The Kids Online Safety Act: A Censorship Bill or a Champion of Children’s Online Safety?

(Source)   Overview of KOSA Just before the August recess this year,  , the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) passed unanimously out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Originally introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in February 2022 and reintroduced in May 2023, KOSA is the latest in Congress’s bipartisan push to pass comprehensive data privacy laws. The recently amended bill claims to provide children and parents with the tools to protect “minors,” defined as people under 17 years old, from harmful online content.Such content includes materials promoting self-harm, eating disorders, online addiction, bullying, and other “destructive behaviors” on social media. as social media promoting self-harm, eating disorders, online addiction, bullying, and other “destructive behaviors.” The bill has also been supported by  , signaling public support for the bill. In short, KOSA aims to protect children’s online experiences in : by providing children and parents with the tools to safeguard their online experience, holding online platforms accountable for their harm to children, and demystifying black box algorithms. First,   to protect their information, disable addictive features, and opt out of personalized algorithm recommendations. The law will also provide parents with new controls [read more]

Should Medical Treatments be Patented?

(Source)   Over the decades, hospital visits and medications have become more and more expensive for the average American. This problem has become such a dilemma for the United States that people often cannot pay for their life-saving medication and affordable healthcare is a hot-button issue for presidential administrations. While insurance companies, lack of regulation over medication prices, etc., all contribute to this issue, there is another problem: the existence of medical patents that contribute to a rise in medication costs. Beyond money, patents have raised several other issues within the medical community. What is a patent? Patents are a form of intellectual property rights, which are often treated similarly to other property rights. 35 USC Section 101, also known as the patent-eligibility doctrine, states that “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” may be eligible for a patent. Patents for one’s invention or discovery protect the idea; they grant the patent-holder exclusive rights over their invention. For example, suppose a doctor discovers a new combination of synthetic compounds and living organisms that creates a treatment for cancer; if they patent this new discovery, the doctor is able to [read more]

Heartbalm Torts: Solution or Impediment to Modern Reproductive Justice Issues

(Source)   Sex, relationships, and family are not only intimate concepts defined through personal experience; they are also public institutions shaped by a mosaic of laws and societal influences. In the past century, these institutions have undergone radical change as feminist, racial, and queer activism secured new protections from courts and legislatures. However, as these protections expanded, reactionary movements also pushed back to prevent the redefining of intimate relations, a circumstance once more exemplified in the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision rolling back judicial restrictions on anti-abortion laws. History offers critical lessons in understanding the present as well as in organizing for the future. As abortion bans – prior to Dobbs not seen in 50 years – spread across much of the country, it is especially important to examine previous perspectives on the institutions of intimate relations; through these perspectives we can better understand the shape of today’s institutions and what activism succeeded to define them. With this in mind, this article fleshes out the development of contemporary American intimacy institutions by exploring the fall of heartbalm torts – once-abundant civil claims to redress romantic wrongs – through Black feminist, queer, and abolitionist lenses.   Part One: The History of Heartbalm [read more]

In the Likeness of the Human Mind AI Liability and the Speculative Fiction of Dune

The author generated this image using Stable Diffusion, an AI art generator. At the time of writing this piece, this art cannot be copyrighted and is not owned by anyone.   A note on the use of the word Jihad: Frank Herbert’s Dune novels use the word Jihad to mean a holy war. This is an erroneous translation that diminishes the breadth of situations the word applies to.  For accuracy, this article also uses the word Jihad in the places where Herbert used the word, with the understanding that the word has been removed from its original religious meaning.   In Frank Herbert’s Dune, it is a vital fact that computers, as we understand them, do not exist. Instead, humans called Mentats are trained to do the work of calculators themselves. This distrust of machine intelligence stems from an event known as the Butlarian Jihad, an apparent revolt in the distant past in which machines were destroyed altogether. The distrust of artificial intelligence and the veneration of the human mind have become first principles in the far future setting of Dune. While the specifics of the Jihad are kept extremely vague in the six books Herbert wrote himself, a couple [read more]

Should Animal-Human Hybrids be Patentable?

(Source)   From the Greek Minotaur to Japanese mermaids, or Ningyo, people across the world have been fascinated with human-animal hybrids for centuries. In more recent years, scientists have tried to make hybrids, previously considered impossible, into a reality. These real, but controversial, hybrids are not yet like the ones in movies. Usually, the scientists’ objective is to introduce human cells into a non-human organism, ensure the cells’ survival, and foster their growth inside the host animal. With each year that passes, scientists get closer and closer to the possibility of a more “humanized” hybrid. While this is still some time away, scientists created a human-monkey chimera that was viable for 20 days in 2021. Even if we never reach humanized hybrids, many people in the science community would consider even the most simplistic human-animal hybrids to be at least a moral dilemma and at most a clear ethical violation. The legal community specifically has many unanswered questions concerning these hybrids. As with any other technological or scientific advancement, the creators have the possibility to patent their invention. The Patent-Eligibility Doctrine, 35 USC Section 101, states “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new [read more]

The Lemon Test: Its Inception, Application, and Death

(Source)   The First Amendment commands that congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Nevertheless, deciding what laws impermissibly establish religion is not an easy task.  Lemon v. Kurtzman, decided in 1971, was a defining moment in First Amendment jurisprudence and became a critical test of Establishment Clause violations for decades. However, the recent Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is being viewed as the official end of the Lemon Test with the Court holding that the test had been “long ago abandoned.” While prior cases implied the growing dislike of Lemon, Kennedy sparked a new debate on the Establishment clause and the Court’s approach in future cases. In Lemon v. Kurtzman, decided in 1971 and written by Chief Justice Burger, the Supreme Court held that Pennsylvania’s and Rhode Island’s laws allowing state funding of certain teachers’ salaries in church-related educational institutes violated the Establishment Clause. These state laws would grant state funding to supplement the salaries of teachers in religious schools who taught secular subjects due to concerns with rising salaries and school costs. The Court held that the laws were unconstitutional and created a three-part test to determine whether laws were permitted [read more]

ABA Resolution 100 and a Lawyer’s Duty to Investigate

(Source)   In what has been described as a breath-taking reform, the American Bar Association (ABA) amended their Model Rules in August of this year and imposed an unprecedented duty on lawyers to investigate their clients before and during representation. To fully understand this change, we will consider the former rules and pressure for reform, the ABA’s Formal Opinion in 2020, and their recent changes in ABA Resolution 100. The ABA produces the Model Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyer’s conduct. Although the rules themselves are not directly binding on lawyers, states use these model rules as a basis for their own mandatory ethic rules and will often rely on ABA material, like formal opinions, in interpreting their own laws. Currently, under Model Rule 1.2(d) a lawyer “shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.” As this rule only prohibits assistance when the lawyer knows that conduct is a crime or fraud, there has traditionally been no requirement to investigate into the clients’ affairs to assess their legality. Past corporate scandals have led to concerns over lawyers’ complicity in client crimes. However, recent concerns are more focused [read more]

High on Your Own Supply: The Sackler Family, the Opioid Epidemic, and Purdue Pharma’s Bankruptcy

(Source)        Recent Events from the Supreme Court Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice to the legality of Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement, blocking a $6 billion settlement that would have provided the company’s Sackler family with immunity from opioid-related civil claims. If the settlement is eventually approved, Purdue Pharma would no longer exist but the Sacklers, who used to own control the company, would be shielded from any future opioid-related civil liability without declaring bankruptcy in their individual capacities. Experts say that it is very rare for the Supreme Court to agree to hear a bankruptcy case, largely because bankruptcy cases rarely make it to the nation’s highest court, as parties are pressured to settle early on. In a statement, Purdue Pharma expressed its disappointment of the government’s challenge, saying that the Justice Department has been able to “single handedly delay billions of dollars in value that should be put to use for victim compensation…”. On the other hand, the government has described this immunity deal as “exceptional and unprecedented” and an “abuse of the bankruptcy system” in court papers, emphasizing that lower courts have been unclear on [read more]

Core Principles of Future U.S. Private Refugee Sponsorships? Naming and Additionality

(Source)        I.     Introduction The number of forcibly displaced persons is at a historic high. But receiving countries have failed to meet global resettlement needs, including the United States. By the end of fiscal year 2022, over 100,000 places remained unused of the 125,000 U.S. refugee resettlement target. Private refugee sponsorships could increase resettlement capacities, both globally and nationally. Internationally, countries have recognized that private refugee sponsorships can open additional resettlement resources. Over 180 states committed under the Global Compact on Refugees to establish community-based sponsorship programs in addition to regular resettlements. The immigration ministers of Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, Ireland, and New Zealand endorsed community-based sponsorships, and invited other countries to adopt similar programs in a joint statement. To that end, the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative showcases Canada’s long experience and supports countries to design new programs according to their unique needs. The number of countries with community-based sponsorship programs has grown, and the United States could learn from international experiences. Canadian experience demonstrates positive effects of private sponsorships for refugees and the receiving community. A 2020 study showed that privately sponsored refugees were more likely than government-assisted refugees to be working within the [read more]

Looks Like Lochner: will employers’ property interests consume their employees’ rights to physical and digital property access?

(Source) In Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid (2021), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act (“ALRA”) constituted a per se physical taking under the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause (applicable to states through the 14th Amendment). The ALRA gave union organizers a “right to take access” to an agricultural employer’s worksites to help employees exercise their union rights.  This “right to take access” violated the Takings Clause in its infringement on a property owner’s right to exclude persons from their property.  Furthermore, the ability of union organizers to access worksites inconveniently distant from public spaces has enabled isolated workers to learn about and exercise their workplace rights. Think of workers in a ski town or at one of Orlando, Florida’s many amusement parks. There is no public property where workers can easily meet near their workplace to organize—all the surrounding land is the employer’s private property. As a result, the NLRB has interpreted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) to permit permits non-employee union organizers to access an employer’s physical premises to organize workers. The Court in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid overturned a California law creating that right because it constituted a per se taking in [read more]
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