Archive for October, 2010

Ubercab – How technology can be disruptive to existing business

October 25, 2010

In this article on Tech Crunch, the author MG Siegler makes the argument that getting a cease and desist letter can be a good thing for a startup company. He argues it means they are on to something and that people would not be complaining about the company’s actions if it was not impacting existing businesses. Ubercab (note: the company’s name has been changed to just Uber) provides a “app” for both the Android and iPhone platforms which allow you to request a sedan with a licensed driver to pick you up wherever you are in the San Francisco, CA. area.  Sedans are not allowed by law to pick up passengers by being “waved down”, but can only pick up customers who have pre-booked in advance.  The amount of time that must pass from booking to pickup is regulated by statute, additionally the cease and desist orders reference several alleged violations for operating as a taxi cab service. Two of them are: charging a calculated fee based on mileage vs. a flat or hourly fee, which requires prior approval and operating as a taxi service without the proper approved colors and markings to identify the cars as belonging to the taxi service.

It appears that Uber will argue they they do not in fact operate as a taxicab service but as a middleman, who is providing a referral service between the drivers and passengers, with the added convenience of a payment methodology through the app via the passengers credit card. I do not have an opinion on whether or not Uber’s business model is legal or not, or if it can be adjusted to be legal, but it is clearly having a disruptive effect on the industry.  User satisfaction and support seems to be high, and the company’s investors appeared poised to bankroll the legal battle.

It will be interesting to follow this story and see whether the existing taxi companies fight back with an “app” of their own or rely on the legal system to prevent this challenge to the way they do business. I am also intrigued that the original name of the company appears to have caused part of the legal issues because it is alleged they were advertising as a taxi cab company, without having the proper licenses to do so.

Linkedin Recommendations for Lawyers

October 21, 2010

This post on Above the Law discusses whether it is appropriate for Lawyers to utilize Linkedin because of the restrictions various State Bars have on client or attorney recommendations.  These rules were originally developed to prevent misleading potential clients that the attorney would be able to get them the same results as the person giving the testimonial received.   Another article discussing lawyers using social media and how it is impacted by rules on advertising can be found at SoloPracticeUniversity. It is interesting to compare the two articles because one is focused on large firms and the other on small, yet both advocate the use of social media to promote your law practice.

I know as a law student I am working to build my presence on Linkedin, as well as, through this blog. Fortunately, since I am not yet a licensed attorney, I have more leeway in brand promotion and hope that future employers will be positively swayed by the recommendations I have received for past work.

As social media continues to change privacy expectations and the way in which we all interrelate, I am sure that the rules governing attorneys use of social media will continue to change as well.  I think many of the same concerns that apply to the Legal Profession, apply to recommendations for all goods and services.

The recent rules published and then revised by the FTC in regards to bloggers disclosing their relationship with the manufacturer or provider of the good or service they are blogging about is a great example of this overlap. It shows an ongoing effort to create transparency in these relationships, so the reader can properly evaluate any potential bias on the part of the recommender.

When done properly I think social media is a great resource for law students and lawyers alike to promote their abilities and recommendations are an important part of those tools.  They can help the reader gauge the credibility of the poster.  Perhaps another day I will write about the pros/cons of curated recommendations for business on sites such as yelp and how that affects the credibility of those comments.

Google’s “self-driven” or automated cars

October 18, 2010

This article from Kenneth Anderson on the Volokh Conspiracy raises some interesting questions as to what liability the manufacture and/or software programmer have if the vehicle is in an accident.  What liability is assigned to the Driver? I wonder how reasonable is it to expect people to devote their full attention to “driving” when the car is driving itself.  That fact, in itself, I think makes it more likely the driver will become distracted by other things. The very act of having to control the car and be aware of your surroundings helps to keep the driver focused on that act.  As less attention is required, it would be natural for the driver’s mind to wander to other things and that much more difficult to stay focused on a task that does not require the driver’s full capacity.

It could make the act of driving to become more monotonous and thus cause the driver to pay less attention. Then if the driver needs to take action to override the computer, he would be less able to do so.  So who then is at fault? Just the driver? Just the manufacturer? Some shared liability between them? Should this liability be predetermined or is it a case by case fact specific inquiry?

As technology changes our laws will have to change with it in order to enable our society to function, which will keep Law a challenging endeavor for many years to come.

Dilbert on privacy and User data

October 15, 2010

Dilbert by Scott Adams on privacy issues involving customer data.

FBI reclaims GPS Tracking device

October 8, 2010

This is an interesting article on Engadget about the FBI reclaiming a GPS tracking device that a “suspect” found attached to the underside of his car.  I wonder if any property transfer when the Government attaches a device to a non-government vehicle.   Do they have a legitimate claim to recover the property, or could the individual claim it similar the way a landlord becomes the owner of fixtures attached to a building?

White House Administration looking for ways to block access to sites with infringing content

October 3, 2010

This story on Techdirt which was posted before the news of “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) being delayed was out, still shows that people concerned with the interplay of privacy, government control, trademarks and copyright infringement need to keep abreast of the shifting landscape.  White House Administrative staff has been meeting with domain registrars (among others) and talking about ways to block access to infringing sites.  I think it is an important goal to stop piracy and theft of intellectual property, I just want whatever procedures put in place to have proper due process to ensure that non-infringing or legitimate fair use works are not caught in the same “net”.

The Kno – A possible challenger to the iPad for Attorney’s and Students

October 3, 2010

The Kno is tablet or slate computer that supports both a touch interface and writing with a stylus. I think this gives it real potential to challenge the iPad as I believe the lack of writing support is a major limitation. It is going to be available in two models, one with dual 14″ screens and the other with a single 14″ screen.  Otherwise, the technical specifications are planned to be the same.  The dual screen version will fold flat so that it could be carried and used while standing.

Right now their focus is on the education market and providing a rich experience with interactive textbooks.  It allows highlighting of text and notetaking in the margins, as well as providing a note taking application for more detailed work or drawing.

I could certainly envision it being used by an attorney at trial to track depositions, take notes on exhibits and potentially be able to display those exhibits to the jury.

I will be following the Kno’s progress, at this time it is scheduled to be in production and available before the end of the year.

Short Animated film of interest

October 3, 2010

This film is interesting because it was released under a Creative Commons license and was produced with open source code.

Youtube HD link

Producers website – Sintel


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