How Technology Disrupts Private Law: An Exploratory Study of California and Switzerland as Innovative Jurisdictions

2018 is the first year in history when more than half of the world’s population is online. Since its dawn, the Internet has changed many aspects of daily life. The first wave of the Internet saw a change in communication: the use of e-mails and the rise of Internet browsers facilitated online transactions and marked the beginning of global access to goods. Then came wider access to services, in what is by now called the ‘gig’ economy: Internet platforms started matching demand and supply in sectors such as transportation, tourism and even entertainment. More recently, a new wave of decentralization through cryptography developments in distributed ledger technologies has challenged the fitness of established legal rules and practices and disrupted disrupting the law.

Legal systems have always had adapt to modernity. What is new, however, is that all aspects of human development are moving faster than ever and at an unprecedented scale, with unmatched complexity. By contrast, regulatory solutions for legal questions arising out of technology innovation have been rather slow and random. The legal status of Uber drivers as independent employees has been established in different jurisdictions around the world, but will it also apply to Youtubers? Such case-by-case approaches tend to increase legal uncertainty rather than reduce it. In a recent working paper I completed for the Stanford Transatlantic Technology Law Forum, I looked at a number of private law issues raised by disruptive technologies in two particular jurisdictions: California and Switzerland. The goal of the paper is to map and analyse regulatory responses.

This is an excerpt from a post on the Oxford Business Law Blog. Read the full blog post here.

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A Thank You Letter (or Hate Mail) for Fred Rodell

Fred Rodell, the once revered Yale Law School professor and the “bad boy of American legal academia”[1] wrote that “[t]here are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.”[2] His harrowing words acutely capture my conflicting relationship with (legal) writing, but more on point, it makes the path laid out before me (as someone in legal academia), a more difficult one to take.

In his renowned and (secretly) admired article, Goodbye for Law Review, Rodell professes his dislike for “long sentences, awkward constructions, and fuzzy-wuzzy words that seem to apologize for daring to venture an opinion…” often found in many legal publications. He also takes issues with how editors and publishers presume every writer “to be a liar until he proves himself otherwise with a flock of footnotes,” and describes reading through the sea of legal jargons and overly-cautious opinions as “kicks in the pants.” To him, legal writing is formulaic, pedantic, and spineless. While Rodell’s criticism is an attempt to roast the entire legal community, I feel his disappointed glare directed right at me, for I have committed many of these sins with my very own hands.

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The Future of the Sharing Economy

The Question

Should Uber be considered as a company that offers transportation services or rather as a digital platform that offers information society services, operating merely to match passengers with drivers?

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New community research initiative: The European Law&Tech Network

While many decades ago, the field of law and technology was focused on the study of intellectual property, more recently, legal scholars have extended their interest in technology to other fields such as the regulation and governance of the Internet, privacy and cybersecurity, data collection, digital platforms, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. The European Law and Technology Network brings together scholars from different nationalities and fields of research that are trying to understand how technology works and how law should respond to its challenges. The European Law and Technology Network is an initiative of two scholars affiliated with Dutch universities: Sofia Ranchordas has published extensively on the regulation of digital platforms and comparative public law. She is currently based at Leiden Law School and as of October 1st, 2017, she will be Chair of European & Comparative Public Law and Rosalind Franklin Fellow at Groningen Law School. Sofia is also affiliated with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Catalina Goanta is an Assistant Professor of Private Law and affiliated MEPLI researcher who writes on consumer law, innovation policy, and is behind a number of local and international law and technology initiatives.

So far the network has gathered over 240 scholars from 22 European and Middle Eastern countries.

For more information on the Network and the opportunity to join it, have a look at its website.

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Innovating Private Law: On Law and Technology (Pavia, 8 February)

On 8 February I had the pleasure to accompany Jan Smits for a visit to Pavia, where we gave a presentation titled ‘Innovating Private Law: On Law and Technology’, on the third day of the Innovating Legal Studies and Practice Winter School 2017.

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Snapshot: 11th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies (CELS)

Computer courts are not science fiction. Intuitively, an important limitation of computer adjudicators is that the procedure becomes impersonal. Consequently, users may prefer human adjudicators over software adjudication. The research of Ayelet Sela suggests otherwise. She tested whether litigants preferred a human mediator over a software mediator. Using an electronic environment that was developed to analyze online dispute resolution, she found that the software mediator was preferred to the human mediator, and not the other way around. Individuals even felt they could express their views better when using an interface. The paper was presented at the Conference of Empirical Legal Studies, which was held on 18/19 November 2016 at Duke University. Click here for the paper.

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