' Commentary | MTTLR

The Animal Food and Research Industry: Can Technology pave a path towards Animal Welfare?

Peter Singer in his famous book “The Animal liberation” in the 1970s, wrote that the ability to feel pain and happiness is the prerequisite for the consideration of rights and not the ability to reason. If the ability to reason was the main criteria, then children who have no linguistic skills or mentally incompetent person would have no rights as well as they cannot reason. Thus, to deny a non-human animal rights because it cannot reason would mean that children also cannot have any rights. Therefore, the pre-requisite to deciding whether one should have rights is their ability to feel, a phenomena science has credibly proved to be true for animals. However, despite this criteria, non-human animals have been tortured in laboratories and slaughtered for food, for purely humanistic reasons. In the 20th century, where there were technological alternatives, usage of animals for research and food purposes would have had made sense as there were no possible alternatives to the usage of animals. Some may say that research was essential for human survival. However this theory doesn’t hold any merit today because of technological alternatives available where plant based and veganism, technology capable of mimicking the human physiology is a reality. Sadly, as animals themselves cannot advocate for this change, economic advantage for a few is preventing this change to happen and that is a very problematic summation of humanity in the 21st century. For Animal welfare activists in the US, the Edward Taub case of 1981 rings stressful memories. Dr. Taub was working on a federal research program at the Institute for Behavioral Research (IBR) in Takoma Park,...

Defending Genomes

The Genome Defense by Jorge Contreras provides a road map for how to leverage creativity, ingenuity and hard work to advance civil rights. This nonfiction story covers the origins of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) unprecedented patent law case. Historically, patent attorneys and civil rights attorneys operated in non-intersecting legal fields, but when the human genome was mapped and individual genes were discovered, companies and universities began to patent specific sequences of human genes. However, patents only protect the owners of discoveries and inventions. No one can be issued a patent for something that occurs in nature. Genes themselves occur in nature: each of us has them in our bodies. And as the human genome was mapped, it was not just healthy genes that were mapped, but also variants that could indicate disease or potential disease. Among the most widely publicized were the BRCA genes, which could predict an increased likelihood of future ovarian and breast cancer. The BRCA genes, made famous by Angelina Jolie, were originally discovered by a collection of University researchers and scientists. However, patents for these genes were now owned by Myriad genetics. Myriad was not alone in owning patents on genes: this had become an accepted practice at the U.S. Patent Office. They used this patent to regulate the industry for BRCA testing, and to shut downother labs that used the gene sequence whether for research or to provide testing. If a woman wanted to know if she had a variation in her genes that could predispose her for breast or ovarian cancer, she would effectively need to get a test through Myriad....

Discrimination By Proxy: How Ai Uses Big Data To Discriminate

Countless State and Federal regulations and statutes—not to mention the U.S. Constitution—prohibit discrimination against protected groups. However, AI systems might slip discrimination past current laws through “proxy discrimination” without new regulatory and statutory approaches. Today’s AI systems and algorithms are capable of dredging oceans of big data to find statistical proxies for protected characteristics and create algorithms that disparately impact protected groups. AI systems with such capabilities already exist in the fields of health and automobile insurance, lending, and criminal justice, among others. In Proxy Discrimination in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, Anya E.R. Prince and Daniel Schwarcz address this particularly “pernicious” phenomenon of proxy discrimination. Current anti-discriminatory regimes which simply deny AI systems the ability to use the protected characteristics or the most inuitive proxies will fail in the face of increasingly sophisticated AI systems. They provide a coherent definition for proxy discrimination by AI: usage of a variable whose statistical significance for prediction “derives from its correlation with membership in a suspect class.” For instance, consider a hiring algorithm for a job where a person’s height is relevant to job performance, but where the algorithm does not have access to height data. In attempting to factor height, the algorithm might discover the correlation between height and sex, and correlations between sex and other data. This would be an example of proxy discrimination because the statistical significance of the other data derives from its correlation with sex, a protected class. Prince and Schwarcz first foray into the pre-AI system history of proxy discrimination, i.e. human actors intentionally using proxies to discriminate. This discussion is interesting...

Copyright Beyond Borders: Moral Rights & the Implications of Fahmy v. Jay-Z

Short of recognizing the validity of an “international copyright,” American intellectual property law generally purports to offer protections to foreign literary and artistic works under a number of international conventions to which the United States has been a signatory since the late 1880s. However, as emerging trends in the quickly globalizing music industry challenge the notion that “exclusive” tonal genres and scènes à faire can be fixed within geographic and cultural borders, courts are likely to face more complex questions about necessary international copyright protections for non-American artists when derivative works created in the U.S. appropriate elements of an underlying work beyond the scope of fair use or public domain. A 2019 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit highlights a particularly novel issue at the intersection of legal protection for foreign works and the departure of American copyright law from much of the rest of the world with respect to recognition of a “moral right” to musical and non-visual works. In Fahmy v. Jay-Z, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, nephew and heir to the famous Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy, appealed from a lower court’s dismissal of his lawsuit against Jay-Z, which alleged that the rapper’s 1999 single “Big Pimpin’” infringed the copyright in Hamdy’s arrangement for the popular 1957 film track “Khosara.” The five-minute record by Jay-Z and Timbaland sampled a significant and distinctive portion of the introductory flute melody from Hamdy’s composition, which continued on a loop in the background of Big Pimpin’ for the entirety of the song’s duration. The Ninth Circuit ultimately held that Fahmy failed to establish standing to bring the action...

Online Harassment and Doxing on Social Media

Online harassment has been around as long as the internet. However, in recent years, online harassment has been on the rise in part because of the popularity and access to social media websites. A particularly dangerous form of online harassment is doxing. Doxing is the malicious practice of revealing someone’s personal information without their consent. The phrase has its origins in hacker feuds in the early 1990s and is short for “dropping documents.” This is done to retaliate against or harass someone by outing them online – usually by exposing personal information such as home address, place of work, phone numbers, and other information that while available on the internet, one may not want exposed to the world.             The issue with doxing – like any form of harassment – is that it can range from trivial annoyance to a form of threatening that can affect someone’s emotional, economic, and even physical safety. While there are many state and federal laws that punish harassment and stalking, doxing may or may not fall within those current provisions. So, this begs the question, how should doxing be handled?             Some states have already enacted anti-doxing legislation. California Penal Code § 653.2 makes every person who intends to put another person in reasonable fear for their safety by means of an electronic communication device guilty of a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or by a fine of not more than $1,000. Under this statute, there is no requirement that “actual incitement or actual production of the enumerated unlawful effects” follow a doxing event, rather...

Privacy Risks with using XR in Education

Online learning has become widespread and normalized during the pandemic. In a survey conducted from September to October 2020 of about 3,500 full-time college students, 72% of students were concerned about remaining engagedwhile learning remotely. Extended Reality (XR) technologies, including Augmented Reality (AR) and VR (Virtual Reality), can improve student engagement and success in online education. Augmented Reality, as its name suggests, augments a user’s surroundings by placing digital elements in a live view, commonly through the user’s smartphone camera. On the other hand, Virtual Reality allows the user to replace the real world through wearing a headset and headphones to simulate an immersive experience. Though XR technologies have not been widely adopted in education yet, its use can benefit a variety of disciplinesranging from medicine to foreign languages. Among various legal uncertainties, universities that seek to provide XR in education should be aware of privacy risks associated with these technologies. Privacy Concerns with Computed Data XR technologies comprise displays and sensors that need to collect heavy data streams in order to provide the user with an immersive experience. Data can include a user’s location, biographic, biometric, and demographic information. More intrusive types of data collection include gaze-tracking, a feature likely to be essential to XR technologies’ ability to provide users deeply immersive experiences, such as rendering more sharply the virtual world elements where users are actively looking. The types of data that XR devices collect can be broadly categorized into four categories of data: observable, observed, computed, and associated. Observable data is information that third parties can observe and replicate, such as digital communications between users. In contrast,...