Richmond Journal of Law and Technology

The first exclusively online law review.

Author: Tatum Williams

UK Judges Rules on Cryopreservation

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By: Sophia Brasseux

 

This past October, a fourteen-year-old girl from the UK, known as JS, died of a rare form of cancer.[1]  However, she just might have a second chance at life. Justice Peter Jackson’s ruling on October 17 granted her mother control over decisions regarding the disposal of her daughter’s body in a groundbreaking family law dispute.[2]

In a letter JS wrote to the court, she expressed her desire to be cryogenically preserved, which would allow her body to be unfrozen upon the discovery of a cure for her rare form of cancer.[3]  When JS’s father disagreed with her decision—one that her mother supported—the family asked a High Court Judge to intervene.[4] Judge Jackson emphasized that the focus of his ruling would not be on the science, but rather on the parental dispute concerning whether the mother or father would be responsible for JS’s body after her death.[5] In his court opinion, the Judge expressed his concerns about the controversial technology.[6]

Cryopreservation is the process of freezing a human body to prevent decay after death.[7] Though the process is complicated, and still very much developing, there are three basic steps: first, the body is placed in an ice bath immediately following its being legally declared dead; second, the organs and cells are prepared for freezing temperatures by replacing the body’s fluids with agents that work as antifreeze; third, the body is placed in an insulating bag and then inside a cooling box with liquid nitrogen until it reaches minue-200 degrees Celsius.[8] Once this process is complete, the body can be transported to various storage facilities.[9] JS was transported to the Cryonics Institute, located in Michigan, on October 25.[10]

Cryopreservation has been met with mixed reviews; while some scientists are optimistic about its benefits, others are more skeptical. One such skeptic, Clive Coen, a professor of neuroscience at Kings College in London, questions whether revival is going to be a reality.[11] In Coen’s view, not only has there yet to be a revival of a human being,  a lack of weight has been given to the damage bodies incur from the antifreeze agents used during the freezing process.[12]

Many issues have led to controversy surrounding this recently developed technology, one being the uncertainty regarding its outcomes. Judge Jackson said that, not only was this the first case of its kind to come before the court in the UK, but also probably in the world.[13] In Jackson’s view, this new science will likely have the biggest impact on the future of family law.[14] Another issue is that, although cryopreservation is legal, it is still largely unregulated.[15] While regulation does exist for freezing sperm and embryos, those regulations do not encompass freezing the whole body; this sort of procedure had not yet been contemplated when regulations were initially passed.[16] Even so, preservation agreements are still considered an unsettled area of law when dealing with sperm and embryos.[17] These agreements are most successful when they are unambiguous, in line with public policy, and have extensive detail about the individuals involved.[18] Since human cryopreservation is so new, there is even less case law to base such conclusions in regards to how those sorts of agreements will be treated in court.

In JS’s case, the court’s decision to protect her post-mortem wishes gave her comfort in her final days. But what does this mean in a more general sense for family law?[19] This procedure is extremely expensive, especially considering the lack of certainty about the results, averaging around 37,000 euros for the most basic package.[20] Is the potential outcome worth the cost of the procedure plus litigation fees if a family cannot decide for themselves how to handle such a decision? Those in support of cryopreservation claim that the procedure is truly a leap of faith in the choice between “’definitely’ dying and ‘maybe’ living on.”[21] Even if the process does work, JS will likely have no living family and be stuck in the United States as a fourteen-year-old non-citizen with no conception of the present state of the world once she is brought back to life.[22] The revival of those who have been preserved may create even more legal issues well into the future.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See Gordon Rayner, Girl, 14, Who Died of Cancer Cryogenically Frozen After Telling Judge She Wanted to be Brought Back to Life ‘In Hundreds of Years’, The Telegraph (Nov. 18, 2016), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/18/cancer-girl-14-is-cryogenically-frozen-after-telling-judge-she-w/.

[2] See id.

[3] See id.

[4] See id.

[5] See Laura Smith-Spark, UK Teenager Wins Battle to have Body Cryogenically Frozen, CNN (Nov. 18, 2016), http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/health/uk-teenager-cryonics-body-preservation/.

[6] See id.

[7] See Meera Senthilingam, What is Cryogenic Preservation?, CNN (Nov. 18, 2016), http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/health/how-cryopreservation-and-cryonics-works/.

[8] See id.

[9] See id.

[10] See supra 5.

[11] See id.

[12] See id.

[13] See id.

[14] See id.

[15] See supra 1.

[16] See id.

[17] See T.G. Schuster et al., Legal Considerations for Cryopreservation of Sperm and Embryos, Fertility and Sterility (July 2003). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12849802.

[18] See id.

[19] See supra 1.

[20] See id.

[21] Id.

[22] See id.

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ShotSpotter: Tracking Gunfire from a Mile Away

SHOTSPOTTER: DETECTING GUNFIRE FROM A MILE AWAY

By Lindsey McLeod

In recent years, Silicon Valley has taken on a range of issues that span the spectrum from consumer entertainment to government security and data protection.[1] Recently, Silicon Valley executives have made the jump into the gun violence arena, attempting to use technology to assist police officers in responding to shots fired. The technology, one of a many apps that are currently emerging in the tech-security world, is called ShotSpotter.[2]

ShotSpotter was initially developed to combat the growing gun violence program in urban areas within the United States.[3] The developers intended the app to meet the growing need to combat gun violence in the communities most affected.[4] The developers recognized a problem in that those who are most significantly impacted by gun violence on a regular basis are the least likely to report it, resulting in incident reports that grossly misrepresent the problem at hand.[5] For example, fewer than one in five shooting incidents are reported to police, and when reports are made to the police, the account is rarely accurate.[6] This miscommunication and misrepresentation causes police to respond inappropriately, further perpetuating the gun violence problem.[7]

ShotSpotter is cloud-based technology that creates a system similar to a large cyber network implanted over a geographic area, equipping that area with microphones and software monitoring.[8] The microphones are designed to suppress ambient noise and pay particular attention to loud “trigger” noises, which respond to “booms” and “bangs,” referred to as “impulsive noises.”[9] When a sound is triggered, the system sends an alert to the ShotSpotter headquarters location, where the monitoring review service—comprised of trained acoustic experts—makes the final determination regarding the origin of the audio.[10] When these impulsive noises are deemed the result of gunfire, the local police are alerted to the disturbance and dispatched to the area.[11] The police can then interrupt the event and terminate the gun violence event.

Despite the obvious need for police intervention like that which this app creates, critics of the app point to the lack of arrests it produces as evidence of the app’s ineffectiveness. For example, in Brockton, MA, between January 1, 2013 and September 28, 2015, the ShotSpotter technology alerted police of gun activity 296 times, yet those alerts led to only two arrests.[12] These unimpressive statistics represent the nationwide trend of the impact that ShotSpotter has had on combatting gun violence, increasing the frequency of alerts but doing little in terms of arrests.[13]

The developers, however, argue that this data is not representative of a technological failure; instead, the developers argue that this technology was not developed to lead to arrests, but rather to combat the problem at its origin.[14] Ralph Clark, the CEO of ShotSpotter, argues that “only a small number of individuals are responsible for most of a city’s gunfire and any tools available to get those folks off the street are important”.[15] Thus, though ShotSpotter has not led to an increase in arrests, the understanding by the residents of these high-risk communities is that police will respond quickly to the alert of gunfire, which will likely to lead to a decrease in the gunfire, and consequently a decrease in violence.[16] Effectively, the presence of such technology within high-risk communities should abolish the need for this technology altogether.[17]

Beyond the prosecution numbers of gun violence perpetrators, there is a legal issue presented in terms of the admissibility of material created by this technology. Although the infrequency of arrests suggests that there is little need for the use of this evidence at trial, the mere potential for its use nevertheless poses an interesting legal question. The use of this technology creates a feeling of a “big brother” presence, a phenomenon that tends to invoke Fourth Amendment concerns.[18] Additionally, this technology appears to invoke privacy concerns that, although not explicitly protected by the Constitution, are inferred by the Supreme Court rulings in cases such as Roe v. Wade and Bowers v. Hardwick.[19] Despite these concerns, United States v. Katz states that privacy concerns invoking the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searched and seizures apply only to the search of a person, not the place. In these instances, then, the party supporting the ShotSpotter evidence could argue that this material is collected from the place, not the parties, that are present at the scene of the crime and is thus admissible.[20]

The courts consider the evidentiary issues loosely, which here would result in support of combatting crime as opposed to protecting the accused. A Massachusetts Superior Court recently deemed the material admissible in the first-degree murder trial of Dwayne Moore and Edward Washington.[21] In this trial, an expert witness from SST Inc. a, the company that manufactures ShotSpotter, testified about the timeframe during which the shots were fired and the time lapse between shots.[22] The use of this evidence in the Massachusetts Superior Court suggests that this evidence will be seen more frequently in the coming years in criminal proceedings as a means to prove, or disprove, the location and details of a shooting.[23] Because of the growing presence of these technologies in the criminal justice community, criminal defense attorneys should anticipate the impact that these technologies could have on evidence admitted at trial going forward.

 

 

 

 

[1] See Megan Smith, Expanding the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley Office, WhiteHouse.gov (May 20, 2016) https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/05/19/expanding-pentagons-silicon-valley-office (Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is taking bold steps to help the U.S. military take advantage of commercially driven technology and innovation).

[2] See ShotSpotter, ShotSpotter.com (Nov. 21, 2016) http://www.shotspotter.com/.

[3] See id.

[4] See id.

[5] See Law Enforcement Resources, ShotSpotter.com (Nov 17, 2016) http://www.shotspotter.com/law-enforcement.

[6] See id.

[7] Id.

[8] Here’s How the NYPD is Expanding ShotSpotter, ShotSpotter.com, (Nov. 17, 2016) http://www.shotspotter.com/news/article/heres-how-the-nypds-expanding-shotspotter-system-works.

[9] See id.

[10] See id.

[11] See id.

[12] See Matt Drange, ShotSpotter Alerts Police to Lots of Gunfire, But Produces Few Tangible Results, FORBES (Nov. http://www.forbes.com/sites/mattdrange/2016/11/17/shotspotter-alerts-police-to-lots-of-gunfire-but-produces-few-tangible-results/#71c59a892539.

[13] See id.

[14] See John Biggs, ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clark Talks About the Future of City Surveillance, Tech Crunch (Nov. 20, 2016) https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/19/shotspotter-ceo-ralph-clark-talks-about-the-future-of-city-surveillance/.

[15] See id.

[16] See id.

[17] See id.

[18] U.S. Const. amend IV.

[19] See The Right of Privacy, Exploring Constitutional Conflicts, UMKC Law (Nov. 21, 2016) http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/rightofprivacy.html.

[20] See United States v. Katz, 389 U.S. 347 (1967).

[21] See Stephen Neyman, Massachusetts Criminal Trial Using Gunshot Detection System to Support Witness Testimony in High Profile Murder Trial, Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Blog (Feb. 2012) http://www.shotspotter.com/news/article/massachusetts-criminal-trial-using-gunshot-detection-system-to-support-witn.

[22] See id.

[23] See id.

 

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How the Blockchain is Changing Licensing in the Music Industry

daisi

By: Daniel Eggleston

Since 1999, online piracy has caused a lot of problems for the music industry.[1]  While online streaming services like Pandora and Spotify have helped to curb illegal music downloads, they haven’t made it any easier for artists to get paid for their work.[2]  What’s more, streaming services and music companies often disagree when divvying up the money, leaving artists stuck somewhere in the middle. [3]

Traditionally, songwriters and recording artists assign their rights (to a work) to a third party known as a performance rights organization (PRO).[4]  PRO’s keep track of how many times a song is used, and determine the amount of royalties paid to the copyright holder.[5]  Copyrights to a song are usually assigned to a music publisher, while copyrights to a recording of a song are assigned to a record label.[6]

From the artist’s standpoint, how a PRO or record company tracks a song’s use is an opaque process.  Despite the advent of online streaming sites giving artists more exposure than ever, these artists are nevertheless having difficulty translating that exposure into profit.  For example, “a major music service . . . pays an average of $0.000035 per stream,” equating to approximately $35 for a million streams.[7]  For most artists, this means streaming revenue isn’t much of an income source.

The blockchain could be the answer artists have been looking for.[8]  The blockchain is “a way to structure data, and the foundation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin,” allowing parties to share a digital ledger across a network of computers.[9]  Anything of value can be tracked and traded on this ledger, and it doesn’t require a control center.[10]  This emerging technology will likely be used for many different business applications,[11] and it is already being applied to the music industry.[12]

Unlike the traditional method of assigning rights to a PRO or record label, artists can track the number of plays and purchases of a work through the digital ledger.[13]  This method offers greater transparency for the artists;[14] as “there would be no opacity in accounting, no delay in payment, and no confusion over who owned or controlled which rights to the work.”[15]

The music startup Revelator has already found success utilizing this new platform. On September 12, 2016, Revelator raised $2.5 million dollars in funding for its blockchain-based platform.[16]  Revelator will enable an artist to monitor his or her song rights and receive royalty distributions directly, eliminating the traditional role of a performance rights organization.[17]

This startup—along with others like it—will address some of the problems that have plagued the music industry since its inception, and will do so in a number of key ways.  First, these startups will resolve the long history of distrust between artists and the companies who handle their royalties because of the transparent nature of blockchain transactions.[18]  Second, these startups are highly efficient.  Unlike the traditional methods of royalty distribution and licensing, an artist can directly transfer or assign rights “per territory, per licensor, and per product,” and receive mass and micro-payments at fractional costs.[19]  Third, the blockchain creates a new business model allowing artists more control over the rights and distribution of their work.[20]  Finally, the digital ledger inherent in blockchain technology allows for the “global registry of rights information and distribution of assets with complete tracking, transparency, and trust.”[21]

Revelator is just one example of an emerging trend; many other startups are experimenting with the blockchain’s applicability to the music industry.[22]  However, big record companies and online streaming services still control how the majority of the market accesses music. As such, if these blockchain-based companies gain traction it will be interesting to see whether the bigger companies push back or begin to incorporate the blockchain technology into their business models.[23]

 

 

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/08/how-blockchain-can-change-the-music-industry/

[2] See id.

[3] See id.

[4] Music Royalties, Royalty Exchange, http://www.royaltyexchange.com/learn/music-royalties.

[5] See id.

[6] See id.

[7] Imogen Heap, Don Tapscott, Blockchain Could Be Music’s Next Disruptor, Fortune (Sep. 22, 2016 3:59 PM) http://fortune.com/2016/09/22/blockchain-music-disruption/.

[8] See id.

[9] Robert Hackett, Wait, What is Blockchain?, Fortune (May 23, 2016, 9:00 AM), http://fortune.com/2016/05/23/blockchain-definition/

[10] What is Blockchain?, IBM http://www.ibm.com/blockchain/what_is_blockchain.html.

[11] See id.

[12] See Heap & Tapscott, supra note 7.

[13] See id.

[14] See id.

[15] See id.

[16] Jacob Timp, Music Platform Raises $2.5 Million For Blockchain-Based Music Rights Technology, Coin Telegraph (Sep. 12, 2016, 12:49 PM), https://cointelegraph.com/news/music-platform-raises-25-million-for-blockchain-based-music-rights-technology.

[17] See Gideon Gottfried, Blockchain Platform Colu Partners With Revelator in Push to Fix Music’s Data, Billboard (Aug. 18, 2015, 10:40 AM), http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6664006/colu-revelator-blockchain.

[18] See id.

[19] See id.

[20] See id.

[21] Id.

[22] See Jonathan Chester, How Blockchain Startups Are Disrupting The $15 Billion Music Industry, Forbes (Sep. 16, 2016, 11:07 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanchester/2016/09/16/how-blockchain-startups-are-disrupting-the-15-billion-music-industry/#77f4d29d652c.

[23] See id.

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