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Law and technology: impedance mismatch

The law doesn't get technology. Laws drafted with technical input end up too technical: the Telecommunications Act govnerns "the carriage of communications by means of guided and/or unguided electromagnetic energy". Laws drafted without technial input end up too broad: nobody really knows what metadata falls within the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act. Some laws, like the Privacy Act, completely ignore the impact they might have on tech. And that's before we get to the time it takes for law reform, or the incredibly complex jurisdictional issues...

One of the great moments in the free software movement was the development of copyleft: a way of using existing legal structures to promote a free software purpose. Surprisng as it might seem, EULAs have had a similar impact, providing "just enough" legal protection for a lot of online commercial activities. The only people who don't have some protection now are users: consumers who lack protection, individuals subject to invasive tracking and activists denied access to information.

There are no purely technical solutions to social problems. This talk will look at some ways individuals, F/LOSS projects and socially responsible enterprises can position themselves to maximise good outcomes. It will also consider areas where legal or policy change could have the greatest impact.

Michael Cordover

Michael Cordover is a lawyer practicing in intellectual property, privacy and commercial law. Before that he was an event manager and a freelance web application developer.

Michael has often been frustrated by the way the law so often misunderstands technology. Growing up in the early days of the internet he's seen the good, the bad and the ugly of an unregulated environment. He has a particular interest in the challenges that exist at the intersection of technology, community and the law.

Some may know Michael from his freedom of information request to the Australian Electoral Commission for the source code of EasyCount, the software used to count votes in Senate elections. That case is ongoing, though should be resolved before LCA. Michael was part of the team that created LobbyLens at the first GovHack in 2009 and he has been found not to be vexatious under the FOI Act.


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