Tag Archives: Academia

Ubiquitous chipped

(Edit: updated with better formatting)

I’m just returning from a fascinating two-day conference on ‘designing smart cities’ at the University of Strathclyde, chaired by Prof. Lilian Edwards (who is responsible for the title of this post) and supported by CREATe, Horizon, and Glasgow City Council.

I particularly enjoyed this event.  I have an on-off academic interest in the interactions between law and the city (which brings in geography and architecture) (seen most obviously in my ‘virtual walls’ article), and further personal interests in transportation and in modernist architecture.  And, of course, in both domains, “technology”.  Glasgow has received Government funding after a competition: see Future City Glasgow, and so was an ideal location.

There are various plans for audio, articles and the like; these are just a few quick first impressions.  No offence to those omitted – my note taking varied across the two days, especially in and around my own contributions.  (I was there to speak on the sharing economy, which is work at an early stage, and leading me into interesting place – I had a lively lunchtime conversation about English vs London vs Scottish taxi and private hire licensing, on which I could bore for, well, Scotland/London/England…).

Richard Bellingham directs Strathclyde’s Institute for Future Cities, and is involved with the new MSc Global Sustainable Cities.  He was introducing the theme, highlighting that a majority of the world’s population will live in cities, which to be successful will need to be equitable, distinctive, and delightful.  There are drivers for change, which include resources, the ongoing recession, and changes in business processes.  He gave a range of examples of smart city projects, including analysis with multiple datasets.

Rob Kitchin (NUI Maynooth) gave a wide-ranging talk, including a peak into the Dublin Dashboard, but the highlight was addressing 7 critiques of smart cities. Ahistorical, aspatial, homogenizing; the politics of urban data; technocratic governance and solutionism; neoliberal political economy and corporatisation of governance; buggy, brittle, hackable – combining two open complex systems (cities, digital systems); profound social, political, ethical effects; reinforcing power geometries and inequalities. Need to think critically, but there is promise and smart cities are already coming into being.

My former Edinburgh colleague Judith Rauhofer reminded us that there’s always a good reason why the use of a new service makes sense, even when privacy lawyers potentially play the role of  party poopers – one can be tempted to jump into the smart city, or the Internet of things, out of convenience, lack of alternatives (e.g. if smart TVs become the norm and non-smart TVs fade from the market), economic interest, and the public interest (altruism?).  Yet, we see the continued gathering of information, including location (e.g.  eCall – for all new cars – sends out beacon to emergency services – sounds great but), behaviour, as technology becomes  ‘invisible’, and in particular physiological – e.g. FitBit dietary apps, even the smart vibrator.

David Murakami Wood, once of Newcastle but now at Queen’s University in Canada, gave a keynote address and also participated in a panel.  Unfortunately I missed the start of the keynote, but was able to catch much of it, including his distinction between three uses or approaches (rational spatial planning in the European style, technology as a driver in US approaches, and discourses of modernisation and nationalism e.g. India.  He wry noted how smart city debates have become a vehicle for another round of ideal cities, although this time the corporate involvement is particular significant.  Amusingly, the ISO is already on the case with an attempt to standardise what a smart city is, with 46 core and 56 supporting indicators.  (More on David’s contributions in the note below).

Other issues discussed included CCTV, the position of Singapore, transition towns, and a barnstorming and much-anticipated presentation on driverless cars by engineer Prof. John Miles.

We had a neat wrap-up session (with eloquent people, and me), and I made two general points as part of this final panel.

The first is how some of the debates and experiences from the early period of the commercial Internet (1995-2000) still have value.  The conference included critiques of terra nullis portrayals (Rob Kitchin, Ayona Datta), a thorough investigation of the role of intermediaries and brokers (Alison Powell), a call for open platforms and to be wary of company towns and a drive towards ambient government (David Murakami Wood), a need to interrogate algorithms and data (Rob Kitchin), and bubbling away, how to handle questions of privacy and consent (Judith Rauhofer and Derek MacAuley).  All of these things, to some extent, were up for debate as lawmakers ‘met’ the Internet, some for the first time.

The second was the degree to which questions of subsidiarity shone through, especially in the sessions on energy.  For instance, Francesco Sindico wondered what role cities should be playing in global debates (and negotiations) on climate change, characterised as they have been so far by traditional negotiations between sovereign states, while others on his panel considered questions ranging from the innovation within post-stock transfer social housing to Singapore’s international strategy to the regional impact and consequences of the feed-in tariff in England.

(Apologies again. I’ll update this post when the proper stuff comes out…)

SLS Media and Communications – 2015 Call For Papers

Paul Wragg has recently taken over as convenor of the Media & Communciations section of the Society of Legal Scholars, which is certainly good news after my three years of dictatorial misrule in the post.  I’m pleased to post this call for papers on his behalf, for this year’s annual conference (University of York, 1st-4th September 2015)  The deadline has been extended to 31st March 2015.

The Media and Communications section will meet in the second half of the conference on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th September. If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit an abstract by Tuesday 31st March.

All abstracts must be submitted through the EasyChair conference system. If you have not used this system before, you will need to create an account before making your submission.

I would welcome proposals for papers on any area of media and communications law, including (but not limited to): media regulation; defamation; privacy; breach of confidence; telecommunications law; media ownership and pluralism; the laws, practices and codes affecting journalism (e.g. contempt of court, subterfuge, court reporting, recognition/status of journalists); the control of marketing, advertising, and sponsorship contract and rights issues affecting the media and communications sectors (for example, television coverage of sporting events); image rights; universal design / access in relation to communications language and minority rights and the media whether they address this year’s conference theme (Law’s Subjects: Subject to Law) or not. Alternatively, if you would like to propose a topic of current interest for a panel or roundtable discussion, please do get in touch to see if this can be arranged.

As the SLS is keen to ensure that as many members with good quality papers as possible are able to present, we discourage speakers from presenting more than one paper at the conference. With this in mind, I would be grateful if you could let me know if you are also responding to calls for papers from other sections.

Please note that whilst you need only send a proposed title and abstract at this stage, speakers are encouraged to submit a full paper via EasyChair before the conference. The SLS offers a Best Paper Prize which can be awarded to academics at any stage of their career. The Prize carries a £250 monetary award and winning papers are published in Legal Studies. To be eligible:
• speakers must be fully paid-up members of the SLS;
• papers must not exceed 11,000 words including footnotes (as counted in Word);
• papers must be uploaded to EasyChair by Monday 24th August; and
• papers must not have been published previously or have been accepted or be under consideration for publication.

The Campbell Legacy: A Decade of ‘Misuse of Private Information’ (Newcastle, 17 April 2015)

I’m delighted to share news of an event I’m organising with a Newcastle colleague, Tom Bennett.  Here comes the formal stuff. Registration opens 2 March!

The 2004 decision of the House of Lords in Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers was a significant case regarding privacy, and for human rights law and tort law more generally. Its influence is clear in current debates on the future of the Human Rights Act (particularly as we approach the General Election), and the relationship between the press, the State and the public. The legal status of the cause of action for ‘misuse of private information’ recognised in the decision has provoked significant debate, in the courts and in universities. A decade on, it is appropriate to reflect on both the case and its influence, both in domestic law and across the common law world.

At this one-day conference at Newcastle Law School, Campbell’s legacy will be debated by a range of speakers. Keynote addresses will be given by Dr. Nicole Moreham (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) and Keith Schilling.

Nicole Moreham is a globally-recognised scholar of privacy law, and co-editor of and contributor to the second edition of key reference work The Law of Privacy and the Media. She has published numerous articles on the protection of privacy in England and Wales, New Zealand, and Europe. Her other research interests include the law of tort and media law.

Keith Schilling (who represented Ms. Campbell in the case) is the chair and founding partner of Schillings. A leading practitioner in the field, he has spent three decades specialising in the law relating to privacy and reputation, and continues to represent a number of high-profile and celebrity clients.

Other confirmed speakers include Gavin Phillipson (Durham), Paul Wragg (Leeds), Jacob Rowbottom (Oxford), Eric Descheemaeker (Edinburgh) and Patrick O’Callaghan (Cork).

Registration for the conference (online at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/nuls/; contact law.events@newcastle.ac.uk with any queries) opens on 2 March 2015 and closes on 10 April 2015. Registration is free for academics. A nominal fee of £25 is charged to practising barristers and solicitors, for whom evidence of attendance will be provided in recognition of participation in 5 hours of learning and development. All registered delegates will have the option to attend a conference dinner on Friday evening, at a cost of an additional £25.

We can accommodate a small number of additional papers within our schedule, on themes within the scope of the conference title. Proposals in the form of a title and abstract (approximately 250 words) should be submitted to law.events@newcastle.ac.uk by 9am on 27 February 2015. Papers may be considered for inclusion in a special section of a future issue of the Journal of Media Law.

This conference is organised by Tom Bennett and myself. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Newcastle University Conference Support Scheme, Schillings, and the Journal of Media Law (Hart Publishing).

Blame it all on my roots

This month has seen two very different stories about emergency legislation emerge on either side of the Irish Sea. Here follows the results of my ruminating on the stories (my word of the week after seeing a professorship in non-ruminant science advertised).

In the UK, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (“DRIP”) Bill is before the House of Commons today.  After a debate on timing, at lunchtime today, it was agreed that all ‘stages’ be taken today. (Normally, legislation gets a broad second stage debate, consideration over a longer period (line by line) in a committee, and a final Commons stage).  It’s due before the House of Lords tomorrow.  Given the strong support for the truncated timing given by MPs earlier today (only 50 or so voted against), it’s very likely that the Commons will say yes – what the Lords make of it is to be seen.

I signed a letter about this legislation, which has provoked some interesting coverage (e.g. here, here and here).  I think that the Government is making a mistake in how it’s handling this legislation. It’s well known that the Court of Justice of the European Union found the Data Retention Directive invalid as a matter of EU law in April.  As Judith Rauhofer and I pointed out in our editorial (see part 4), this raised significant questions for the future of national measures adopted on the basis of it, as well as similar replacement measures. The CJEU declared the Directive invalid immediately and also made important points about what safeguards were required as a matter of EU law, including human rights.

Now this could have been a good opportunity for sober consideration of how to draft a new scheme, compatible with EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights, and informed by the engaging public debate on surveillance, security and technology. But readopting the bulk of the EU measure (without necessarily restoring lawfulness), along with some separate ‘clarifications’ (which may have merit in themselves or at least be the basis for further debate), is not a way for Government to establish and defend the legitimacy of data retention and surveillance. It’s inadvisable that this be construed as an emergency.  It’s clearly a matter of national importance and I do see the significance of the arguments put forward on the need to have a well-regulated system of intelligence and investigation. And something did have to be done after the CJEU’s decision – doing nothing would be, in my view, still a mistake.

But after the last few years of Snowden, the NSA, Wikileaks, well-founded fears about technological development and all that, now is the time to build support and trust. (The sad thing is that for a lot of people who don’t follow Parliament closely, they are paying attention today and not really seeing democratic deliberation at its best).  Today hasn’t achieved the goal of establishing trust and legitimacy, and I’d encourage readers to contact members of Parliament (especially the House of Lords) asking for a proper, careful debate.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, emergency legislation was one of the many proposals put forward to deal with a licensing decision (under the Planning & Development Acts – see part XVI) by Dublin City Council. The decision was significant because it pertained to proposed concerts by Garth Brooks. Promoters had already sold tickets (“subject to licence”) for five concerts at Croke Park (the largest stadium in the city), but the local authority only granted a licence for three.  (The full reasoned decision is published here).

One point that seemed to annoy some people was the inability of elected representatives to override this decision. A fair point, if one disregards the sorry history of planning corruption in Ireland and the need to apply the law in a consistent and transparent fashion. So with that in mind, ’emergency legislation’ was proposed (one Bill was even drafted by an opposition member of the Dáil). Again, I’m not saying that the law is perfect – the controversy has highlighted some areas for procedural change in particular (I taught a course on entertainment law last year – and hereby offer my free services to any official body in Ireland that wants some suggestions).  Nor am I unsympathetic to the disappointed ticket-buyers (not least because, having been a teenager in 1990s Ireland, I truly understand that he has a serious fan base – in my day, local radio playlisters first and foremost). But for a licensing system to have credibility, responsible authorities have to be able to say no as well as yes; the sale of tickets for what is at the time an unlicensed event shouldn’t affect this. So while it can be tempting to call for a new law, that also deserves proper consideration – of models from other jurisdictions, for example.

Fortunately, despite a lot of posturing, the Irish parliament didn’t go down that route, and it looks like the concerts aren’t happening at all.  Here are some interesting things to read on the topic: Fergal Davis, Rebecca Moynihan & Jane Horgan-Jones, Gene Kerrigan.

Programme for Media & Communications Law at SLS 2014

This is my third and final year as convenor of the Media & Communications subject section of the Society of Legal Scholars.  Here’s the programme for the section’s stream at this year’s annual conference, being held in Nottingham in September.  Registration is now open (with early booking discount until the end of July).

1: Tuesday 9th September, 2-3.30pm (Defamation Reform)

1A The Defamation Act 2013: We Need to Talk about Corporate Reputation – Peter Coe (Buckinghamshire New)
1B Qualified Privilege in Defamation and the Evolution of the Doctrine of Reportage – Sarah Gale (City)
1C Five Years After Grant: The Scope of Canada’s Responsible Communication Defence – Hilary Young (New Brunswick)

2: Tuesday 9th September, 4-5.30pm (Rights and Theory)

2A Liberty and the Press – Paul Wragg (Leeds)
2B The Finnish model of media self-regulation and freedom of speech from the legal point of view – Päivi Korpisaari (Helsinki)
2C How to be Positive: Respecting and Protecting Free Speech – Andrew Kenyon (Melbourne)

3: Wednesday 10th September, 9.30-11am (Broadcasting and Competition)

3A Strasbourg’s U-turn on political advertising bans in the broadcast media: Animal Defenders International v United Kingdom – Tom Lewis (Nottingham Trent)
3B The EU and Public Service Broadcasting: From Foes to Friends? – Irini Katsirea (Middlesex)
3C ‘Deciding who Decides’: Is Ofcom best-placed to rule on UK media ownership? – David Reader (UEA)

4: Wednesday 10th September, 2-3.30pm (Internet)

4A The Get Guido clause? A comparative analysis of online news regulation in the UK and Australia – Denis Muller (Melbourne) and Judith Townend (City)
4B U and non-U tube: creativity, reputation and Internet take-down – Alan Durant (Middlesex)
4C U. S. Constitutional Protections Under the 1st Amendments, Differences Between States – Clifford Fisher and Saran Mishra (Purdue)