Richmond Journal of Law and Technology

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Category: Blog Posts (Page 1 of 26)

Broken Processes: Implementing Technology Without Fixing the Underlying Problem

By: Nicholas Gamotis

Stopping for coffee at McDonalds I was surprised to find touch screens installed. I thought that the touch screens would simplify getting my order, making it much quicker and smoother. I had expectations from using similar systems at Sheetz and Wawa where the touch screen ordering system is simple and intuitive to use. At McDonalds ordering a coffee with cream turned out to be less than intuitive. The screen was massive, and there were too many categories to choose from, and once I had my item ordered the option to pay was not readily available. After finally completing my order and paying for it, I waited. I watched as my order was pushed aside and not filled until the manager began hounding the kitchen to fill the coffee order.

My experience at McDonalds was reminiscent of dealing with the DMV trying to register a newly purchased car while I was in the military. After quickly looking up the phone number for customer service I was sent to the website. From the website I was directed to a customer portal that was inoperative. I spent almost an hour searching the form database for the appropriate form to fill out, and finally found a registration form but no way to submit it. I broke down and called customer service and was put on hold for half an hour just to be told that I could not handle registering a newly purchased car online, despite the insistence of the message I endured for thirty minutes telling me that I could do anything I needed on the website.

Bad customer experiences are not limited to the DMV and new technology in our daily lives. A man in New Orleans has received multiple tickets from a speeding camera, ticketing his truck that is parked in front of his house.[1] Adding to the frustration of the citizen was the fact that citations have to be approved by two people who review the photograph before authorizing the citation.[2] After repeated complaints by the citizen the city sent a contractor to reposition the camera to not capture parked cars, which fixed the problem for a while, but ultimately the camera was repositioned and restarted the problem for the citizen.[3]

What did these experiences have in common? These situations can be distilled down to replacing human interaction with automation. All of the situations were poorly implemented. And all of them caused the user to spend more time dealing with them than the process they replaced. All of the problems could have been fixed with simple tweaks.

What can we take away from this? First, we can evaluate our processes when dealing with clients and the public. Are the processes in place simple? If you are getting feedback are you listening to it? Second, we can push the government at all levels to apply these same basic principles. Benefits can range from increased confidence in the government agency (in the case of traffic cameras),[4] decreased program costs, and increased customer satisfaction.

Whether implementing a new process, or revisiting an existing process, either in a firm or government agency, taking the time to make sure that the process (online or in person) is performing as it should is an opportunity to improve customer relations. As Dan Gingiss says “[i]t’s the little things that matter in customer experience, and a lot of little things can go a long way to differentiating your company’s experience from that of a competitor.”[5] By implementing simple processes that work, rather than technology for the sake of technology, the legal market and government alike can leverage technology to increase both customer confidence and satisfaction.

[1]See Jonathan Ramsey, New Orleans Resident Keeps Getting Speeding Tickets for his Parked car, Autoblog(Apr. 11, 2018), https://www.autoblog.com/2018/04/11/speed-camera-wrong-car-new-orleans-police/.

[2]Id.

[3]Id.

[4]See generally supra note 1.

[5]Dan Gingiss, How to ‘Do Simple Better’ in Your Customer Experience, Forbes(Mar. 21, 2018), https://www.forbes.com/sites/dangingiss/2018/03/21/how-to-do-simple-better-in-your-customer-experience/#706c4f307204.

Image Source: https://jalopnik.com/a-speed-camera-in-new-orleans-keeps-ticketing-this-guys-1825177553

WeWork’s Identity Crisis

By: Jonathan Walter

WeWork is the largest co-working company in the world.[1] The company takes on long-term leases for office space, redevelops the space, and then subleases the space for various period of time.[2] Tenants include individuals, small start-ups, established midsize businesses, and even large corporations like Microsoft. Founded in New York City in 2010, the company is now worth over $20 billion dollars.[3] On top of being the biggest office tenant in New York City, WeWork manages over 10 million square feet of space in over 144 offices across the globe.[4]

 To get an idea of just how much space WeWork manages and what that means for its valuation, it’s best to compare it to peer companies. The largest publicly traded office real estate company, Boston Properties, has a market cap of roughly $18 billion and owns about five times the square footage that WeWork does.[5] Lyft, another well-known startup, has a valuation of just over $15.1 billion dollars.[6]

In addition to real estate, WeWork has plans to branch into other business sectors as well. The company has already announced that it will be moving on to housing (WeLive), retail (WeMRKT), and education (WeGrow).[7] As the company expands, its identity changes. So, what is WeWork? Is it a technology company? Is it a real estate company? Is it both or is it something else entirely?

With this rapid growth has come a number of legal (and non-legal) issues, some of which are more common to the technology companies that WeWork considers peers than a real estate company like Boston Properties.

At the beginning of 2018, WeWork made the decision to remove beer taps from their workspaces in California.[8] This is because the company operates in a regulatory grey area and does not have a liquor license in the state.[9] While California law allows for employers to provide alcohol to employees, it is silent on whether or not co-working spaces can serve alcohol to their members and at least one attorney believes it could be problematic that the company provides access to the beer in exchange for leasing the space or paying a membership fee.[10] Although WeWork is technically a landlord, in many ways the company treats its tenants like employees. In addition to beer taps, it furnishes the office with amenities like beanbag chairs, pool tables, and Ping-Pong tables.[11] This is very different than a traditional landlord-tenant relationship and has more in common with the silicon valley start-ups who provide these amenities to their employees than a typical landlord who just leases out office space.

Despite WeWork’s efforts to differentiate itself from an office real estate company like Boston Properties, the company has still fallen into some of the same pitfalls that a more traditional real estate company would face. Most notably, it was revealed that the company owes $18 billion dollars in rent,[12] and some insiders believe that the company is still susceptible to economic downturns.[13] Despite WeWork’s unique business model, rising interest rates and a loss of customers could put the company in a difficult spot.[14] There is an argument to be made that should an economic downturn happen and WeWork becomes unable to pay its rents, the company’s size could force landlords to keep the the company afloat.[15] Additionally, WeWork’s  other ventures could provide the company with other more stable sources of revenue.

It is difficult to pin down exactly what kind of company WeWork is, but so far, the company has seemed to use that to its advantage. With its expansion in to other areas, the question may only grow more difficult to answer as the company faces new challenges.

 

[1]See Roland Li, WeWork Revolutionized Co-working. Now it’s Targeting Corporate Headquarters, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 27, 2018,https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/WeWork-revolutionized-co-working-Now-it-s-13423133.php.

[2]Id.

[3]See Eliot Brown, WeWork: A $20 Billion Startup Fueled by Silicon Valley Pixie Dust, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 19, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/wework-a-20-billion-startup-fueled-by-silicon-valley-pixie-dust-1508424483

[4]Id.

[5]Id.

[6]Id.

[7]See supra note 1.

[8]Trisha Thadani, Why WeWork Locked Up Its Beer Taps in California, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 16, 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Why-WeWork-locked-up-its-beer-taps-in-California-12620165.php.

[9]See id.

[10]See id.

[11]Id.

[12]Shona Ghosh, WeWork Wants to Raise $500 Million in Bond Sales. Documents Show It Owes $18 Billion in Rent and is Losing Money, Inc., Apr. 25, 2018, https://www.inc.com/business-insider/wework-raise-money-bond-sale-document-shows-owes-18-billion-rent-burning-cash-sotfbank-investment.html.

[13]See Andrew Ross Sorkin, WeWork’s Rise: How a Sublet Start-Up is Taking Over, New York Times, Nov. 13, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/business/dealbook/wework-office-space-real-estate.html.

[14]See id.

[15]See id.

Image Source: http://www.new-corner.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/wework-3-1050×590.jpg

The First Gene Edited Baby Is Here (Maybe). Can the Law Catch Up?

By: Brandon Larrabee

Scientist He Jiankui might have gotten more than he bargained for after claiming he had created the first gene-edited humans: the Chinese government is now saying his actions broke the law.[1] Xu Nanping, vice minister for science and technology, said He’s breakthrough — if it is confirmed, of course — “blatantly violated China’s relevant laws and regulations.”[2]

The truth is that many nations are still struggling to figure out their policies on gene editing — and those that have policies are dealing with debates over whether those regulations should be more or less stringent.[3] For example, stringent laws in Canada — where editing “germ line” cells could land someone a 10-year prison term — have come under fire from researchers.[4] A similar “crime” could bring a 15-year sentence in Australia.[5]

The United States, for its part, doesn’t ban germ line editing per se.[6] Other countries have a policy somewhere in between. The United Kingdom, for instance, allows use of gene editing techniques as long as the embryos are not maintained for more than 14 days and are not implanted.[7]

The developments could also force countries and other entities to confront arguments that have so far been largely theoretical, or at least on the very verges of science. For example, the prospect of gene-edited babies is likely to bring new focus to a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on genetic modifications.[8] The court seemed to place techniques like CRISPR — the method used for human gene editing — under the European Union’s regulations for genetically-modified organisms.[9] (Whether humans with edited genomes would have to be labeled somehow is unclear.)

Elsewhere, laws are not as clear as they could be.[10] France, for example, bans anything that would “undermine the integrity of the human species,” but critics say the definition of “crimes against the human species” is vague.[11]

How effective any of these laws will be in the future is questionable, for two reasons. The first is that technology is changing so rapidly that laws simply might not be able to catch up.[12] The other problem is the possibility of “reproductive tourism,” where wealthy families will travel anywhere that they can get a gene-editing procedure done.[13] That has led to questions about whether the problem needs to be tackled internationally.[14]

The problem, of course, is that international law generally moves even more slowly than domestic law. And, while He Jiankui might be taking a break from engineering more gene-edited babies for now[15], the record so far indicates that science will continue plowing new ground whether or the law keeps pace.

 

[1]Sophia Yan, Gene-editing Babies a Violation of Chinese Law, Says Official, The Telegraph (Nov. 29, 2018, 4:57 PM), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/29/gene-editing-babies-violation-chinese-law-says-official/.

[2]Id.

[3]For more on the debate in the United States, see Michael R. Dohn, Preventing an Era of “New Eugenics”: An Argument for Federal Funding and Regulation of Gene Editing Research in Human Embryos, 25 Rich. J.L. & Tech., no. 2 (forthcoming).

[4]Ben Schaub, Human Gene Editing Could Change the World — What Are the Laws Governing It in Canada, CBC, https://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/features/gene-editing-in-canada.

[5]Christopher Gyngell & Julian Savulescu, U.K. Gene Editing Breakthrough Could Land an Aussie in Jail for 15 Years: Here’s Why Our Laws Need to Catch Up, The Conversation (Sept. 25, 2017, 11:22 PM), https://theconversation.com/uk-gene-editing-breakthrough-could-land-an-aussie-in-jail-for-15-years-heres-why-our-laws-need-to-catch-up-84590.

[6]Angela Chen, If Someone Wants to Create Gene-Edited Babies, Who Would Stop Them?, The Verge (Nov. 26, 2018, 3:00 PM), https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/26/18112970/crispr-china-babies-embryos-genetic-engineering-bioethics-policy.

[7]James Gallagher, U.K. Scientists Edit DNA of Human Embryos, BBC (Sept. 20, 2017), https://www.bbc.com/news/health-41269200.

[8]See Case C-528/16,Confédération Paysanne v. Premier Ministre, CELEX West 6016CJ0528 (July 25, 2018).

[9]See Paul Rincon, Gene Editing Is GM, Says European Court, BBC (July 25, 2018), https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44953100.

[10]See R. Isasi et al., Editing Policy to Fit the Genome?, 351 Science 337, 338.

[11]Id.at 339.

[12]See id.at 337.

[13]See Chen, supra note 6.

[14]Id.

[15]Yan, supra note 1.

Image Source: ttps://images.newscientist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/26122048/3000-1.jpg

From Science Fiction to Reality: Brothels Employ Robot Sex Workers

By: Nicholas Gamotis

Robots are becoming increasingly advanced and lifelike, their influence is becoming increasingly pervasive in our lives, moving from science fiction to reality, and researchers continually make advances towards realistic artificial intelligence. We are seemingly accepting of the introduction of apparently benign robots in situations where they provide added convenience or efficiency to our lives. Recently, Walmart began implementing self-driving floor scrubbers which freed personnel to perform more important tasks within the store.[1] While this implementation was met with some criticism about the potential negative impact on the workforce at large, it was not met with outrage or calls for policies preventing such implementation.[2] Similarly, Robo Sushi is the first restaurant in North America to replace human wait staff with robotic servers who seat patrons and deliver food, while sushi chefs prepare patron’s meals.[3] This implementation of robots to replace human labor for such routine tasks has not been met with public outcry or legal challenges to such implementations.

However, when the services provided by the robots are not of a routine type such as those provided by Walmart’s self-driving floor scrubbers,[4] or Robo Sushi’s robotic wait staff,[5] but are instead sexual the reaction is quite different. Recently efforts by Canadian company KinkySdolls to open a try before you buy Robot Brothels in Houston, Texas, resulted in public outcry calling for a prohibition on such businesses.[6] In response to the public outcry the Houston City Council updated an ordinance to prohibit patrons from having sex with a device resembling a human at a business.[7]

The idea of robot brothels has met mixed reactions and policies around the world.[8] It appears that technology and entrepreneurs are moving faster than society and policy can keep up with. While robot brothels exist in Europe,[9] this is an issue that the United States will have to deal with. Whether Robot Brothels will take root in the United States or not will likely be determined by challenges to local ordinances, such as the one that the Houston City Council passed in response to the public outcry over the proposed business by KinkySdolls.[10]

As the technology used in these sex robots advances and legislatures try to decide how to handle this new twist on the sex trade competing interests will clash. Municipalities potentially stand to capitalize on increased tax revenue if they treat these robot brothels as a legitimate business and chose to only regulate for health and safety. Conversely, the groups that are outraged by the brothels will pressure the legislatures to ban the establishment of these robot brothels. All the while the robot brothel industry and its patrons will likely advance arguments about personal liberty, highlighting how sex with a robot should not be considered prostitution and should be legitimate legal businesses.

 

[1]See You’ll Never Believe Who’s Scrubbing the Floors at Walmart, Walmart 0606(Oct. 4, 2018), https://blog.walmart.com/innovation/20181004/youll-never-believe-whos-scrubbing-the-floors-at-walmart.

[2] See Mallory Locklear, Walmart is Testing a Self-Driving, Floor-Scrubbing Robot (Nov. 22, 2017), Engadget, https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/22/walmart-testing-self-driving-floor-scrubbing-robot/.

[3] See Robo Sushi North York, Facebook(Sep. 13, 2018), https://www.facebook.com/pg/robosushi.northyork/about/?ref=page_internal.

[4] See Locklear, supra note 2.

[5] See Robo Sushi North York, supra note 3.

[6] See Ciaran McGrath, First Sex Robot Brothel to Open in US: Outrage in Houston as ‘No Law Can Stop It’ (Sep. 28, 2018), Express, https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1024027/sex-robot-brothel-houston-texas-mayor-protests-petition.

[7] Joel Shannon, Proposed ‘Sex Robot Brothel’ Blocked by Houston Government: ‘We Are Not Sin City’(Oct. 4, 2018), USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/10/03/sex-robot-brothel-blocked-houston-texas/1518298002/.

[8] See e.g., Chelsea Ritchel, Controversial ‘Consensual’ Sex Robot Brothel Claims to be World’s First (Nov. 8, 2018), Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/sex-robot-brothel-consensual-ai-california-flirt-virgin-first-consent-a8624201.html (discussing concerns about hygiene and operation of “consent-focused” robot brothel);

[9] See Jon Lockett, Robot Phwoars World’s First Brothel Staffed Entirely by Robot Sex Workers Now Looking for Investors to go Global(Jul. 30, 2017), The Sun, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4131258/worlds-first-brothel-staffed-entirely-by-robot-sex-workers-now-looking-for-investors-to-go-global/ (company opened first robot brothel in Spain).

[10] See Shannon, supra note 7.

Image Source: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/827479/Sex-robots-ethics-legal-morals-professor-Robin-Mackenzie.

It’s Not Just True Crime Podcast, It’s a True Crime in Real Time Podcast

By: Annie Mullican

On my long, nearly eleven-hour drive home for Thanksgiving (and what felt like the even-longer drive back after break) I did the usual: I queued up some interesting True Crime Podcasts – usually I listen to 1hr – 1.5 hour stories that begin and end in that episode. But on the way home, I ran out of my usual Podcast – Casefile True Crime (out of Australia). So with eight hours to spare, I took a shot in the dark and picked one called Up & Vanished by Tenderfoot TV out of Atlanta. This podcast was a full season – with twelve episodes and the story was one that I had never heard of. Within the first thirty minutes I was hooked. By the time I got to episode five I realized that the action in the podcast was happening almost simultaneously to it being reported. This was unlike the usual podcasts I listened to – and as I kept up with the season I realized – Up & Vanished was drawing out potential suspects – some who reached out to the producer on their own or willingly responded to interviews – against their counsel’s advisement! It was drawing out witnesses who never spoke to police. It was generating the interest in this two-year long case.

Leading up to episode eleven, the podcast was getting call-ins from potential suspects, cleared suspects, people from the town who had not come forward to the police. In episode ten, the podcast producers and staff along with law enforcement, another reporter from a nearby town, family and friends of the victim went on a search. By the time I got home, I was googling the case, I was on Reddit, looking up people’s names on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Wow, I thought, this Podcast isn’t just telling a story… it’s about to solve this case. With a little more research I discovered that Up and Vanished’s 2017 season resulted in two arrests in the murder of the missing woman the Podcast was following.[1] This case had been cold for twelve years.[2] It was amazing to me that a Podcast solved a twelve-year-old cold case, and some further research revealed to me that podcasts all over are helping solve cases by generating reward money, interest in the case, recovering memories, and providing law enforcement with tools to chase down tips.[3]

The most notable example was the Up and Vanished podcast that led to two arrests in 2017.[4] A 2018 article talked about a police force that created a True Crime Podcast in the hopes of catching an elusive fugitive.[5] The producer of the podcast, and the Police Department’s Press Information Officer stated that they decided to do the podcast in the hopes that it would tell the story in a different way, and because they feel that the format of a podcast fits the True Crime narrative, it’s “episodic nature” as she calls it.[6]

Further, an Australian article noted that Crime Stoppers tips have doubled between 2012 and 2017 and that they feel those tips are largely due to podcasts featuring cold cases.[7] Queensland Crime Stoppers General Manager Jim Crowley stated that True Crime podcasts help us let out our “inner detective.”[8] He stated that Crime Stoppers welcomes these tips from listeners because any small tip could solve a crime.[9] He also stated that people have become so involved as to research crimes themselves, and of course, he discourages this.[10]

Podcasts are immensely popular, and I love to listen to True Crime – cold cases, lengthy appeals, wrongful convictions, and the like. I, myself, feel like I learn what it considered strange behavior and suspicious activity. It helps me in my personal life feel more prepared and also discern when to report such activities, if I were ever in a position to do so. I can only imagine how intriguing a podcast would be if it followed a mystery in my own town, and how helpful that podcast would be in alerting activity, and refreshing memories that may be that small tip that solves a case. Most importantly, in my opinion, these podcasts remind the public that coming forward with valuable information is important. Maybe these vulnerable, yet valuable people feel more comfortable talking to a podcast producer than police. Regardless, these podcasts are contributing to solving cases, and even if they aren’t always solving them, they are generating awareness about missing persons, and potential murder victims, and that is what counts.

 

[1]Melissa Locker, How Up and Vanished Podcast Helped Solve Cold Murder Case, ROLLINGSTONE (Mar. 17, 2017), https://season2.upandvanished.com/story/https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/how-up-and-vanished-podcast-helped-solve-cold-murder-case-123748.

[2]Id.

[3] Amy McCosker, “True Crime Podcast are Reporting Information to Police to Help Solve Crimes” (Oct. 7, 2018), https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-08/true-crime-podcasts-help-solve-real-crimes/10346474.

[4] Locker, supra note 1.

[5] Brittany Martin, Local Police Department Hopes a Podcast Will Help Catch a Fugitive, (Sept. 21, 2018).

[6] Id.

[7] McCosker, supra note 3.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

Image Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjFiZKU0vzeAhXGUt8KHUr4DWQQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fupandvanished.com%2F&psig=AOvVaw1doEj7V4kcMf5F3kyA0_B5&ust=1543685338440653

Are the FAA Drone Regulations Reasonable?

By: Catherine Schroeder

My dad often jokes that he cannot wait for the day a drone delivers Taco Bell to a window of my parents’ 18th floor apartment. The last time he made this joke, I wondered why his Taco Bell fantasy has not already come true. The drone technology exists, but what is keeping drones from filling the sky? The answer is the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA.[1]

In the past, the FAA has taken a restrictive approach to regulating drones. In June 2016, the FAA released regulations, called Part 107, that set numerous requirements for the commercial operations of drones under 55 pounds.[2] These include registration of the drone, a remote pilot certification for the drone operator, flying the drone during daylight, flying below 400 feet above ground, and more.[3] Most importantly for commercial drone operators, the FAA mandates the drones to always be within the operator’s line of sight and to not fly directly over anyone not participating in the operation who is not under a covered structure or not inside a stationary vehicle.[4] These last two requirements make it nearly impossible to fly drones to make deliveries.[5]

The FAA’s restrictive approach is a reasonable one with the numerous and considerable risks drones pose to the environment, cybersecurity, privacy, and safety.[6] With no regulations, drones could blacken the sky.[7] Drones are especially susceptible to cybersecurity issues due to their highly exposed technical systems.[8] Drones have “open sensors” and are constantly wirelessly connected.[9]

It is still unclear how privacy laws will handle drone activity.[10] When the FAA released Part 107, it explicitly stated that “privacy is beyond the purview of its mission of safety and efficiency.”[11] A Kentucky resident shot his neighbor’s drone hovering over his backyard.[12] He argued that the drone was videotaping his yard and trespassing on his right to privacy.[13] As of now, only codes of conduct give any guidance to drone operators to not infringe on the privacy of others, but these codes have no consequences for infringement.[14]

As for public safety, drones pose serious threats. In August 2018, an assassination attack using drones occurred on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro while giving a speech.[15] The Dubai airport had to shut down three times due to unauthorized drone activity over the last two years, losing approximately $1,007,310 USD currency every minute the airport was closed.[16]

With these risks in mind, the FAA appears to be moving cautiously towards implementing green light regulations, while companies are pushing to launch drone delivery services and other projects.[17] However, this past May, the FAA announced 10 drone programs in the country that it will give more freedom in the skies without much FAA control.[18] This shift comes from pressure from the White House and companies.[19] This initiative, called Integration Pilot Program, requires the partnering of state, local, or tribal governments with private entities. The FAA is testing to determine how much power it should give to local government for future drone regulations.[20] An example of a partnership includes the City of Memphis, the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division, FedEx, Intel, and others.[21]  This particular partnership involves monitoring the airport runway and perimeters, watching crops, delivering airplane parts, and surveying infrastructure inspections.[22]

What is missing from the Integration Pilot Program are companies like Uber and Amazon delivering meals or packages. This leaves it very much up in the air when and how regulations allowing these delivery services will occur. Both Amazon and the FAA seem optimistic that it is in the near future, even as soon as 2019.[23] For now, the FAA is focused on “worthy” projects, such as medical deliveries, for its Integration Pilot Program.[24] With the numerous risks that drones pose, this slow and cautious approach is reasonable.

 

[1] See Jack Stewart, FAA RELAXES DRONE RESTRICTIONS WITH 10 NEW PROGRAMS, Wired, (May 9, 2018, 7:56 PM), https://www.wired.com/story/faa-relaxes-drone-restrictions-with-10-new-programs/.

[2]See id.

[3]See Fact Sheet – Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107), Federal Aviation Administration, (July23, 2018), https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=22615 (last visited Nov. 21, 2018).

[4]See id.

[5]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[6]See generally Jennifer Urban, What is the Eye in the Sky Actually Looking at and Who is Controlling It? An International Comparative Analysis on How to Fill the Cybersecurity and Privacy Gaps to Strengthen Existing U.S. Drone Laws, 70 Fed. Comm. L.J. 1, 4 (2018) (discusses the numerous cybersecurity and privacy risks drones pose).

[7]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[8]See id. at 11.

[9]See id.

[10]See id. at 18.

[11]See id. at 19.

[12]See id. at 4, 5.

[13]See id.

[14]See id. at 20.

[15]See Jon Lee Anderson, AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT BY DRONE IS JUST THE LATEST MOMENT OF CHAOS IN VENEZUELA, The New Yorker, (Aug. 6, 2018), https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-assassination-attempt-by-drone-is-just-the-latest-moment-of-chaos-in-venezuela.

[16]See Federal Aviation Administration, supra note 6 at 3.

[17]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[18]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[19]See Andy Pasztor, Coming Soon to a Front Porch Near You: Package Delivery Via Drone,Wall Street Journal, (March 11, 2018, 4:07 PM), https://www.wsj.com/articles/coming-soon-to-a-front-porch-near-you-package-delivery-via-drone-1520798822.

[20]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[21]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[22]See Stewart, supra note 1.

[23]See Pasztor, supra note 18.

[24]See Stewart, supra note 1.

Image Source: https://www.wired.com/story/would-delivery-drones-be-all-that-efficient/

Did Your Gemstones get Botox?

By: Cam Kollar

It is that time of year again- the holiday season is upon us and many of us spend countless hours searching for the perfect gift worthy of our loved ones. If you are in a committed relationship, jewelry tends to be a favorite. I am very fortunate because one of my husband’s hobbies is finding unique pieces for me, knowing that I like less common gemstones and colors, such as green amethyst or sapphires of yellow, green, and pink. However, through all of his searching, there are always two rules he will never break: never buy an enhanced or treated stone, and always inquire whether a stone has been treated. This may sound like something that is unimportant or insignificant, but there are numerous ways that jewelry stores, companies, and distributors can change the appearance of a gemstone without changing its chemical makeup, meaning that it is still a “genuine” gemstone.[1] For instance, consider cubic zirconia: everyone knows it as an imitation diamond, but no one can call it a diamond unless it is qualified by the word “synthetic” or man-made.[2]

According to the FTC, there are three primary types of gemstone products: natural gemstoneslaboratory-created stones, and imitation stones.[3] The FTC requires that both lab-created and imitation stones need to be clearly labeled as such, especially since both of these types of products are worth less than their natural gemstone counterparts.[4] If the world were simple, this would be the end of the matter, but it’s not. As with most things throughout human history, there are those who want to complete what Mother Nature left unfinished. Common gemstone treatments and enhancements include bleach,[5] diffusion,[6] dye,[7] fracture filling,[8] heat,[9] high heat high temperature,[10] irradiation,[11] oil,[12] and laser-drilling.[13] The interesting point here is that the FTC does not require that any of the treatments and enhancements be disclosed to the consumer.[14] Instead the regulation states that it is deceptive to fail to disclose that a gemstone was treated if a) the treatment is not permanent, b) the treatment creates special care requirements (and thus should disclose the care requirements), or c) the treatment has a significant effect on the stone’s value.[15]

Despite the fact that the FTC recommends disclosure, and the fact that many consumers want disclosure, and jewelry trade publications highly recommend disclosure, many jewelry stores do not, or if they do-do so in such a limited manner as to be questionable.[16] Surprisingly, the most incredible part of all of this is not its pervasiveness in the public eye, but the lack of any legal cases surrounding these FTC regulations.[17] While I have found numerous articles, professional publications, and warnings about these altered gemstones, somehow there are virtually no legal precedents, and in the cases that were brought, they failed to move forward.

Many case studies have not resulted in litigation because the companies have settled out of court. In Ferreira, a would-be class action suit fell short because, although the Jewelry Store failed to disclose treatment and special care requirements to the purchaser, the court found that the purchaser failed to show injury from those actions.[18]

I know my rules are to buy only natural stones but that doesn’t mean that treated stones do not have their place. The real point of this is not necessarily to dissuade you from buying treated or enhanced stones, but to be informed of what you are actually buying. Just as Botox erases the flaws Mother Nature gave us, treatments and enhancements do the same for your gemstones.

[1]See Jewelers of Am.,Gemstone Treatments, https://www.jewelers.org/education/gemstone-guide/gemstone-treatments (last visited Nov. 29, 2018).

[2]SeeFed. Trade Comm’n,Gemstones, Diamonds, & Pearls, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0295-gemstones-diamonds-pearls (last visited Nov. 29, 2018).

[3]See id.

[4]See id.

[5]Bleach chemically treats gemstones to alter or remove color. Used for pearls and jade. See id.

[6]Diffusion treatment adds color to the surface of colorless gems while the center of the stone remains colorless. See id.

[7]Dye is a process most often used on lower quality pearls, but is also used in treating other stones. Over time the dye can fade, and stones treated with dye shouldn’t be exposed to certain chemicals or prolonged sunlight. SeeJewelers of Am.,Gemstone Treatments, https://www.jewelers.org/education/gemstone-guide/gemstone-treatments (last visited Nov. 29, 2018).

[8]Fracture filling involves injecting colorless plastic or glass in the gems to hide cracks or fractures and improve the appearance and durability of the gemstones. See Off. of Consumer & Bus. Educ., Fed. Trade Comm’n, In the Loupe: Advertising Diamonds, Gemstones and Pearls (Dec. 2001), https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/plain-language/bus34-loupe-advertising-diamonds-gemstones-and-pearls.pdf.

[9]Heat is where gems are exposed to high temperatures to permanently alter their color. In most cases treatment improves the gem’s apparent color and/or clarity. SeeJewelers of Am., supranote 7.

[10]High heat high temperature is used on diamonds, permanently changing brown diamonds to colorless or yellow, orange, or blue. Colored diamonds treated this way are not considered to be natural colored diamonds. See id.

[11]Irradiation uses small doses of radiation to permanently alter a gemstone’s color. See id.

[12]Oil is a treatment used for gemstones with surface inclusions such as emeralds. The oil improves clarity by smoothing the surface but this temporary treatment affects a gemstone’s ability to be cleaned using ultrasonic cleaning techniques. See id.

[13]Laser-drilling removes dark inclusions from diamonds improving clarity of the stone. See Off. of Consumer & Bus. Educ., Fed Trade Comm’n, supranote 8.

[14]See16 C.F.R. § 23.22 (2018).

[15]See id.

[16]See  16 C.F.R. § 23.22 (2018); Thomas W. Overton, Gem Treatment Disclosure and U.S. Law, 40 Gems & Gemology106, 112, 119-22 (2004) (stating that individuals, companies and trade groups were nearly unanimous in favor of adding the disclosure for laser drilling to the FTC guides; and stating several jewelry store case studies); Ferreira v. Sterling Jewelers, 130 F. Supp. 3d 471 (Dist. Ct. 2015); David V. Johnson, Macy’s Sells Rubies ‘Filled’ with Glass,S.F. Pub. Press, July 13, 2010, https://sfpublicpress.org/news/2010-07/macys-sells-rubies-filled-with-glass; Accredited Gemologists Association, Comment Letter on Proposed Rule Jewelry Guides, 16 C.F.R. Part 23, Project No. G711001 (Sept. 28, 2012), https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/public_comments/16-cfr-part-23-guides-jewelry-precious-metals-and-pewter-industries-project-no.g711001-560895-00012%C2%A0/560895-00012-84883.pdf.

[17]Compare David V. Johnson, Macy’s Sells Rubies ‘Filled’ with Glass, S.F. Pub. Press, July 13, 2010, https://sfpublicpress.org/news/2010-07/macys-sells-rubies-filled-with-glass (discussing independent investigations conducted by “Good Morning America” in November of 2009, San Francisco’s CBS5 in February 2010, and San Francisco’s Public Press in April 2010) andThomas W. Overton, Gem Treatment Disclosure and U.S. Law, 40 Gems & Gemology106, 112, 119-22 (2004) (stating several case studies that settled out of court for dubious practices) with Search for Cases, Lexis,https://advance.lexis.com/api/permalink/8e59db91-0fa2-40cd-867f-d093f676848d/?context=1000516 (last visited Nov. 29, 2018) (showing only 3 cases listed as referencing 16 C.F.R. § 23.22) and Search for Cases,Westlaw, https://1.next.westlaw.com/RelatedInformation/N8EAA29A0A16711E8B79CD35CA367011A/kcCitingReferences.html?docSource=be6696149a584693b0608483a4946d31&facetGuid=h562dbc1f9a5f4b0c9e54031a19076b9c&originationContext=citingreferences&transitionType=CitingReferences&contextData=%28sc.UserEnteredCitation%29 (showing only two cases referencing 16 C.F.R. § 23.22).

[18]See Ferreira v. Sterling Jewelers, 130 F. Supp. 3d 471 (Dist. Ct. 2015).

Image Source: https://www.thenaturalsapphirecompany.com/t-education_before_after_photos/

Take a Walk in My Headset: A Look into The Use of Virtual Reality in Division I Football Recruiting Efforts

By: Mariah L. Bayless Davis

When asked about having the 2018 No. 1 recruiting class, Kirby Smart, head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, said, “my goal is to outwork everybody in recruiting, sign the best players in the state, and turn these guys into the best team we can.”[1] What if the way to outwork everybody is to work smarter, not harder?

Virtual reality is a new emerging technology, however, the basic design and theory used to create VR headsets has been around since 1838.[2] By using the basic principles of virtual reality, William Gruber created the View-Master in 1939, which popularized virtual tourism. Today’s virtual reality headsets are designed for users to be able to immerse themselves in a 360-degree environment, completely separate and different than their own.[3] The recent transformation of virtual reality happened in 2011 in the basement of a Southern California home.[4] 18-year-old Palmer Luckey created the first prototype of the well-known Oculus Rift, that produced far more realistic results than the designs from 1838 and 1939.[5] Aside from developing the graphics, the technology behind the 360, realistic environment in which users are submerged into is revolutionary. Most virtual reality environments are constructed through the use of 360-degree cameras that essentially scan a real-time environment and translate it to a format for the VR headsets to read.[6] Users can also experience virtual reality without the headset by wearing 3D glasses in an Immersive VR environment.[7] An immersive environment is made up of twenty-four Sony digital cinema 4k projectors that display more than 100 million pixels on the walls, floor, and ceiling of the 10-foot-by-10-foot room.[8] Since the technology started being used in 1939 for virtual tourism, the advanced immersive experience is now being used by college admission offices to offer out of state students an opportunity to come on campus without leaving their couch.[9] Just as the technology is being used in admission offices, VR headsets are also being used across the country within Division I football programs.

In 2016, University of Michigan became the first D1 program to announce their plans to use VR technology as a recruiting tool, allowing recruits to experience a day in the life of a Michigan football player without ever stepping foot in Ann Arbor.[10] Other programs such as Arkansas and Minnesota use the technology to show practice, game day, campus experience, and more in an effort to tell a story about their programs that would otherwise be difficult to convey.[11] By using the technology while recruiting, smaller schools like Arkansas and Minnesota are able set themselves apart from their respective competitive conferences where bigger recruiting budgets usually means bringing in higher ranked student athletes.[12] While virtual reality benefits smaller schools with smaller recruiting budgets, the technology can also help those students who are recruited by bigger programs like Michigan, but simply cannot travel to the school for one reason or another.

It is very normal for high school students to go on college trips well before their senior year. However, for student athletes, NCAA regulations state that students cannot take their five official visits to schools until their senior year of high school.[13] NCAA defines official visits as “recruiting trips where the school is allowed to pick up the tab.”[14] Sometimes waiting until your senior year to start visiting schools is too late, but since unofficial visits are covered solely by the student athlete and their family, NCAA regulations put disadvantaged students in a rough spot.[15] The development of VR could help this situation, but with the NCAA manual being updated every year, one can only wonder when and if they will try to regulate the use of virtual reality.

Working smarter, not harder, also requires one to outsmart the system. As the national governing body of college sports, the NCAA is skillful in identifying and closing loopholes. It is only a matter of time before they close this virtual portal leading to a level playing field.

 

[1]Adam Rittenberg, Kirby Smart Finally Awakens Recruiting Giant, ESPN, http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/22276885/with-georgia-success-kirby-smart-awakens-recruiting-giant.

[2]See Scott Schroeder, Virtual Reality: Game-changing Technology for College Athletics, Athletic Business, https://www.athleticbusiness.com/apps-software/what-virtual-reality-can-do-for-college-recruiting.html.

[3]Abi Mandelbaum, How Colleges Can Even the Recruiting Field with Virtual Reality, Sports Bus. J., Apr. 2016.

[4]See Dan Murphy, Michigan Testing Virtual Reality for Recruits, ESPN, http://www.espn.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/112924/michigan-testing-virtual-reality-for-recruits.

[5]See id.

[6]See Schroeder, supra note 2.

[7]See Jacquelyn Bengfort, College Recruiting Goes Virtual with Immersive Technology, EdTech, https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2017/10/college-recruiting-goes-virtual-immersive-technology.

[8]Id.

[9]See id.

[10]See id.

[11]Darren Heitner, Golden Gophers Go with Virtual Reality to Tempt Football Recruits, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2016/11/23/golden-gophers-go-with-virtual-reality-to-tempt-football-recruits/#6b7bbb4222e4.

[12]See id.

[13]See Murphy, supra note 4.

[14]Id.

[15]See id.

Image Source: http://www.thedartmouth.com/article/2018/02/football-team-uses-state-of-the-art-virtual-reality-tool

It’s Hunting Season! I Can Tell By My Facebook Feed

By: Annie Mullican

Social media has become a huge part of everyone’s daily lives. It serves many purposes, both good and bad, but questions have arisen about what individuals can and should be exposed to on the internet; questions about what it means to participate in social media. Are you responsible for everything that appears on your timeline? If you join social media for the sole purpose of keeping in contact with old friends, are you consenting to every image that pops up on your screen? I got Facebook when I studied abroad for a year in Scotland. I got it to keep in touch with friends through wifi, since I had no cell service. I’ve kept my profile active since graduating college because I enjoy hearing from friends and family that I’m no longer close to, but I am not an avid poster. Sometimes I get on Facebook and frankly, I am not at all prepared for what I see – whether it is a sponsored ad, a news story, a friend’s post or even a post shared/liked by some of my friends. Do social media users have to deal with seeing graphic images just to participate in the site? This question has been in the forefront of my mind recently because it is deer hunting season.

I’m from Indiana, and deer hunting season is celebrated prolifically. This means that when I go to check a notification, I inevitably see a slain deer, or several. Most often there is blood, a wound, open eyes and mouth, tongue lolled to the side, a shotgun, and a person straddling that deer. At first I passed these pictures by, but it became so prolific that I began unfollowing people. They pop up on instagram too. Finally, I mentioned it to my roommate. She agreed that it ruined her day. We brought it up later with more friends. They all agreed that they disliked seeing these pictures, they unfollowed the posters, and it made them very uncomfortable at the least. As a law student, several thoughts came to mind: is this allowed? Can it be stopped – with constitutional implications in mind? If we receive a trigger warning when an internet news article contains graphic images, can’t we do that with the social media posts? What would the basis be for a law mitigating this behavior – and, is it feasible?

Namibia, a country in South Africa, is making moves to outlaw the posting of slain animals on social media.[1] As recently as August 2018, articles were being posted claiming that Namibia planned on outlawing the practice, and punishing individuals who posted pictures of slain animals online.[2] The country plans on doing so by amending Sec. 4 of its Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975.[3] The Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta cited two reasons for the amendment: first, he felt that while Namibia is a popular hunting ground, those pictures did not accurately depict the hunting in Namibia, and second, he stated that posting pictures of hunted animals was unethical.[4] It is important to note that hunting is permitted and remains permitted in Namibia.[5] This amendment does not affect an individual’s ability to take pictures of slain animals for private use.[6] It would only apply to posted pictures of slain animals.[7] Moreover, despite the legality of hunting in Namibia, this amendment would apply to everyone, including hunters with permits.[8] This appears to be a good compromise. It allows the hunters to hunt, but prevents those uninterested in hunting from being exposed to graphic images. Should –can– the United States be doing something similar?

The U.S. bans the creation, sale, or possession of videos, pictures depicting animal cruelty, but only if it is used to gain profit.[9] In U.S. v. Stevens, the Supreme Court ruled that “depiction of animal cruelty” was not an exception to the First Amendment.[10] None of these laws are exactly on point to this issue, so should Facebook itself be making the stand against these pictures?

In 2014, Facebook announced that they deleted a young woman’s trophy hunting photo because it directly violated their terms of service.[11] These terms ban “graphic images shared for sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence.”[12] Often, public uproar comes with the posting of a slain rhino, giraffe, or lion, but there is more to this issue than preserving beautiful and big game animals – which is a noble cause. This issue is about the graphicness of images that depict any slain animal regularly on social media. I, like most people, don’t consider hunting to be sadistic, but indeed, taking a picture for personal use and posting a slain animal on the internet are different things. Regardless, there are tools to address this issue – whether it be through a more on-point and narrow law, like Namibia’s new amendment, or more strict enforcing of Facebook terms of service.

[1] Namibia Plans to Make Posting Images of Dead Wildlife to Social Media Illegal,  MYPROPERTY(Aug. 7, 2018), https://www.myproperty.com.na/news/16720/namibia-plans-to-make-posting-images-of-dead–wildlife-to-social-media-illegal/.

[2]Id.

[3]Id.

[4]Id.

[5]Id.

[6]Id.

[7]Id.

[8]Id.

[9]Depiction of Animal Cruelty Law and Legal Definition, https://definitions.uslegal.com/d/depiction-of-animal-cruelty/

[10]Id.

[11]Polly Mosendz, “Facebook Officially Doesn’t Approve of Dead Animals or Baby Butts,” THE ATLANTIC (July 9, 2014), https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/07/facebook-doesnt-approve-of-dead-animals-or-baby-butts/374180/

[12]Id.

Image Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiNmZfxqdneAhXDneAKHfL-D0MQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fstrikingattheroots.wordpress.com%2F2010%2F03%2F30%2Fgetting-active-for-animals-with-facebook%2F&psig=AOvVaw0jOqNSTAdDq_uml_uPIWN-&ust=1542471934742765

The End of PBR?

By: Scottie Fralin

Back in March of 2016, Pabst Brewing Company filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors for breach of contract.[1] Pabst is seeking at least $400 million in damages.[2] The case finally went to trial on November 12, 2018 after years of unsuccessful negotiations between the two companies.[3] The case centers on a 1999 “brewing agreement” between Pabst and MillerCoors that almost 30 years later has gone sour.[4] Per the agreement, MillerCoors has produced, packaged, and shipped nearly all of Pabst’s products since the two companies teamed up.[5] However, MillerCoors, facing declining volume in the U.S., has said it may not have the capacity to continue that relationship.[6] When MillerCoors announced in 2015 that it was closing one of its seven U.S. plants in Eden, North Carolina, where most of Pabst products were brewed, Pabst alleged that that decision was anti-competitive.[7] In its announcement, MillerCoors said that production had declined by 10 million barrels of beer over the past seven years and that distribution at the Eden plant overlapped with the company’s Shenandoah brewery in Virginia.[8] The brewing agreement is set to expire in 2020, and MillerCoors, citing sales decline and loss of production facilities, does not plan to renew the agreement.[9] This decision is devastating for Pabst, because no other brewery in the U.S. has the capacity to brew for them under a contract.[10] Pabst’s other option is to build their own commercially-sized brewery, which is neither easy nor cheap, likely a project that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.[11] Pabst’s circumstances help to explain why the company opted for litigation, but the two companies’ allegations against each other hint at more than just lack of resources.

Pabst’s relationship with MillerCoors is what allows Pabst to compete, and the company essentially won’t be able to survive in the domestic beer market without a contract with a larger beer company. MillerCoors has pointed to the rise in competition from everything from wine, spirits, to cannabis for its brewing capacity issues with Pabst.[12] It also claims that it has sole discretion to determine whether it has the capacity to brew Pabst beer, and further, that offering Pabst a solution to those capacity challenges is merely optional.[13] Put simply, MillerCoors is not required to extend the brewing agreement. But Pabst alleges, and a Milwaukee circuit court judge agreed in denying MillerCoors motion for summary judgment, that MillerCoors may be looking solely to its own best business interest, in violation of the brewing agreement.[14] Pabst accuses MillerCoors of considering the potential boost to its own business that would come by ending its contract with Pabst, which would result in less domestic beer competition.[15] Responding to MillerCoors motion for summary judgment, the Milwaukee judge pointed to evidence that MillerCoors may have used information relating to the business effects on Pabst of terminating the brewing agreement, which would be improper as that information does not relate to a sufficient capacity determination.[16] With the trial scheduled through November 30, Pabst fans should have some indication about the iconic American beer’s future by the end of this month.

 

[1]See Owen Covington, MillerCoors Responds to Pabst Lawsuit Over Brewery Closure, Seeks Mediation, Triad Business Journal (May 19, 2016, 3:06 PM) https://www.bizjournals.com/triad/news/2016/05/19/millercoors-responds-to-pabst-lawsuit-over-brewery.html.

[2]See id.

[3]See id.

[4]See id.

[5]See Associated Press, A Major Beer Battle Is Brewing and It Could Mean the End of PBR, Time (Nov. 12, 2018),http://time.com/5451798/pabst-pbr-millercoors-beer-lawsuit/.

[6]See Lauren Hirsch, MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing’s Bitter Legal Battle Is Headed to Trial in November, CNBC(June 17, 2018, 10:00 AM), https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/17/millercoors-and-pabst-blue-ribbons-bitter-legal-battle-is-headed-to-trial-in-november.html.

[7]See Jonnelle Davis, Pabst Sues MillerCoors About Eden Closure, News & Record (May 17, 2016), https://www.greensboro.com/business/local_business/pabst-s-sues-millercoors-about-eden-closure/article_1ca2663f-0913-557b-bc86-bbb66ae0144e.html.

[8]See id.

[9]See Associated Press, supra note 2.

[10]See Christine Flores, Trial Underway Between Beermakers Pabst and MillerCoors, WDJT – Milwaukee(Nov. 13, 2018, 5:20 PM),https://www.cbs58.com/news/trial-underway-between-beer-makers-pabst-and-millercoors.

[11]See Mike Pomranz, Hold Onto Your PBR: A Pabst Blue Ribbon Shortage Is Looming, Food & Wine (June 18, 2018),https://www.foodandwine.com/news/pabst-blue-ribbon-shortage.

[12]See Hirsch, supra note 6.

[13]See id.

[14]See id.

[15]See id.

[16]See id.

Image Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/17/millercoors-and-pabst-blue-ribbons-bitter-legal-battle-is-headed-to-trial-in-november.html

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