuit takes aim at two major revenue sources for the NCAA and its member institutions both tied to player’s images and likeness: television revenue and video game licensing.[2]

 

In July, the NCAA announced that they would not renew its licensing agreement with EA Sports, maker of the NCAA College Football video game franchise.[3] The Pac-12, Big Ten, and the SEC have followed suit and announced that they will not be a part of the franchise moving forward.[4] While this may sound like a win for those championing reform in college athletics, the practical effect of these moves seems to be minimal. While the NCAA and major conferences have severed their ties with EA Sports, each university still has its own licensing agreements with EA Sports. According to industry sources, only one team that appeared in this year’s version of NCAA College Football will not appear in next year’s.[5]

 

It seems NCAA College Football has at least a few more years left in it. At the end of the day, colleges will continue to use players’ likeness without paying compensation until the threat of litigation becomes too onerous. Until then, college athletes will continue to play for tuition, room, board, and books. I’m sure Johnny Manziel is thrilled.

Blog: NSA Surveillance, the Boston Bombing, and Political Incentives

 

by Walton Milam, Associate Staff

 

The National Security Agency’s surveillance of domestic electronic communication has garnered much attention in recent months.  The NSA apparently has access to immense databases that the government claims will protect Americans from international and domestic terrorist threats.  While the extent of the NSA’s surveillance remains a mystery, the government clearly has the capability to collect data regarding personal communications.  Many opposed to the surveillance fear a slippery slope through which the NSA will eventually monitor individual electronic activity without end.  Some including the ACLU suggest monitoring phone calls, text messages, and email violates first amendment rights.  Supporters of the surveillance claim the data collection will be directed only at identifying and monitoring potential threats to United States.  These supporters include President Obama who claims the surveillance is “circumscribed, narrow system, directed at us being able to protect our people, and all of it is done under the oversight of the courts.”[1]

 

Regardless of the merits of those arguing for or against surveillance, it is likely that NSA surveillance is here to stay as public opinion and as a result politicians will favor homeland security above all else.  Homeland security, for better or worse, has emerged as a dogma in American politics that few politicians seeking reelection dare speak against.  In the wake of the Boston Bombing, where surveillance technology proved particularly helpful in catching the culprits, American sentiment is likely particularly favorable to increased surveillance.  Any politician who opposed NSA surveillance will almost assuredly be met with fear-mongering from opponents who will claim opposition to surveillance equals opposition to homeland security, a cardinal political sin.  At this point, all American voters will have lived through 9/11, the Boston Bombings, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the Sandy Hook school shooting. The vast majority is old enough to remember the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.  Thus, National Security remains at the forefront in voters’ minds. 

 

To wage successful campaigns, politicians must meet the demands of their constituents.  With national security such a prominent issue that politicians can ill-afford to oppose, it is unlikely that any substantial group of politicians will gain enough clout to create legislation ending the NSA’s surveillance.  Opponents of NSA surveillance thus likely stand the best chance of ending or limiting the surveillance in the courtroom.  A number of cases have already been filed.[2]  Major telecommunications companies have a dog in the hunt as their consumers may be upset with having data about their communications parlayed to the government.  These companies will likely be primary sponsors of lawsuits against the government seeking an injunction against the NSA’s continued surveillance.

 

While those opposing NSA surveillance have shout loudly and frequently make headlines on NPR, Fox, CNN, and NBC, it is likely these shouts will not be heard in the Capitol where politicians face major incentives to act like they care more about national security than individual rights that may or may not be infringed by NSA surveillance.


[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/19/barack-obama-nsa-people-emails

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/17/nsa-court-challenges-tech-firms

Blog: I Just (Don’t) Want My MTV: VMA Performances Spark Movement for A La Carte Cable

 By:  Catherine Gray, Associate Staff 

 

            I admit it. I love the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). From Lil’ Kim’s seashell pasty in 1999 to Beyoncé announcing her pregnancy with Blue Ivy in 2011, the VMA’s always deliver just the right combination of crazy, ridiculous, and pure celebrity trash I’m looking for. Unfortunately this year, the event that should have taken the cake—the reunion of *NSYNC and the subsequent restoration of all my middle school hopes and dreams—was overshadowed by Miley Cyrus and her dancing teddy bears. In what can only be described as one of the most bizarre performances in VMA history, Hannah Montana twerked her way into homes across the country wearing nothing more than a spandex bikini.

            While I found this horrific and embarrassing display highly entertaining, I realize that others, particularly those individuals with young and impressionable children, might not find this to be quality broadcast. Moreover, I recognize that these parents might not want their children to have access to networks that offer this kind of programming. Indeed, in the aftermath of Miley’s attempt to prove to the world she’s a big girl now, the Parents Television Council pointed to her display of ‘creativity’ as a reason for Congress to pass the proposed Television Consumer Freedom Act.[1] The bill, introduced by Arizona Senator John McCain, would allow multi-channel distributors to provide video programming to subscribers on an individual, per channel basis.[2]

            Despite the somewhat suspect source of this movement—the Parents Television Council has a history of criticizing MTV programming for failing to adhere to family values—the appeal of the Television Consumer Freedom Act extends beyond parents who want to protect their children from the likes of Miley Cyrus’ foam finger.[3] Even those of us who gleefully tune in to the VMAs, Jersey Shore, and Teen Mom stand to benefit from being able to purchase programming on a per-channel basis. Cost-conscious consumers, instead of paying roughly $70, $80, or $90 a month for a Verizon FiOS package of assorted channels, would be able to select each channel they wish to subscribe to individually, creating a substantial reduction in cost.[4] Gone would be the days of subscribing to a bundled package, paying for channels you’d never watch to have access to ones you want. This option already exists with regard to premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, so why not extend individual subscriptions to basic network channels?[5]

The Television Consumer Freedom Act was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on May 9, 2013. [6] Although it has a slim chance of becoming enacted, the idea of a la carte cable has mainstream consumer appeal.[7] Lastly, just in case you’re interested, you can catch all the highlights from the 2013 VMAs here.


[1] Parents Television Council Blasts VMAs as Serving Sex to Teens, The Hollywood Reporter (Aug. 26, 2013), http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/parents-television-council-blasts-mtvs-614448.

[2] Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013, S. 912, 113th Cong. (2013).

[3] Parents watchdog group assailts [sic] content of MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ and other shows, NY Daily News (Dec. 7, 2011), http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/parents-watchdog-group-assailts-content-mtv-jersey-shore-shows-article-1.988095#ixzz2drd5h9Vc.

[4] TV PackagesFiOS TV Packages, Verizon, http://www.verizon.com/home/fiostv/tv-packages/ (last visited Sept. 3, 2013).

[5] Premium TV Channels – FiOS TV, Verizon, http://www.verizon.com/home/fiostv/tv-packages/#premiumchannels (last visited Sept. 3, 2013).

[6] Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 (S. 912), GovTrack.us, http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s912 (last visited Sept. 3, 2013).

[7] Id.

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