Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of presenting on behalf of the Office of the CTO to the Society for Computers and Law (SCL)‘s Junior Lawyers Group. It was a slightly unsual presentation in that David [Smith] often speaks to CIOs and business leaders, or to aspiring young people who will become the next generation of IT leaders. Meanwhile I was given the, somewhat daunting, challenge of pitching a presentation to a room full of practising lawyers – all of whom work in the field of IT law but who had signed up for the event because they wanted to know more about the technology terms that they come across in their legal work. Because this was the SCL’s Junior Lawyers group, I considered that most of the people in the room have grown up in a world of IT and so finding a level which was neither too technical nor too basic was my biggest issue.
My approach was to spend some time talking about the way we design solutions: introducing the basic concepts of business, application and technology architectures; talking about the need for clear and stated requirements (particularly non-functionals); the role of service management; and introducing concepts such as cloud computing and virtualisation.
Part way through, I dumped the PowerPoint (Dilbert fans may be aware of the danger that is “PowerPoint poisoning”) and went back to a flip chart to sketch out a view of why we have redundancy in our servers, networks, datacentres, etc. and to talk about thin clients, virtual desktops and other such terms that may come up in IT conversations.
Then, back to the deck to talk about where we see things heading in the near future before my slot ended and the event switched to an exercise in prioritising legal terms in an IT context.
I’m not sure how it went (it will be interesting to see the consolidated feedback from the society) but there was plenty of verbal feedback to suggest the talk was well received, I received some questions (always good to get some audience participation) and from the frantic scribbling on notes at one table I must have been saying something that someone found useful!
The main reason for this blog post is to highlight some of the additional material in the deck that I didn’t present last night. There are many places where IT and the law are not as closely aligned as we might expect. Examples include:
- Intellectual property: we’ve seen huge efforts on the part of the entertainment industry to control file sharing; brands need to protect themselves (but I’m not convinced that issuing cease and desist orders to well-intentioned app developers is a great idea) meanwhile others have embraced the support of their fans; and IP is being used as a weapon, with defensive patent purchases and cross-licensing agreements (it’s been reported that Microsoft will make $1bn from Google Android sales next year – how ironic is that?!).
- Privacy: a British MP highlighted that it’s not practical to prosecute 75,000 Twitter users for breaking a “super-injunction”; and where should the line be drawn on impersonation on social networks – is it parody, or defamation?
- International boundaries: not only do we have conflicts between European and United States laws on data privacy but the United States is also seeking extradition of a British citizen over alleged copyright infringements on the basis that the domain name is registered in the USA even though he, and his servers, are not.
- Cloud computing: there are many complexities associated with the change in computing service provision but the international boundaries issue is particularly appropriate here. Queen Mary University of London has carried out research into cloud contracts and found that there are many practical questions to be answered (in truth, these are not unique to cloud computing – many are equally appliable to traditional IT services).
These items could have been a whole presentation in themselves but I’m interested to hear what the readers of this blog think – are these really as significant as I suggest they are? Or is this just an inevitable consequence of fast-paced business and technology change rubbing up against a legal profession that’s steeped in tradition and takes time to evolve?