The Future of 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and Their Intersection With The Law

Posted on Jun 7, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

The Future of 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and Their Intersection With The Law

3D printing technology is in a fledgling state, though it has already raised many ethical and moral dilemmas. What can you print with a 3D printer? Guns? Illicit drugs? Can you print anything? Also, who controls the designs for 3D printed content? Who should own those and distribute them? These are all things that the law can answer, given time. Unfortunately, this makes answering questions about the future of 3D printing, intellectual property, and their intersection with the law difficult to hypothesize. What will the future of 3D printing laws will be, based on the current landscape? A few brave souls have attempted to answer some of these questions. In a recent YouTube video on PBS Idea Channel, host Mike Rugnetta spoke with Michael Weinburg, General Counsel and head of litigation at Shapeways, a 3D printing company. During the interview, the two spoke about the various issues concerning 3D printing technology and implementation, especially as they intersect with intellectual property and laws. 3D Printing Community Weinburg notes that the 3D printing community is currently comprised of the following groups of people: The makers, who come up with ideas and like the challenge of design. They are engineering-oriented people. Designers, who have had an awesome idea for a thing and want to use 3D printing technology as a means to create their vision. Outside of these two large groups, there are also smaller cliques like educators (who aim to use 3D printing in the classroom as an engaging way to teach science, engineering, and math), and lawyers, who are concerned with the future of 3D printing legislation and regulation. Copyright Distinction: Functional vs. Non-Functional The current state of 3D printing laws revolves around copyright violations and patent infringements. When determining copyright violations for 3D printed objects, the first question one must ask is: is this object functional or non-functional? A functional object serves a purpose (like a door knob or a part of your car’s engine), while a non-functional object might be a piece of art. Functional objects are categorically not subject to copyright laws, while non-functional objects can be copyrighted. That said, any object (even a functional object) can be protected by a patent. Embrace 3D Printing! In defense of embracing 3D printing technology on a widespread scale, Weinburg explains the process that the music industry used to approach MP3s when they first hit the market. This faulty strategy, he explains, caused the music industry to alienate many of their customers and eventually resulted in giving in to their demands: first, they sued all of their customers for downloading MP3s, then they put on digital locks to their music (which were easily broken), and then they finally embraced MP3 technology and sought to serve the market that obviously exists for digital music. This is important for the future of 3D printing design and law: people will find a way...

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Why Is Online Harassment Legislation Still Not A Thing?

Posted on May 19, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Why Is Online Harassment Legislation Still Not A Thing?

It is hard to imagine life without the Internet in 2016. While the Internet has become a huge staple of modern life, laws surrounding its use haven’t quite caught up with our rapid technological leaps forward. One question that many have in this day and age is: why is online harassment not prosecuted in the same way that harassment and assault are in the real world? Why hasn’t the law caught up with technology. In their 2014 report Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape, Alice E. Marwick and Ross Miller of Fordham University do a good job of explaining just why online harassment, defamation, and hate speech are particularly troublesome to create legislation for. Some of their main points include: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides Internet service providers (ISPs), such as social media websites, blog hosting companies, etc., with broad immunity from liability for user-generated content. Limited resources tend to cause law enforcement personnel to prioritize other cases instead of Internet-related ones. The medium of the Internet can make prosecution tricky. For example, if a crime is committed between two people who live in different states or countries, which laws should be applied? For online statements to qualify as defamatory, they must be empirically false instead of simply a matter of opinion. This makes specific language crucial and often makes filing for defamation tricky. Internet speech is protected under the First Amendment. As a result, state laws regarding online speech are written to comply with these protections, requiring fighting words, true threats, or obscene speech (which aren’t protected). Therefore, many offensive online comments are actually protected speech. Beyond those difficulties, there are issues where the rubber meets the road: enforcing the law. Law enforcement and legislation are notoriously sluggish when it comes to keeping up with rapid advancements in technology. It is incredibly easy to find anonymity on the Internet today, which can sometimes make proving that one party is the culprit in a case rather dubious. Those concerned with privacy would be huge opponents of bills like this because of the technology required to actually enforce them. If you’re a victim today, ultimately you can’t do a whole lot beyond actually reaching out to social media channels or online media where these types of message are posted. However, if the messages do not violate that website’s terms of service, the message will most likely stick around, and the user will not be banned or have their account removed. In fairness, the current legal system isn’t a complete failure for victims of cyber crimes. However, filing a case and seeing it through to completion in these situations is often very expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining, and as a result many choose not to prosecute if they find themselves in a troublesome situation. As we become more and more familiar with...

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San Francisco Hopes to Regulate Airbnb, HomeAway Rentals

Posted on May 3, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

San Francisco Hopes to Regulate Airbnb, HomeAway Rentals

If you thought the housing situation in San Francisco was bad already, then you won’t be surprised to learn that the short-term-rental market in San Fran might get a little worse too. Or better, depending on your perspective. A proposed amendment to a current San Francisco law would impose regulations on Airbnb, HomeAway, and other types of private vacation rental services. The regulations would be based on the laws of the areas that the rental properties are located in. The law states that Airbnb, HomeAway, and others would be subject to the same building regulations as other similar companies in the same jurisdiction. So for the purposes of San Francisco, the companies would have to abide by San Francisco regulations. Platforms that don’t follow this mandate could faces fines of up to $1,000 a day per listing as well as misdemeanor charges against them. “Unless the hosting platforms have a role in enforcement, enforcement is not going to happen,” said Supervisor David Campos of San Francisco. “They have to have some skin in the game.” Airbnb, HomeAway, and others are quickly becoming a standard for some travelers who seek cheap lodging accommodations on their travels. It’s quite rational that the law of the land would catch up with the ways of the people. One might argue that Airbnb is feeling the heat and actively making attempts to save face, as they may fear potential blowback from some of their properties in San Francisco that don’t meet the city’s regulations. In an unlikely move to do just that, Airbnb recently began talks with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for a potential alliance. Why does the move seem bizarre? The SEIU has been one of the champions behind $15/hour minimum wage laws, which could end up costing Airbnb a lot of money if the wage were implemented throughout the country. It will be interesting to see how this proposed law turns out, as it could easily set a precedent for other major metropolitan areas across the...

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Florida Bar Results Reveal Poor Performance on First Time Bar Exams

Posted on Apr 19, 2016 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Florida Bar Results Reveal Poor Performance on First Time Bar Exams

The dreaded Bar Exam. Even for those unacquainted with the legal profession, pop culture has taught us that the Bar Exam is to be feared and painstakingly prepared for. But for those studying to become lawyers, this reality is all too real. A recent study from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners shows that Florida’s law school students do quite poorly on their Bar Exam the first time through. Even though these aren’t first-time test takers, the results are staggering and show just how hard taking the Bar Exam can be. Here are a few percentages for several Florida universities’ law students on their first attempt at the Bar Exam: Florida Coastal–32.7% Barry University–35.9% University of Florida–56.3% University of Miami–53.1% Florida International University–84.6% Nova Southeastern University–75.0% While not all schools performed poorly (another shout-out for Florida International University and Nova Southeastern University!), the data seems to show one common trend: the larger the testing group, the poorer the results. Does this correlate to the size of a cohort or with class sizes? Only time or another exhaustive study can provide us with the answer. Why is the Bar Exam so difficult? The results of this study, and many others, beg the question: why exactly is the Bar Exam so difficult? These are some of the reasons why students wind up doing very poorly, or even failing, their Bar Exams and and how you can avoid some common pitfalls. A simple rule of thumb to follow: you’ll pass the exam with your strengths, and you’ll fail with your weaknesses. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to turn your weaknesses into strengths (often, this is impossible or at least very unlikely), devote time to refining your strengths so that you know you’ll do your best on these sections! Stress is killer: the stress (and intimidating aura) surrounding the Bar Exam can cause students to get flustered and anxious. This can create a number of problems, including causing students to attempt to cram too much information (effectively learning nothing) and literally pushing their bodies to their limits. This naturally puts students off their A-game. While you might know the law in and out, you may not have the proper skills of showing your work and making a convincing argument. These are both skills that any successful lawyer will need to have. You don’t manage your time wisely. The Bar Exam has timed sections, and if you can’t work with those strict guidelines, you will surely fail. Studying time management skills is a great way to increase your chances of...

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Do Antitrust Laws Hinder Businesses?

Posted on Mar 22, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Do Antitrust Laws Hinder Businesses?

Antitrust laws are an important part of America’s law history. They ensure that fair competition exists in an open-market economy and, when used correctly, they help everyone and stimulate a healthy economy. However, antitrust laws were created for an economic system that is pure and perfect all the time, an unrealistic expectation of our current structure. So while antitrust laws do some good things for companies and consumers alike, they can also hurt the very businesses such laws were created to protect. Antitrust laws were established to promote and protect the competition that is the root of the United States’ economic standing. When the laws were made, their creators assumed that a free and unregulated market would give rise to coercive monopolies, businesses operating in a field where other competitors aren’t allowed to join. In some cases, antitrust laws do protect businesses, like when the laws lead to price fixes that guarantee better income for independent workers. However, coercive monopolies can’t be created in a free economy like ours because they can only be realized by acts of government like special regulations, subsidies, or franchises, making it quite difficult for businesses to collaborate and work together. For example, a recent study indicates that antitrust laws are hurting the efforts of businesses who want to work together on sustainable, socially-responsible business practices but are afraid of overstepping antitrust laws and being penalized for it. Because our economic environment has changed so much since the conception of antitrust laws, they risk becoming outdated in the face of current global concerns like climate change. “We are so deeply rooted in our assumptions about markets and competitions,” says Inara Scott, attorney and assistant professor at Oregon State University’s College of Business. “It is very hard to challenge [those assumptions]. But these laws were written at a time when resources seemed inexhaustible, whereas today we live in an era of limited resources.” With limited resources, it matters who’s doing business and how. But if new companies can’t break into a monopolized field, business, competition, and the national economy will suffer. Legal barriers often prevent the expansion of ideas and markets, and they reduce spread of information people need to make informed decisions about how what businesses they want to work with. Without competition, our economy won’t grow. But antitrust laws do offer some necessary protections to certain fields and companies. Perhaps the best thing to do is to revise when and how antitrust laws work and refresh their regulations in light of our nation’s changes, challenges, and...

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Miami Under Consideration As El Chapo Trial Venue

Posted on Jan 26, 2016 in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases, Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Miami Under Consideration As El Chapo Trial Venue

Miami, Florida is one of two U.S. cities under serious discussion for being the location of the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexican cartel kingpin. Federal prosecutors in six states have filed indictments against Guzman, but the Eastern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida have overlapping cases that could be combined. Therefore, headquarter sites in Brooklyn and Miami have emerged as the leading contenders for the locations of the sensational and widely anticipated trial. “The Southern District of Florida’s extraordinary record with respect to major narcotics trafficking cases could be an important factor,” Kendall Coffey told McClatchy news service. “It’s a history-making case that, if successful, could deal a huge blow to today’s most violent drug trafficker. This case will define careers for prosecutors, (drug) agents, and even the trial judge.” Guzman was captured in the Pacific coastal town of Los Mochis, Mexico, seven months after he escaped from a high security Mexican prison through a sophisticated tunnel that experts project may have cost more than $1 million to dig. The indictments against Guzman The overlapping indictments in Brooklyn and Miami accuse El Chapo of multiple counts of drug trafficking and money-laundering. Unfortunately for Miami, an early look reveals that Brooklyn may have the inside track, as federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have also accused Guzman of 13 murders, assassinations, or attempted killings of Mexican police, soldiers, and rival gang members. These accusations may very well tip the scales in Brooklyn’s favor. Defense by playing “Donald Trump card” Guzman’s lawyers have attempted to fight extradition to the U.S. in general, notably using a defense that comes down to “because Donald Trump.” Guzman’s lawyers argue that there is anti-Mexican sentiment in the U.S. and that that sentiment would not allow for a fair trial. Donald Trump is cited as an example of the anti-Mexican sentiment that is persistent throughout the country. We are interested to see how the entire trial process turns out—stay...

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