Category Archives: Law

Contract and Legal Reference Engine

An instant and well documented history of legal rulings – based on fact sets, and legal documents for typical related work – could be produced through information management of historical legal documents. The system would format contracts of a firm with fields that identify important entities and information in each contract (For example, the company later referred to as “COMPANY” would have a corresponding database table field). Then the interface would allow a lawyer – or anyone – to enter information for any fields they thought were relevant, and the system would identify the contracts and cases that are most similar, providing appropriate pre-populated contracts and historical rulings when available. This system would vastly improve efficiencies in the legal industry. In addition, it could provide a tool for judges to research other decisions, and ask for public opinion with a forum for discussion threads. Within a law firm, laywers could enter case or client information and select what kinds of results they would like to receive (Contracts, referrences, etc.)

Intellectual property protection is important

Imagine there are two worlds: One with freely flowing information, and the other with intellectual property rights retained. What would these worlds look like?

What are the implications of free distribution? Whatever they are, that world is still available to the people in the world with information rights. The individuals with rights would just be foregoing their rights, an option that is often exercised today. It’s obvious; some information is worth more than others. Being able to price and transact for money is a basic financial tool that has been developed to make trade and specialization possible. Would we really want to eliminate this important dynamic in the next cycle of business evolution? What would be the implications of that loss? There would be no direct incentive to create valuable information; originators could benefit from the marketing effects of popularly reproduced content, but this is not the same. Clearly, an important part of the economy in the coming century will be based on software companies, media companies, research companies, and other producers of intellectual properties. Eliminating the financial viability of their products would eliminate the incentives for these companies to exist.

Allowing trade is always good. If it weren’t the preference of both parties, then the trade wouldn’t take place. Licensing intellectual property is similar: If you were willing to pay for it, it was because it was worth at least that much to you. Anticipating the value you would assign to their work, the producers invest their time and resources into a better product. What quality of intellectual property would you rather live with?

In which world would you rather live?

Human Responsibility

The Human Rights movements of the 20th century will evolve into the Human Responsibility movements of the 21st. Just as the moral masses rose to fight battles of freedom, representation, protection, and equality, new moral questions of responsibility will arise as paramount. We will be forced to confront and socially decide upon subjective and highly contested issues in the use of technologies, preservation of environments, and rules of trade and labor. Harold T. Shapiro *64 is an early hero in this movement, speaking to thousands:

In the 21st Century, scientists and engineers will continue to inform us regarding what we can do with our ever-expanding knowledge base, but it is our shared responsibility to decide what we should do. And deciding what we should do is the greatest responsibility we all bear as we move forward together.

It will be a moral call to arms. Factions will grow in much the same ways that they have around abortion questions. Large numbers of issues will arise, and be grouped by medical, moral, philosophical, religious, technical, and other similarities. Specialized factions will fight for ultimate personal freedom to act, at least upon themselves, without restraint. While others will fight for the protection of others, even to the great restraint of personal freedoms. And there will be a majority in between.

Communities will form, and governments will be organized around the constituents’ answers to these questions. Those countries that embrace the most freedoms, particularly for businesses, will have financial advantages over those that embrace the most protections of others. This imbalance will allow particular countries to benefit for decades at the detriment of the whole, as their own incentives are not aligned with the benefit of the whole, but instead with their own short term economic benefit.

Preparing for music rights protection on the internet

Napster users on the night of the first injunction found downloads crawling as peers were scrambling to loot the music warehouses. Consumer preparations for the fall of Napster indicate that many worry that they will have to pay for music downloads in the future.

On the other side of the coin, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is looking for new channels for online music sales that will allow them to capture as much value from their music portfolios as possible. With their music less available, they believe consumers will pay for their recordings on the internet, just as they do with traditional media like tapes and CDs.

The Internet is preparing for the fall of Napster as well. Many DRM providers, AnIdea Corporation included, now make it possible for record labels (or anyone else) to list and sell their music online. Content markets for Music are attached it to tracking, accounting, and billing systems. AnIdea.com makes many of these services free for everybody. Each listing is managed by the music owners, including any promotional materials. Distribution occurs in a manner that finally compensates the music owners for their sales.

The Music Industry and the Internet are constantly evolving under the prevailing winds of the markets and their legal frameworks, and how we acquire music is far from settled. Some things seem clear, though: that music will continue to be protected by copyrights, that people love internet music distribution, and that technology will adapt to fit the markets and the laws.

It is probably just a matter of time before media players come with fingerprinting software that analyses the waveform, generates an ID, and compares it against a public database of waveform IDs. A system like this could be used to apply copyright protection to the files you think you got away with. In other words, the free files you have downloaded for free from Napster might someday require a fee to play. Same file, new price.