Reflections on a Legal HackathonOn Apr 19, 2012 Tags: copynight, hackathon, HackTheAct, Law Mob NYC, LegalHack
It finally happened. After months of preparation, BLIP held the first of many legal hackathons here at Brooklyn Law School. The day was filled with explorations into all aspects of what it means to collaboratively create solutions to nascent law and policy issues: panels, workshops, discussions, break-out sessions, and tons of questions. We got so much Twitter traffic during our panels, #LegalHack started trending across the USA (and the porn bots inevitably got wind of the publicity).
Fortunately, our little event was met with great reviews and awesome coverage.
Unfortunately, the first legal hackathon only scratched the surface.
Our morning keynotes set the stage for what we were trying to do over the course of the day. One of Tim Wu’s comments, in particular, rang true with many participants. When asked how law could keep pace with technology, Wu challenged the premise. Wu said (as reported by our friend Laure at CopyNight NYC), ”It’s not law’s job to keep pace with technology. Law should be slow, it should restrain power.” Andrew Rasiej expressed a complementary sentiment shortly before Wu spoke. Government 2.0 is not the solution to a broken system, said Rasiej; people are.
Our afternoon workshops took these philosophies to heart. Rather than discussing the problems of a gameable DMCA takedown regime, we put the issues to the people and attempted to seek out solutions that straddle the line between crafting law and hacking tech. Our porn troll workshop was especially productive: Amanda Levendowski from the WikiMedia Foundation led a dozen or so eager legal hackers in a breakout session on how to implement a crowdsourced, granularized legal space to distribute the burden of work otherwise impossible to tackle for a single EFF staffer. We look forward to learning more about that project, called Law Mob NYC.
The attendees at our hackathon were clearly passionate about the concept we were introducing. But we recognize that there may have been more “athon”ing than hacking; more lectures than workshops; and more ideation than construction. Alas, these are the risks of being in perpetual beta—we never know quite how our ideas play out in reality. To be sure, our legal hackathon wasn’t truly a hackathon. Rather, it was an introduction to an ethos, a method to improve existing legal regimes in innovative ways. As such, we’ve only begun our journey.
We look forward to the submissions we hope to receive in the next few days for our #HackTheAct competition. And we especially look forward to continuing to develop this concept. Thank you all who attended, and we will see you next year at a bigger and better NYC Legal Hackathon.
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