Thursday, May 29, 2014

Unforgettable Rights

In Google Inc. v. Mario Costeja González, the European Court of Justice ("ECJ") ruled, on May 13, 2014, that, under certain circumstances, European Union ("EU") citizens possess a right not to have embarrassing information about them linked to by search engines.  Here is how the ECJ described the basic facts of the case:
On 5 March 2010, Mr Costeja González, a Spanish national resident in Spain, lodged with the AEPD a complaint against La Vanguardia Ediciones SL, which publishes a daily newspaper with a large circulation, in particular in Catalonia (Spain) (‘La Vanguardia’), and against Google Spain and Google Inc. The complaint was based on the fact that, when an internet user entered Mr Costeja González’s name in the search engine of the Google group (‘Google Search’), he would obtain links to two pages of La Vanguardia’s newspaper, of 19 January and 9 March 1998 respectively, on which an announcement mentioning Mr Costeja González’s name appeared for a real-estate auction connected with attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts. 
By that complaint, Mr Costeja González requested, first, that La Vanguardia be required either to remove or alter those pages so that the personal data relating to him no longer appeared or to use certain tools made available by search engines in order to protect the data. Second, he requested that Google Spain or Google Inc. be required to remove or conceal the personal data relating to him so that they ceased to be included in the search results and no longer appeared in the links to La Vanguardia. Mr Costeja González stated in this context that the attachment proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years and that reference to them was now entirely irrelevant.
The ECJ decided that EU citizens, such as Mario Costeja González, have a limited right to be forgotten on the internet.

However, this case has now been appealed to a much higher court:  Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.  Here is Justice Oliver's verdict on the right to be forgotten:
Despite a brave attempt by the ECJ to erase internet memory, it is likely that John Oliver will have the last laugh.

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Uncommonly Good Knowledge Commons

The Medical User Innovation and Medical Knowledge Commons Workshop is taking place from May 15-17, 2014, at the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at the New York University School of Law.  The research projects presented at the workshop have been uniformly fascinating, ranging from innovation in therapies for rare diseases to a brain science information commons to correlates of success in medical device entrepreneurship.  The project I presented is entitled "A Highly Uncommon Commons:  The Evolution of Synthetic Biology Institutions and Democratized Innovation in Medicine."  If the research presented at this workshop results in an edited volume, that book will be a signal contribution to our understanding of innovation.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Synthetic Biology Governance

Bryn Nelson has published an excellent article in the leading science journal, Nature, on some of the legal, ethical, economic, and democratic issues raised by patent and open source models of innovation in synthetic biology.  Entitled Synthetic Biology:  Cultural Divide, the article provides a vivid snapshot of the current state of synthetic biology, a field that is at once exploding in influence and bedeviled with uncertainty about how its DNA building blocks will, and should, be governed.  I was honored that Nelson included me among the synthetic biology scholars he interviewed for his article.  I have previously published several articles on synthetic biology, including Synthesizing Law for Synthetic Biology (2010), DNA Copyright (2011) and Planted Obsolescence: Synagriculture and the Law (2012).  In addition, I was commissioned by the National Academies (with coauthor Dr. Linda Kahl) to write a report, entitled Synthetic Biology Standards and Intellectual Property, that I presented at the National Academies in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2013.  An article based on this report was recently published as Bringing Standards to Life: Synthetic Biology Standards and Intellectual Property (2014).  The evolution of synthetic biology continues to be fascinating.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hot Science And Heated Policy

One of the most interesting classes I ever took was offered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government and trained students to apply insights from science to the making of sound public policy.  My two professors for the class were William C. Clark and John P. Holdren.  Together they were dynamite.

Holdren has been the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy for President Barack Obama since 2009.  One of the projects he has overseen is the third National Climate Assessment (NAC), which was published on May 6, 2014.  Here is an overview of the third NAC by Holdren.

The third NAC is a treasure trove of information about how climate change may affect the United States, in general, and each region of the country, in particular.  One conclusion of this assessment is quite simple:  it's neither the heat nor the humidity, but both simultaneously.