Join the Cyberspace Law Committee at the ABA 2004 Annual Meeting

Saturday, July 31, 2004

New Sci Fi Book Plays out Cyberspace Law Issues

The following is an excerpt from a recent book by Cory Doctorow. He's an up and coming (some would say "already here") science fiction author. Several of us in the Cyberspace Law Committee read his works. Besides being a great author, he also is notable for the fact that he publishes most of his work under the Creative Commons license. He also sells his books the more traditional way. Amazon currently has a great deal on the hardcopy version of his book (~$14 off).

The passage below is from Cory's latest book, Eastern Standard Tribe. It's a fun romp. In an early part of the book, the protagonist has a car accident, and he finds himself in need of a lawyer. So, where does he turn? The chat room for his Tribe. (You'll have to read the book to understand the Tribal references). The exchange below highlights many of the issues under discussin by the Cyberspace Law Committee, and that's why I'm including this passage here. As you'll see, he not only finds a lawyer, and forms an attorney client relationship, but he also gets certification of the lawyer's credentials, reviews his standard representation agreement in "smartcontract" form, and executes it. All without leaving the chat room.

For those of you not familiar with chat rooms, you may initially be confused by the syntax. It's probably easiest to treat this as if it were a script. Each line starts with the "handle" of the person who's talking in the Chat Room. "Trepan" is the client/protagonist. "Junta" is the lawyer. I've edited the passage somewhat to focus your attention on the cyberspace law issues.

You can read the full story in HTML here. To find out more about Cory Doctorow, and his book, Eastern Standard Tribe, visit his Website, Craphound. You can also download the book for free in many standard formats at this same Web site.


Trepan: Any UK solicitors on the channel?

[material deleted for Blog posting]

##Junta (private) (file transfer)

##Received credential from Junta. Verifying. Credential identified: "Solicitor, registered with the Law Society to practice in England and Wales, also registered in Australia."

Trepan: /private Junta I just hit a woman while driving the Kensington High Street. Her fault. She's hurt. Wants me to admit culpability in exchange for half the insurance. Advice?

##Junta (private): I beg your pardon?

Trepan: /private Junta She's crazy. She just got off the phone with some kinda lawyer in the States. Says she can get $5*10^5 at least, and will split with me if I don't dispute.

##Junta (private): [Silly] Americans. No offense. What kind of instrumentation recorded it?

Trepan: /private Junta My GPS. Maybe some secams. Eyewitnesses, maybe.

##Junta (private): And you'll say what, exactly? That you were distracted? Fiddling with something?

Trepan: /private Junta I guess.

##Junta (private): You're looking at three points off your licence. Statutory increase in premiums totalling EU 2*10^5 over five years. How's your record?

##Transferring credential "Driving record" to Junta. Receipt confirmed.

##Junta (private): Hmmm.

##Junta (private): Nothing outrageous. _Were_ you distracted?

Trepan: /private Junta I guess. Maybe.

##Junta (private): You guess. Well, who would know better than you, right? My fee's 10 percent. Stop guessing. You _were_ distracted. Overtired. It's late. Regrettable. Sincerely sorry. Have her solicitor contact me directly. I'll meet you here at 1000h GMT/0400h EDT and go over it with you, yes? Agreeable?

Trepan: /private Junta Agreed. Thanks.

##Junta (private) (file transfer)

##Received smartcontract from Junta. Verifying. Smartcontract "Representation agreement" verified.

Trepan: /join #autocounsel
counselbot: Welcome, Trepan! How can I help you?

##Transferring smartcontract "Representation agreement" to counselbot. Receipt confirmed.

Trepan: /private counselbot What is the legal standing of this contract?

##counselbot (private): Smartcontract "Representation agreement" is an ISO standard representation agreement between a client and a solicitor for purposes of litigation in the UK.

##autocounsel (private) (file transfer)

##Received "representation agreement faq uk 2.3.2 2JAN22" from autocounsel.

Trepan: /join #EST.chatter

Trepan: /private Junta It's a deal

##Transferring key-signed smartcontract "Representation agreement" to Junta. Receipt confirmed.

Trepan: /quit Gotta go, thanks!

##Trepan has left channel #EST.chatter "Gotta go, thanks!"