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Hacking the Law

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the there's-an-arduino-for-that dept.

News 115

New submitter sethopia writes "Brooklyn Law School's Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP) hosted its first 'Legal Hackathon.' Instead of hacking computer code, attendees — mostly lawyers, law students, coders, and entrepreneurs — used the hacking ethos to devise technologically sophisticated solutions to legal problems. These included attempts to crowdsource mayoral candidacies in New York City and hacking model privacy policies for ISPs."

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115 comments

SVN for law (5, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792513)

Want to hack law ? Then start by by putting the entire code of law in an SVN-like system. Including proposed laws. With traceability of authors, who voted for them, etc... And an associated wiki for comments. And a complete list of cases that used them. This would be invaluable.

Re:SVN for law (5, Funny)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792533)

Can't wait to use 'svn blame'...

Re:SVN for law (2)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792567)

Or for the confusion around branches of government.

Re:SVN for law (5, Interesting)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792551)

Somalia does this, except they use git.

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794165)

Well, any government has to last a nuclear attack..Oh, right.
A test harness of what-if cases with community input would be nice as well.

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794851)

Can you point to more information about this?

Re:SVN for law (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797155)

Woosh... (sp?)

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795143)

I thought they used the "pieces of eight" law system? Argghhh...

Re:SVN for law (5, Insightful)

WrecklessSandwich (1000139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792587)

Want to hack law ? Then start by by putting the entire code of law in an SVN-like system. Including proposed laws. With traceability of authors, who voted for them, etc... And an associated wiki for comments. And a complete list of cases that used them. This would be invaluable.

If we're going that route, the author/voting records should link to a database of campaign contributions as well.

Re:SVN for law (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793739)

... and yet no one will care. OH dont get me wrong. Some will. But the vast majority punch their straight ticket D or R and are *very* happy with that choice. Their team 'won'/'lost'.

They will even go as far as to take on whatever attributes their 'team' has to defend it. Even though if you sit them down and talk about it they really want the other 'team'. A perfect example of this effect is when Howard Stern went to Harlem and asked people what they thought about Obama and used John McCain's talking points. It is not about issues. It is about charm and who can get the most votes and 'my team won!!!'.

Also we have 'hackers' of law. We call them lawyers they are 'doctors' of it.

Version control can be manipulated (and lawyers are good at that). You designate a point man to commit everything. That way you can hide what you do anyway. You make all of your changes then commit... Think of a bad development shop with the worst practices where everyone is out to do the best for their agenda. That is what you have in most state legislatures and on the federal level.

The whole version control is predicated that these guys 'will follow the rules'. Let me make this clear, they make the rules and are above them (most of the time, and at least feel they are). Its not 'right' but that does not change the fact of what is going on.

This post
http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2808955&cid=39792575
and this one sum up what I am saying
http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2808955&cid=39792671

Re:SVN for law (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796745)

a lot of media coverage focuses on analyzing who's winning/losing rather than discussing issues. That's probably why.

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795197)

Committers should have to attribute their copypasta commits to the 3rd parties they got it from.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797125)

Very cool, we could easily analyze the future and determine the corporate controls of the past, if we could build a database like this. I bet a researcher could gather funding for work like this, as long as they are motivated.

Re:SVN for law (1)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792595)

Use git for an Anarcho-Capitalist society!

Re:SVN for law (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793465)

Come see the vi olence inherent in the admin!

Re:SVN for law (5, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792621)

Rather than a version control system, I think it would be more useful to put the law into a requirements management system (after all, what is the law but a set of requirements?) That *might* help lawmakers to see if they are complete (cover what is intended to be covered), consistent and measurable. I don't know of any open source requirements management tools though -- at least, not ones that are still maintained. Perhaps requirements management goes against the hacker ethos (which would reduce the open source effort put into such things, although it wouldn't eliminate it completely of course). If requirements management is against the hacker ethos then I suspect that attempts to hack the law won't work very well.

Re:SVN for law (5, Insightful)

arglebargle_xiv (2212710) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793103)

Rather than a version control system, I think it would be more useful to put the law into a requirements management system (after all, what is the law but a set of requirements?) That *might* help lawmakers to see if they are complete (cover what is intended to be covered), consistent and measurable.

If you try and push this, you'll run into serious real-world acceptance problems. In some cases the law is deliberately obtuse, obscure, open to misinterpretation, and so on. It's this way by design, because two various groups couldn't agree on any wording, or they were under pressure to create a law that violates the laws of physics but managed to word it in such a way that it may not, or it's meant to be interpreted in a way that's more or less the opposite of what it says, or a thousand other reasons. The law is not a Turing machine, and never will be. The last thing most politicians or lawyers would want is a comprehensive overview system of the kind that's being proposed in the above posts.

Re:SVN for law (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793163)

No. It's that way because whenever a busybody wants to stick their nose into other people's lives, they WANT it to be ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. They want as much "leeway" as they can possibly get when they attempt to arbitrarily dictate the course and content of your life. Good laws are clear, concise, and have a single narrow objective.

Re:SVN for law (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793377)

They want as much "leeway" as they can possibly get when they attempt to arbitrarily dictate the course and content of your life.

That's so when it's the other guy's turn to be in power they can all scream "ur doin it rong!" when they do exactly what you were doing, only to them.

Re:SVN for law (3, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793615)

Exact. In short, many laws are broken by design.

Re:SVN for law (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794635)

In short, many laws are broken by design.

Name one. Highlight the specific language that is broken and explain why it is broken. We all purport to be rational people on /., right? Let's see the data instead of accepting statements like this as self-evident.

Re:SVN for law (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795647)

Ohhhh... I now have a religious "shadow"?

Sorry dude. The laws of my country that I could use as example would not make sense to you, much less written in English rather than Portuguese (I'm terrible to write in English and the Google translation sucks to anything more complex). But would be enough to you stop a little to think and analyze the laws of your country, you inevitably would find many examples by yourself.

Are you serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795771)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_AC.jpg

The 15th line.

I am not allowed to hunt bears since I could not afford the license, and I really need a set of bear arms on the wall to complete my new "frontier" deco family room.

   

Re:SVN for law (2)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799315)

1st 2nd 4th 5th 9th and 10th Amendments. The proof they are broken being the number of Supreme Court cases raised where arguments are about the meaning of them. Well, except the 9th and 10th. Those are simply ignored.

Re:SVN for law (2)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797549)

Exact. In short, many laws are broken by design.

The proper response to this is not to accept the situation as inevitable. The proper response is to try to fix them.

Re:SVN for law (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793993)

If you try and push this, you'll run into serious real-world acceptance problems

Only because it's a good idea.

The last thing most politicians or lawyers would want is a comprehensive overview system of the kind that's being proposed in the above posts.

I don't care what lawyers and politicians want. What do the people want? I expect they want a legal system that's consistent and verifiable without spending your lifes savings on an attorney.

Re:SVN for law (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795717)

"I don't care what lawyers and politicians want. What do the people want? I expect they want a legal system that's consistent and verifiable without spending your lifes savings on an attorney."

Me too. But remember that are lawyers and politicians who make the laws, and their idea is to make you have to spend your savings in lawyers.

Re:SVN for law (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796195)

Which is why the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Re:SVN for law (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793245)

Rather than a version control system, I think it would be more useful to put the law into a requirements management system (after all, what is the law but a set of requirements?)

That would require the people proposing the laws to admit that the sole purpose is a sincerely dislike of a group of people and the desire to disenfranchise them, which bluntly stated would result in outrage. The pill is far easier to swallow when it's coated in legalese sugar. Dura lex, sed lex.

Re:SVN for law (4, Interesting)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792783)

In most countries without common law (I can speak first-hand about Italy and Germany), the laws are an unholy mess, impossible to read, search, and interpret; in most cases you have no hope other than asking a consult to a lawyer.
You want the same people that spent at least 5 years studying this crap and make their living out of it to work actively to simplify it. It is a great idea, but I do not have any hope of seeing this applied.
Shirky's law applies here as well: "institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution".

Re:SVN for law (5, Insightful)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792933)

But individual lawyers and legal secretaries could make this database their full-time job, in which case it wouldn't be a conflict for them any more. There is already an industry publishing books that list references from the law to cases where it was applied. This would be a natural extension, wouldn't it?

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793225)

Guess what? Most program sources are an unholy mess, in most cases you have no hope other than asking to consult a programmer.

Re:SVN for law (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793399)

"Shirky's law applies here as well: "institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution".

I'm pretty sure that is Bill Gates' law, actually.

Re:SVN for law (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795763)

Just to grammar whore it up - apostrophe "s" is still used in this case as it is singular, despite his name ending in an "S."

Re:SVN for law (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797185)

seemed like a normal possessive apostrophe to me.

"s's" is a mess

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794853)

In most countries without common law (I can speak first-hand about Italy and Germany), the laws are an unholy mess, impossible to read, search, and interpret; in most cases you have no hope other than asking a consult to a lawyer.

You want the same people that spent at least 5 years studying this crap and make their living out of it to work actively to simplify it. It is a great idea, but I do not have any hope of seeing this applied.

Shirky's law applies here as well: "institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution".

I think you mean problems. Example lobbyists : Just try to get paid if there is no problem and everyone is in it for Good Government.

Re:SVN for law (1)

LostOne (51301) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794855)

It's not clear that common law makes the situation any better. It may seem to do so when the relevant legal history is short but when you have many centuries of precedents, laws, and other confusion, it hardly makes things simpler.

Re:SVN for law (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799343)

Common law is worse. You have a simple law, and thousands of court cases modifying that law, with no means to reference the modifying court cases in the law itself, so it's impossible to "know" the law.

Re:SVN for law (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792929)

just acquiring a complete listing which could be called "the code of law", translating all laws ever written into a single static document with all modifications made in-place, all "removed by another law" sections having been actually removed, completely ignoring all history and just trying to get a single snapshot of the current state of how things are presently codified, would be more than a lifetime's worth of work.

Start a kickstarter project for it and go wild.

Re:SVN for law (2)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793661)

Doesn't Lexis-Nexis do this? And most state's "legis" websites?

Re:SVN for law (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793101)

Collaborative systems only work when everyone is trying to collaborate, but law is mostly about benefiting yourself and screwing others. Open source software can have different build options and forks for those who strongly disagree with the mainline version, the law cannot (unless you are religious which seems to allow certain opt-outs).

Re:SVN for law (3, Interesting)

ffflala (793437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794047)

Want to hack law ? Then start by by putting the entire code of law in an SVN-like system. Including proposed laws. With traceability of authors, who voted for them, etc... And an associated wiki for comments. And a complete list of cases that used them. This would be invaluable.

Law seems to be the social equivalent of TFA: most people will base their entire opinions on the summary, and never bother to actually read the thing itself.

The functional equivalent of an SVN-system already exists and has for decades. What you're describing are very basic components of what is called "legislative history." Bill authors, vote counts, comments made both on the floor of the legislature and in committee: these things (and more) can all be found in the Congressional Record for federal material, and every state legislature has a similar record. Lists of cases that refer to particular laws have been around for well over a century; the various publication types are called annotations, citators, and legal encyclopedias.

The real problem is that very few people will bother to read what is actually out there. Ask yourself: when was the last time you commented on proposed legislation without actually bothering to read it? When was the last time you commented on a court decision without bothering to read the decision? These things are already available, for free, in most cases online and without any ads.

Re:SVN for law (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794343)

When some of that proposed legislation can be a thousand pages or more? Small-print A4 pages, too. Well, small-print Letter for American laws, I imagine.

Re:SVN for law (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797207)

and legalese is painful to read compared to even regular documents of similar length.

Re:SVN for law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39798773)

It's only fair, we have a number of verified cases where a legislator has admitted to not reading an entire bill before voting for it.

Perhaps it's time to admit that ignorance of the law isn't just an excuse, it's inevitable.

Re:SVN for law (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794261)

We should be clear about the problem. All this information actually is publicly available: the US Code is versioned by codification year (a new version is codified every six years with interim supplements), and you can find out who voted for or introduced what (including amendments) in the Congressional record. The Code of Federal regulations and the Federal Register serve an analogous function for agency regulations.

So the problem is not the availability of the information. It is all publicly available from multiple government sources on the internet such as the Library of Congress or GPOAccess.gov. The problem is one of formatting and presentation. This is a problem we can solve ourselves. Who's in?

Re:SVN for law (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39798337)

We should be clear about the problem. All this information actually is publicly available

This much is true.

We should be clear about the problem. All this information actually is publicly available: the US Code is versioned by codification year (a new version is codified every six years with interim supplements), and you can find out who voted for or introduced what (including amendments) in the Congressional record. The Code of Federal regulations and the Federal Register serve an analogous function for agency regulations.

So the problem is not the availability of the information. It is all publicly available from multiple government sources on the internet

Except when it isn't. With respect to federal statutes, for instance, the US Code, as you note, is widely available, but it is not the complete body of US statute law. It is the output of the subset of the statute law that happens to be phrased as insertions, updates, moves, and deletions to the US Code.

The actual thing you are looking for is the Statutes at Large [archives.gov] , which "is not available in electronic format" but only "from the Superintendent of Documents, or at any Federal Depository Library."

Re:SVN for law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794339)

Uh, that's called Westlaw

Re:SVN for law (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795829)

Want to hack law ? Then start by by putting the entire code of law in an SVN-like system. Including proposed laws. With traceability of authors, who voted for them, etc... And an associated wiki for comments. And a complete list of cases that used them. This would be invaluable.
 

You probably need to start first with 100% codification of statute law, which no jurisdiction in the US that I am aware of has (certainly, the federal government does not), and establishing a fundamental (e.g., Constitutional) requirement that all future proposals for legal change include complete codification of all operational provisions.

Otherwise, uncodified law becomes a convenient route for evading the whole structure you set up.

make the legal codes - codeable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39798179)

Almost right.

Any law enacted should be "psuedo-coded" with consistent logic loops and non-conflicting subroutines. If you can't diagram the logic, you shouldn't force people to try and follow it.

Re:SVN for law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39798615)

There would be a lot of firsts there. Currently there is no existing 'book' that contains the test of all of the laws as amended, much less as understood by the courts or perverted by the DOJ and FBI.

Good (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792549)

Because the question is not if legal problems will be hacked, but when, it is better to just get it over with. This way, with the results out in the open, the law can be improved.

And hopefully, this also gives lawmakers a chance to form their own opinions rather than being fed opinions from big business lobbyists... although I am not too optimistic about that.

do it in python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792561)

Convert the code of law to python, then send as inputs the case, get as outputs a sentence.

Re:do it in python (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793297)

Here's the important part:

if plaintiff.amount_paid() > accused.amount_paid():
  winner = plaintiff;
else:
  winner = accused

Re:do it in python (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794361)

Heresy! No, the logic is right, but semicolons in Python?!

Re:do it in python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39799873)

Fail. The opponent of a plaintiff is a respondent.

interestingly lawyers do this anyway (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792575)

computer programmers try to play by the rules: they read the manual and then try to follow what they've learned. Lawyers, meanwhile, are hacking the laws by default. They're always trying to get around following the manual.

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793063)

... and the major problem is that the law seem to have been written by the same developers that wrote mush of Adobe's Flash code. It needs a major refactoring to get rid of the holes. (Sorry to pick on Adobe, but I have an RSS feed just for warnings for exploits in their software).

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794353)

I bet if I had an RSS feed for vulnerabilities on a technology, that tech would be my pet peeve in short order too!

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794781)

I bet if I had an RSS feed for vulnerabilities on a technology, that tech would be my pet peeve in short order too!

Do you have a breeder's license for peeves?

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793129)

Legal arguments, and the law is all about interpretation, nothing is fixed and everything is always open to re-interpretation at a later date

This is like having code that changes what it does depending on what certain people think it should do currently ....this is not hackable ..

Or conversely it is what lawyers get paid the big bucks to do all day every day ...

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (2, Interesting)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793667)

No, it's almost exactly like following code. Lots of logic and ANDs and ORs, MAY or SHALL, etc. The law is only confusing to people who don't know logic.

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795291)

it's nice if you think a lawyer spends their mental energy figuring out what the end result of all those ANDs, ORs, MAYs and SHALLs is: usually, they know very well what that means and spend most of their energy trying to get a judge to see it differently! (or countering the side that's doing that).

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (3, Insightful)

speedplane (552872) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797251)

The terms "and," "or," "may," and "shall" are relatively straightforward and do not receive much attention from lawyers. Terms like "reasonable," "harm," "intentional," and "negligent" tend to suck up much more of their time.

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39800123)

Tommy rot. Judges and juries have opinions; compilers do not.

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793743)

Lawyers have to play by the rules. That is why they have rules.

They also try to bend the rules, hack the rules, and find exploits. Lawyers are law nerds, and they hack the law. They also compile manuals that are undecipherable to non-law nerds but make perfect sense to themselves. They write them for themselves, and then they do not understand when others say the whole thing is confusing.

Sounds oddly familiar.... The only difference between law nerds and computer nerds is that law nerds dress nicer. That and their tv shows are more popular, but that is mostly because of the sex.

Re:interestingly lawyers do this anyway (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794407)

What a load of BS. Most computer programmers most certainly don't try to play by the rules nor do they ever RTFM (hell, the term exists for a reason). They hack something up, change it randomly until it compiles and ship it.

Old invention (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792605)

Contributions to laws is called legislation, which is part of democracy that was invented about 2500 years ago.

Re:Old invention (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792771)

Yeah, the problem is not so much lack of hacking, but lack of proper code review.

Apologies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792651)

Unrelated, but this topic gave me flashbacks of Beavis and Butthead's favourite anthem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L397TWLwrUU

I still can't decide if it's the best or worst video of all time.

Just read proposed legislation (5, Informative)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792671)

I've read legislation and proposed changes or even proposed that the legislation be dropped altogether. I mainly got interested in the first round of cybercrime laws that proposed making me a criminal for using netcat nessus and the like.

I set up simple word processing macros that addresses a well written and respectful letter to a list of target politicians (usually all of them). Most of the time I've received some sort of response. It makes it easier for the politician too because they can go straight to the parts of the legislation that are bothersome and move those amendments. If many politicians move the amendments they look insightful to the media, co-operative to their party and hard working to their supporters. Your correspondence, on paper, may make them consider things they hadn't. Also forget email - the retention rate is to low and not portable enough for them to talk to a colleague.

There are many politicians that don't read the legislation at all and just vote on it because they have been sold an opinion or they have to tow the party line. This is why many of the non-partisan issues never get solved and no party want to give the other party the credit for solving a structural issue. So it remains an issue, if enough people write then they can say "Well I tried to do something".

If more people do this it would really make a difference to the quality of the laws we get. I hope it catches on.

Re:Just read proposed legislation (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793121)

There are many politicians that don't read the legislation at all and just vote on it because they have been sold an opinion or they have to tow the party line.

Sounds a lot like the Slashdot moderation system.

Re:Just read proposed legislation (1)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796655)

Wow, thanks for the thoughtful and constructive post that is a refreshing change from the kneejerk cynicism/fatalism that is the usual Slashdot groupthink.

I once was on a plane and sat next to a state legislator. I brought up the concept of gerrymandering electoral districts, and argued that it's unfair to moderate voters and creates a less responsive, more divisive political culture. I think he honestly hadn't thought much about these issues before and I hopefully influenced his opinion a bit. Also it's not hopeless—quite a few states have moved to a fairer process recently.

But anyway, if I can be the typical Slashdot cynic for a moment, how do we know that the politicians actually pay attention to these letters or conversations? Do you have any specific stories or evidence which let you to believe you made a difference?

Re:Just read proposed legislation (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799939)

Do you have any specific stories or evidence which let you to believe you made a difference?

Absolutely, and not just one, but enough time for one.

My first effort was at a state level. The proposed legislation would impose a censorship regime on all web sites for businesses in our state, a cool $25,000 per business that wanted a web site and the associated departmental time and paperwork to process it before you could publish - lest be liable for severe penalties.

I know they didn't read email so that is where I had the idea of using word processing macros to generate letters. I decided then that if I was going to use macros then I may as well write to every member on the floor, both sides of the house.

I cost me about 2-3 evenings of work and about $20 in stamps which I later found that the post office would frank them for me if I had a lot of letter (which I did) - which would have saved me an evening. I pointed out in the letters that the bill, if passed, would cause enormous economic damage to the state and drive a prosperous industry out of the state to avoid the rule.

The bill was unanimously defeated.

I received letters from both sides of the house thanking me for my insight, in all about 17 letters from the politicians with all sorts of different comments. I was invited by the house to be an advisor to the house on technological issues with relationship to law.

Redundant? (4, Insightful)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792755)

Isn't hacking the law what lawyers do all the time? They study the law, find holes in it and exploit them.

Re:Redundant? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792893)

Indeed. IAAL, and one of the big reasons I was first attracted to practicing law was the many similarities between legal thinking and computer programming.

Re:Redundant? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793069)

LIARS Both ya.
You translate language that for some fuck ass reason isn't in plain english
Your a PAID TRANSLATOR.

And when the SHTF finally, you are going to find yourself worthless.
Common law and fucking Common Sense is going to nullify your dependency

If you really want to do something good, arrest the fucking oath breakers.

Re:Redundant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793081)

Hacking is about making things behave in ways they were not designed to. Holes in laws are most often there by design.

Re:Redundant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793119)

What the lawyers do is in most cases cracking: They abuse the holes in the law.

Re:Redundant? (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793679)

I thought this was going to be an ALEC piece.

di3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792809)

out of 3usiness rooting corpse

Polishing a turd (1, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792897)

The only way to make the legal system logical would be to throw it out and build another system from scratch.

Re:Polishing a turd (4, Insightful)

ibwolf (126465) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792983)

The only way to make the legal system logical would be to throw it out and build another system from scratch.

Yes, because - as every software developer know firsthand - when you throw out an old crufty system and develop a brand, sparkling, new one in its place it is always a smooth process that provides tremendous benefits

</sarcasm>

Re:Polishing a turd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793033)

This isn't software development.

Re:Polishing a turd (3, Insightful)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794721)

Actually it is. It just runs on a biological multi-core system.

Re:Polishing a turd (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797131)

It does have its share of issues and cruft, though. I can't for the life of me figure out how to close the "ooh_titties.exe" process.

Re:Polishing a turd (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793049)

And may I propose that in the new system, the *intent* of the rules should be documented alongside the rules, to prevent the system from being abused.

Example - instead of stating "Bicycles should be equipped with lights" a rule could state "Bicyclists are hard to see in the dark. To prevent bicyclists from getting hurt or killed due to being poorly visible, bicycles should be equipped with lights ".

Let's say someone is dressed up in bright, glow-in-the-dark clothing but is riding a bike without light. Or on a perfectly lit, quiet road, at 3am. By the intent of the rule, there's no issue; there is no risk of him getting killed due to being "poorly visible". But leave out the intent, and you go down the slippery slope of permitting corrupt cops to stop, fine, and detain a person - and if he resists arrest, tase him into oblivion and possibly kill him, ironically as a result of a rule that was created to PROTECT said person in the first place. The law should have enough power, but not too much.

Likewise, adding the intent of rules in the law would also prevent the rules from being abused by mega-corporations. No more "hidden agenda" saying one thing but doing another.

Re:Polishing a turd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793117)

This seems similar to the problem with the constitution.

In some cases, we interpret the constitution by what it literally says (not taking its "spirit" into account). In other cases, like how libel and slander aren't considered protected speech even though the 1st amendment mentions nothing about that, I can only assume we're not interpreting it literally.

This creates a mess where judges interpret the constitution however the fuck they want when it's convenient for them to do so.

Re:Polishing a turd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794515)

The first amendment explicitly excepts cases where your speech causes harm to others. The listed example is "shouting fire in a crowded theater". Libel and Slander are based on interpreting "damage" to include impugning someone's reputation. Which is arguably consistent with the language of the law.

The real problem with laws these days is feature creep. A single bill can propose: requiring banks to submit to a third party audit, and making winking at children a "sex crime". If one house passes that bill the other has to vote on it as is (If they make changes it goes back to the first house).

Political realities mean than any law everyone wants will come with some crap that the guy with the swing vote wants to ram down everyone else's throat, and laws that the politicians want but the people don't will get attached to "must pass" bills like the "let's continue to pay the salaries of our soldiers, rather than piss off thousands of people with access guns and tanks" bill.

conference committee (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797449)

actually, the House and Senate can pass different versions of a bill, but then it goes to a conference committee. something could go wrong at this step as well.

abuse of riders/amendments is a problem, but what's the legalese for "one thing at a time"? That's another problem.

Re:Polishing a turd (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799125)

The first amendment explicitly excepts cases where your speech causes harm to others.

No it doesn't. Here is what it says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Anything else is just a matter of interpretation or skirting around due process. A literalist would not see any limits as to what speech is protected.

Also your fire in a theater example is no longer good law. You'll want to read Brandenberg instead.

aspects of the Constitution (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797407)

Yes, the Constitution is often very clear. The literal wording doesn't make reasonable exceptions like that; if it did, the document wouldn't be so clear anymore.
Yeah, taking it too literally and making up exceptions both seem like bad ideas

Sometimes it isn't clear enough, especially when dealing with situations or technology the Founders hadn't envisioned.

Amendments to add or remove a reasonable exception wouldn't fly because of the group negatively affected.

Re:Polishing a turd (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793877)

Actually, judges do take into account the intent of laws as well as the letter of the law. For instance, if there's a controversy about what a particular word or phrase means in a law, they look up what legislators or the executive said about it when they passed it.

For instance, with your bicycle law, the law might have been not "bicycles must have lights" but "bicyclists must make reasonable efforts to remain visible to other traffic." And then the question is what "reasonable efforts" constitutes, and why the legislators decided not to specify that bicycles have lights but might have been ok with reflectors or reflective clothing. So they look at the debate in the state legislature, discover that somebody was killed because they were hard to see while riding a bike but according to the letter of previous traffic law the driver was still at fault and a big controversy erupted over the ensuing vehicular homicide case, but the legislators didn't want to mandate particular ways of being visible. The judge then tells the police to stop going after people wearing reflective clothing but not having lights.

That's why law gets complicated, by the way - while in software the weird cases may comprise 5% of the problem, in law they comprise most of the problem, because the reason a case comes before a court is because something unusual happened.

huh huh, huhuhuhuh... (5, Funny)

Datoyminaytah (550912) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792989)

Feels as though nobody cares if my case is won So I might as well begin to find a loophole on my own Hacking the law, Hacking the law...

My reps are oath breakers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793021)

I won't ever write them again.

laws were made to be hacked not broken (2)

eruci (1546315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793125)

One day i can finally say "I fought the law, and the law lost"

rms was the first to use this concept. (1)

anwyn (266338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795705)

It is built in to the theory behind the GPL.

Attorneys thought he was absolutely crazy. And some still do.

But it worked.

Which is why some masters of thought control are trying to undermine it.

California Gun Laws have been hacked (2)

birukun (145245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795865)

Check out www.calguns.net for a description of a gun law hack in California.

Want to own an AR-15 series rifle in California? You can, thanks to the work of some online collaboration and combination of laws.

In a nutshell, the definition of 'detachable magazine' combined with the poorly written assault weapons law, some case law and testimony from the California Dept of Justice Firearms folks resulted in a movement for building AR series rifles legally in California with all the goodies like pistol grips, etc.

Same principles applied for importation of handguns not on the 'safe' list - import it as a single shot weapon, then repair it so it is back to a semi-auto configuration.

Re:California Gun Laws have been hacked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797737)

Unfortunate you have to go to great lengths to do this. Because gun control advocates know they can't explicitly deny 2nd amendment rights, they can at least blackhole or null route them to being ineffective. For example, there's nothing against the law of taxing ammunition one million precent. At least that I know of. You still have your 2nd amendment right even if you can't afford it.

hacking model privacy policies for ISPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795881)

This shouldn't have such a priority if they'd hack together a new Copyright Law first. For those handful of cases that remain, requiring a court-issued document signed by a judge should be all that's left.

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