' MTTLR | Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review

Recent Articles

How Can I Tell if My Algorithm Was Reasonable?

By  Karni A. Chagal-Feferkorn Article, Spring 2021
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Taking It With You: Platform Barriers to Entry and the Limits of Data Portability

By  Gabriel Nicholas Article, Spring 2021
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Pushing Back on Stricter Copyright ISP Liability Rules

By  Pamela Samuelson Article, Spring 2021
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Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics: A Critical Reassessment

By  Jorge L. Contreras Article, Fall 2020
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From Automation to Autonomy: Legal and Ethical Responsibility Gaps in Artificial Intelligence Innovation

By  David Nersessian & Ruben Mancha Article, Fall 2020
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Recent Notes

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy: Let the Science Decide

By  Sabrina K. Glavota Note, Spring 2021
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The Contribution of EU Law to the Regulation of Online Speech

By  Luc von Danwitz Note, Fall 2020
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Blog Posts

What President Biden’s EO on Section 230 signals on policy reform

On May 14, President Biden issued an executive order (EO 14029) on Section 230, the once obscure provision of the Communications Decency Act that is now at the heart of political fights over regulating speech on online platforms, and more broadly, the power of big technology companies.   If you missed the roll-out of EO 14029, you can certainly be forgiven. There was no public signing ceremony, no accompanying presidential remarks — not even a press briefing. With a yawn inducing title — “Executive Order on the Revocation of Certain Presidential Actions and Amendments” — it almost seems that the order was supposed to fly under the radar. EO 14029 was not even the biggest executive order on technology policy signed that week: just two days prior, the President rolled out a much-anticipated “Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.”   So, what does the order do? As a policy matter, the most straightforward answer is: not a whole lot. It simply revokes a slew of Trump-era orders, including EO 13925 or “Preventing Online Censorship,” which was probably of minimal legal effect anyway. In another sense, however, President Biden’s action moves Section 230 policy debate away from the executive branch, signaling that the responsibility for reform lies squarely with Congress.   To fully appreciate the implications of President Biden’s action, it’s useful to take a few steps back.   What is Section 230, anyway?   Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, codified at 47 U.S.C §230, was passed in 1996 in order to protect innovation on the internet, then a fledgling industry. The gist of the statute is... read more

Make Way for Robocalls: Understanding the Implications of Facebook v. Duguid

  In 1991, Congress took action against the onslaught of undesired robocalls faced by households and individuals. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) established a variety of safeguards aimed at reducing the amount of uninvited calls consumers receive. One of the most important provisions of the TCPA prohibits the use of “any automatic telephone dialing system” (autodialer) to place unsolicited calls. The statute defines an autodialer as “equipment which has the capacity– (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.” Precisely what falls within the scope of an autodialer has already been subject to much debate. In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission, the agency with authority to administer the TCPA, determined that the use of an autodialer encompassed sending text messages. Much more recently in 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the FCC’s interpretation of “capacity” which included potential functionalities or future possibilities, as opposed to merely present capacity, as impermissibly broad. The Facebook v. Duguid Decision On April 1, 2021, the Supreme Court issued a decision that renders another important interpretive judgment as to what falls under the scope of an autodialer. The recent case, Facebook v. Duguid, determined whether automated text messages sent by Facebook violate the TCPA. The Ninth Circuit had held that the autodialer prohibition applies to notification systems like Facebook’s that automatically dial stored numbers. Upon Facebook’s appeal, however, the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. The Supreme Court’s ruling hinged on the statute’s specification that an autodialer must use a “random or sequential number generator.”... read more

Privacy Concerns for Digital COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Implications for Incorporation of Artificial Intelligence

Contact tracing has been a key measure in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many countries, including the United States, have used contact tracing to track and control the spread of the disease. The measure has been touted as a success in the states and countries that managed to implement a well-functioning system with adequate preparation, testing and tracking, welfare support, and effective leadership. However not all contact tracing efforts were successful. The United Kingdom’s contact tracing efforts have been noted to be a failure,  with the country’s government scientific advisory group reporting that the program had a “marginal impact on transmission.” The United States has similarly experienced failures in several states. Some of the reasons that programs fail include lack of local support, sheer number of cases, and delays in testing and identification. Even strong advocates for robust contact tracing programs have conceded that “it is impossible to do meaningful or substantial contact tracing with huge numbers of cases.” Shortage in personnel performing contact tracing also likely contributes to the difficulty. One key tool that could have mitigated some of the problems with contact tracing is the use of digital contact tracing. In fact, several countries, notably South Korea and Singapore, have successfully implemented digital contact tracing programs. Apple and Google partnered to create a COVID-19 contact tracing technology which utilizes Bluetooth technology. Claims have been made that implementing AI mechanisms in such technology would further increase the effectiveness of Bluetooth contact tracing by boosting the ability of the phones to detect nearby phones, which remains shaky with just the use of Bluetooth technology. Pairing Bluetooth... read more

Intellectual Property Law in the Era of COVID-19

Basic research conducted by scientists at federally funded academic laboratories has been essential to the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, and the federal government has poured billions of dollars into vaccine companies since the pandemic began to accelerate the delivery of their products. However, coronavirus vaccines are likely to be worth billions to the drug industry, and even though vaccine supplies are steadily improving, groups like Doctors Without Borders are urging governments to seize the patents on any coronavirus therapies from taxpayer-funded research to prevent price gouging. Patentholders object to government intervention because their implementation would set a dangerous precedent and interfere with people’s incentives to invest in research and development for future treatments and vaccines. However, given the state of the current public health crisis, the U.S. may opt to take such drastic measures to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is widely accessible, and their legal implications should be studied carefully. March-In Rights Under the Bayh-Dole Act If key patents for an approved vaccine are publicly funded, the federal government may be able to exercise its march-in rights under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. The Moderna vaccine, for example, emerged directly out of a partnership between Moderna and a federally funded academic laboratory. March-in rights were included to prevent big businesses from licensing federally funded technologies from universities, only to shelve the technologies and not commercialize them. In specific circumstances, the U.S. government has the right to “march-in” and either grant licenses or require the patent holder/licensee to grant licenses to third parties if several conditions are satisfied. If the U.S. government decides to exercise its march-in rights, the... read more

Arthrex, PTAB, and the Unitary Executive

Patent law is often thought of as a statutory area of law, governed primarily by Title 35 of the U.S. Code and the long history of judicial opinions interpreting it. But with the passage of the AIA came the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the rapid expansion of the role of the USPTO in not only granting patents, but in adjudicating disputes over them. Suddenly, administrative law was a fundamental piece of the puzzle of patent litigation. And while the PTAB has faced challenges to its validity and authority since, the Supreme Court seems to have ruled that, for now, it’s here to stay. This doesn’t mean that PTAB’s path forward is free of any administrative hurdles, however. As is evident in United States v. Arthrex, Inc. (which heard oral arguments at the Supreme Court this March), the new frontier of administrative patent trials comes with the typical issues of constitutionality other administrative courts have encountered. In Arthrex, the familiar issue of the principal/inferior status of administrative officers is center-stage, with Smith & Nephew and the United States arguing for Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) as inferior officers (and thus preserving the current system where APJs are appointed solely by the Secretary of Commerce) while Arthrex touts them as principal officers (whose appointments require the advice and consent of the Senate). The ultimate decision of the Supreme Court likely won’t cause a major shift in what technologies are granted patents, or even in the administrative process around patent disputes. After all, even if the Court determines the APJs to be unconstitutionally appointed, the system can stay so long... read more

Will NFTs Solve Existing Legal Problems or Will They Create New Ones?

The recently released Netflix documentary Made You Look, highlights one of the biggest fraud scandals in the high-end art world. The Knoedler Gallery in New York City was found to have sold over 80 million dollars’ worth of forged artwork over a roughly 10-year period. This spectacle underscored the issue of provenance in the high-end art world. Provenance is paperwork or documentation that verifies the authenticity of the artwork. Unfortunately, it is common for expensive artwork to lack provenance. The documentation might not have ever been created because the artist was obscure at the time the work was created, or it might have simply gone missing as a result of time or theft. American case law is littered with disputes arising from art purchasers being defrauded and purchasing fake works, as well as disputes over ownership of artwork that was stolen at some point. As society and art moves toward an increasingly digital world, a potential solution to this issue can be found in non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Recently, NFTs have begun to make headlines as the technology rises in popularity, not only in the art market, but also in other areas such as sports trading cards. This recent rise in popularity has seen NFTs sell at exorbitant prices. The latest examples include, the artist Beeple selling his digital artwork at Christie’s for over $69 million dollars and the New York Times selling a digital column for over $700 thousand dollars. NFTs function in a similar manner to cryptocurrency tokens in that they are built on a blockchain, the most popular one being Ethereum. Unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, the... read more

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