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    12.23.14 Brooklyn Law School Takes BLIP Around the World
    Blip Clinic

    The pioneering Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP), which represents Internet, new media, communications and other tech entrepreneurs and innovators on both business and policy advocacy, is involved in a growing number of initiatives in the U.S. and abroad to advance this complex and rapidly changing field.

    “So many ventures today were never anticipated by the analog laws of the prior century,” said Professor Jonathan Askin, founder and director of BLIP, one of the transactional clinics affiliated with the Law School’s Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE). “The lawyer must not only morph the venture to satisfy the law, but must also morph the law to satisfy the needs of the new ventures and figure out ways to advance the venture even with a minefield of archaic law.”

    On the international front, through a 500,000 euro grant from the European Commission, BLS is partnering with a consortium of four core law schools and a growing number of active European law school satellite partners to build iLINC, a network of BLIP-like clinics and tech law programs working with the burgeoning startup and entrepreneur communities throughout Europe.

    BLIP serves as the model, the advisor, and the U.S. “landing strip” for the European law schools and the startups with which they work. The core European partners are Queen Mary University of London Centre for Commercial Law Studies where Askin is a Visiting Professor to anchor the project; the KU Leuven Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT in Belgium; the University of Hamburg Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research in Germany; and the University of Amsterdam, Institute for Information Law, in the Netherlands.

    BLIP students are collaborating with several of the European law school partners on both transactional and policy work. In particular, BLIP works with Internet-oriented clients whose ventures and ambitions extend beyond national boundaries and are, as a result, beset with multi-jurisdictional legal regimes and policies. For example, BLIP works with the program at the University of Amsterdam and with a joint client, 3DHubs, to establish a global code of conduct for good actors in the emerging 3D printing community. Calling itself the “Airbnb of 3D printing” the Amsterdam-based 3DHubs recently moved its headquarters to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be part of the borough’s burgeoning hi-tech scene.

    Meanwhile, BLIP is collaborating with several European law schools to explore global policy and legal issues surrounding privacy, the sharing economy, social entrepreneurship, copyright, and other cutting-edge legal issues that have been disrupted by the digital technology and the emerging global economy. BLIP is also providing traditional, transactional legal support for the European clients in need of American counsel.

    Closer to home, BLIP is working with faculty and students within the legal sciences group at the renowned MIT Media Lab. Askin has been teaching at both institutions, and he often connects the two groups via remote hookups to build a dynamic relationship that immerses BLS students in the world of the MIT technologist.

    “My goal is to imbue in the next generation of lawyers some of the ‘why not’ spirit of the entrepreneur, the startup, and the hacker,” Askin said. “Lawyers are traditionally trained to be the ‘yeah but’ people at the table filled with ‘why not’ entrepreneurs. As a result, lawyers too often become obstacles to entrepreneurial success.”

    BLS now has a partner in MIT with the technical expertise necessary to run effective “legal hackathons,” a concept pioneered by Askin in 2012.To date, BLIP and MIT have run several joint hackathons. For lawyers, the “hacker way” means abandoning the fax machines and risk-averse naysaying and mastering new online tools, as well as familiarizing themselves with the policy issues hackers have raised, said Askin. He argued that by understanding emerging technology that allows for increased collaboration and taking a cue from entrepreneurs' go-for-it mentality, lawyers can avoid becoming “wallflowers” who are “sidelined” in the information revolution brought about by the Web.

    “When I look around at my peers, I see 40-year-old lawyers who are still communicating via snail mail and fax machines and telephones and appearing in physical space for negotiations,” Askin said. “That slows the legal process and makes us less relevant and makes society doubt our ability to play a quick, effective role in resolving issues.”

    BLIP is collaborating with MIT on several other tech policy projects designed to use technology and innovative tools to improve the law and legal process and to use the law to improve the experience and viability of new ventures.

    Among the projects are: a platform to combat “Revenge Porn” through a site that harnesses the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to create a user-friendly, streamlined process to remove offensive photos and videos without running afoul of the First Amendment; a mobile app to help felons return to society and abide by their parole obligations, while preserving their privacy and autonomy; a nationwide – and soon to be global – effort to turn “law into code,” with the goal to make laws more open, annotatable, and process-able, so that citizens have a better handle on the state of law within and across jurisdictions.

    In addition, BLIP has collaborated with a cross-disciplinary group at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and with MIT on several projects. Using Google Hangout, the three schools shared ideas for ways lawyers and technologists can work together to use law and technology to improve civic processes, such as developing more user-friendly, streamlined permitting processes and exploring efforts to open the law to more citizens to allow the written laws to be more annotatable and mutable like other bits of data.

    Recent BLIP student projects include:

    • Developing a light regulatory approach to “sharing economy” services, to allow for innovation and competition, while still ensuring the broad public good.
    • Opening PACER so that citizens are better informed about judicial process.
    • Developing a global code of conduct for the 3D printing community.
    • Developing a set of best practices and principles for social entrepreneurs.

    For Askin, “the goal is to morph and evolve the law on one hand to better serve technologists, enterprises and society, but also harness technology so that lawyers can better service their clients.”

    Learn more about BLIP. Watch here.