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Open Source

Attorney Jim Hazard is Working to Open-Source Law (Video) 58

Posted by timothy
from the laws-are-sort-of-a-kind-of-source-code dept.
Jim Hazard is a lawyer who leans geek; since he got his law degree in 1979, he's been the guy in the office who could make sense of things technical more often than others could, and dates his interest in regularizing complex legal documents (and making them a bit *less* complex) back to the era where Wang word processors were being replaced with personal computers. Most documents -- no matter how similar to each other, and how much work was spent in re-creating similar parts -- were "pickled" in proprietary formats that didn't lend themselves to labor-saving generalization and abstraction. That didn't sit well with Jim, and (in the spirit of Larry Lessig's declaration that "law is code," Hazard has been working for years to translate some of the best practices and tools of programmers (like code re-use, version control systems, and hierarchies of variables) to the field of law, in particular to contract formation. (Think about how many contracts you're party to; in modern life, there are probably quite a few.) He calls his endeavor Common Accord, and he'd like to see it bring the benefits of open source to both lawyers and their clients.



Transcript is 24 - 48 hours late

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Attorney Jim Hazard is Working to Open-Source Law (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 25, 2013 @04:13PM (#44385493)

    According to the Supreme Court of the United States, any law that is not understandable to the average 8th grader is "Unconstitutionally Vague."

    According to Common Law dating back to the Code of Hammurabi, any law that is not freely published for all people to read is null and void.

    As an anarchist, I love things just the way they are!

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @04:28PM (#44385651)
    I have been on slashdot regularly under one ID or another since day one. I even remember chips and dip. I have never been one to complain about the many things that people have complained about regarding slashdot over the years. I always thought it was campy... This is something else. First, what is up with the way this is rendering on the front page? I know I'm not the only one seeing it, per below posts. How can you screw that up? I mean really? Second, when I saw that there was a second ad before the interview, I was dismayed. When I saw the second ad had a runtime of 70 seconds, I said fuck it, stopped the video, and won't be playing it again. Multiple ads before a video, with one of them weighing in at 70 seconds? I know you have to make money, but not even CNN would try and pull that stunt (yet). Third, have you guys been screwing with the code in general lately? I've seen some rendering issues over the last few weeks that require a reload, and sometimes I click to read the comments for a story where I have not yet viewed the comments, only to find myself dumped off in the middle or even end as though it's trying to take me to where I left off on a page yet visited, but rarely at the top. What is going on? Are you about to lose funding and making desperate moves. Please explain yourself, slashdot.
  • by iggymanz (596061) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @04:38PM (#44385725)

    oh no, we're moving toward the rule of "police state and corporate fascist" law. Certain types of laws will be very strictly enforced, for the majority of people.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @05:14PM (#44386053) Journal

    You may be an 'anarchist'; but you apparently aren't an empiricist...

    Outside the adorably twee world of exposing the contradictions inherent in the system, man! the track record of people actually not being subjected to laws just because they are excessively complex, deeply confusing, unbelievably vague, or thousands of pages long and buried in a filing cabinet somewhere is deeply unimpressive. If you count various zillion-page contracts of adhesion with provisions for one party(and only ever one party) to change them unilateraly as 'law', since they do tend to be enforced on behalf of the people who write them, or the whole kangaroo-court 'binding arbitration' system, the numbers just get a whole lot worse.

    It's cute, sure, but unless you have exactly the resources that would make all but the most incomprehensible or classified laws open to you(eg. nigh unlimited legal resources), it's also irrelevant.

  • by CanadianMacFan (1900244) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @06:59PM (#44386973)

    When you go to sign a contract you are able to see the terms of the agreement (otherwise it wouldn't be binding). A closed source legal agreement example would be the statements you used to find on boxed software such as "By purchasing this software you agree to the license agreement contained within."

    Linux is open source but you don't expect everyone that runs it to be able to understand the code. That's not the point. Lawyers are like exactly like developers in that they are educated to understand the code of law. The rest of us are users and when we need advice we go to see a "developer".

    I do think it is important to make law understandable to a greater number of people but when you confuse the terminology used to describe your mission. It sounds more like he's trying to use software development methodologies to create legal contracts. I'd hate to be at the conference when the waterfall vs.Agile method debate breaks out between the lawyers.

Power corrupts. And atomic power corrupts atomically.

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