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Seattle University School of Law hosted the Social Justice Hackathon on November 6th and 7th with the goal of bringing together the legal and tech communities to create solutions to meet the legal needs of low income families. I was only able to attend Friday’s portion of the event, so this post will reflect my experiences from that day.

In my internship at Northwest Justice Project, I had performed some work for the Washington Indian Arts & Crafts Project. During a meeting with the board, the project discussed its need for a website in order to better support and reach out to the community. We arranged to meet at the Hackathon where I would assist in organizing a team with the goal of developing the Washington Indian Arts & Crafts Project website.

The Washington Indian Arts & Crafts Project promotes economic justice by protecting the authenticity of Native American arts and crafts in Washington through education, outreach, and active promotion of artists and the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The industry itself is huge, worth roughly one billion dollars annually. For many Native American artists, this is their sole way of making a living. When non-natives compete by selling look-alikes as “authentic,” it infringes on the livelihood of Native Americans nationwide.


Several states have similar organizations that enforce Arts & Crafts laws while using a form of trademark called a “collective mark” to authenticate goods. Artists register with the organization in order to use the mark. After the artist is verified as a tribe member, he or she displays the collective mark on his or her goods to indicate authenticity.

If you are interested in learning more about the Washington Indian Arts and Crafts Project (WAIACP), you can visit the new website that was created at the Hackathon by clicking here. They also have a Twitter and Facebook account.

I arrived Friday evening, checked in at a table on the bottom level, and obtained a red and white nametag with the title “Legal Hacker.” Several nametags were organized on the table of varying colors to identify which area of expertise you were. There was a very diverse crowd filled with members of the legal community, law school faculty, law students, tech persons, and more.

While I waited for WAIACP’s representative, a coordinator came over to greet me. Miguel Willis, a second-year law student at Seattle U who organized the event, came over and noted I wore a “Legal Hacker” nametag. He then asked if I was pitching that evening. I had never attended a Hackathon before the weekend, so I had not thought of anything to pitch and planned only to assist WAIACP organize a team, and then observe for the remainder of the event. Miguel checked in with me again later and encouraged me to pitch, which lead me to start piecing ideas together in my head – but I decided not to form a pitch. Perhaps next year.

After opening remarks by Hon. Donald J. Horowitz, pitches were given open-mic style. For a pitch, you or your organization would explain a problem and then propose a solution. Many of the pitches were oriented to more technical legal issues, such as an app for recording housing payments and documents that could be used as evidence in eviction proceedings, an overnight “ninja” record expunging service, and several others. Mariana from the WAIACP was a concerned that our pitch was not entirely a legal issue – however, I reassured her that protecting and enforcing authentic Native American art through the law was extremely relevant, and that a website was a sound solution. The internet is so commonplace these days that it is a reasonable solution to reach out to artists and consumers in order to promote the mission and afford the protection the organization offers.

After pitches, we were instructed to intermingle and form teams. This was most likely the hardest part of the evening. What we thought would be a simple task turned out to be a bit more difficult.

I had not familiarized myself with what each nametag color meant. Although I had dabbled in web design when I was younger, I was not sure what we needed for our team. Additionally, there seemed to be a plethora of software and mobile developers and a lack of website developers. After asking around, we received mixed answers. Some said the yellow nametags were our best bet, but not the purple ones. Others said that purple were our best bet, but not really the yellow ones. Some of the participants had the skills to develop our website, but ultimately turned us down because they did not believe our project would win, and they were in it to win it. Luckily, we found two amazing tech savvy intellectuals to join the team.

First was Kristina. After describing some of the features of the website, she stated she would be able to help but would not be able to construct the entirety of the website alone as website development was not her specialty. Even though we struggled to find additional team members, she patiently waited and stuck by our side.

Then, we met Chuck. After hearing our pitch, what the organization’s goals were, and what we needed, Chuck helped aim us in the right direction of whom we needed to find. Unfortunately, Chuck’s expertise was primarily backend development, and he said he might not be the best fit for the team. After thanking him for his time and saying goodbye, he came back just a few minutes later. Chuck said he liked our project so much that he wanted to help out, and although website development was not his specialty, our combined efforts could make it happen.

Chuck and Marina presenting

We were hoping to find a graphic designer as our final team member, but we were unable to find a free person. That did not stop us though. After we decided to begin with the team we had organized, Miguel, the event organizer, lead us to one of the classrooms to share space with another team where development would begin. Shortly after hashing out on the whiteboard website goals, I exchanged contact information with the team and bid them farewell.

I would love to have attended the entire weekend, but my Saturday was taken over by the MPRE and other obligations. Nevertheless, it was an exciting evening, and I am glad to see that everything worked out well for the WAIACP. The only thing I can say could use improvement would be how teams are formed. Time is of the essence in these projects, and it can be disheartening to a team to feel that they may not be given the opportunity to achieve or even attempt their solution. I look forward to attending next time!

If you would like to read the highlights about day two of the Hackathon (including a list of the projects presented), Ket Ng has made a blog post on day 2 available on his blog here.


Hey everyone!

This year, we’ve seen some interesting and exciting opinions come out involving authorship, moral rights, fair use, parody, and public domain. With the end of the year just around the corner, here’s a look at some of these issues from five contemporary copyright cases:


Naruto the Monkey’s Selfie (PETA, et al. v. Slater, et al.

This pending case originated when Wikipedia refused defendant Slater’s request to take down images of Naruto, a male Sulawesi crested macaque (left). 

PETA initiated a lawsuit on behalf of the crested macaque, which allegedly took a “selfie” using defendant’s camera. The photographs were widely distributed and monetizes. PETA is claiming rights should extend to Naruto. 

The case is still pending an outcome as of yet; however, last year, the US Copyright Office issued an updated compendium indicating that non-humans (i.e. animals, random or automatic machines) cannot have authorship status because authorship status requires creative input or intervention from a human. Although the US Copyright Office’s compendium is not binding, any cases seeking to extend copyright to non-humans will most likely not prevail.

The minimum human intervention required for authorship is not intensive. Essentially, if you direct or control in any way when, how, or what is created, you have authorship. For example, you establish authorship when you set up a security camera and it inadvertently streams your dog dancing while you’re at work, even if the camera was set to only stream when it detects motion. However, if you were to create a robot and for some reason completely on its own unrelated to its programming it managed to use a camera to take photographs of random things, those photographs would not be copyright eligible due to the lack of human authorship.

Works that contain no original authorship are ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain. Wikipedia is a good source to find images that are public domain. You can click on images in Wikipedia to get information about the copyright status of the image like Naruto’s selfie.

(Guardian News Article - "Peta sues to give copyright for 'monkey selfies' to macaque who snapped them" Sept. 22, 2015)


Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” (Fahmy v. Jay-z, et al.)

Fahmy, heir of the famous Baligh Hamdi, brought suit against Jay-Z for use of the Hamdi’s Khosara. Jay-Z rapped over Khosara in his song Big Pimpin’. Hamdi’s song was licensed through chain of title for use by Jay-Z and his label. The original agreement transferred rights of Khosara under Egyptian copyright law. In order to have standing to bring the suit, Fahmy had to show he still retained some rights.

In determining foreign law, courts may consider any relevant information including testimony and come to a ruling as a question of law. Egyptian copyright law grants inalienable moral rights to originators of copyrightable works; however, moral rights are not enforceable in U.S. courts. Fahmy also argued that Egyptian law required disclosure of every right disclosed and that rights could not just be stated as transferred in whole. The court rejected this argument on the basis that Egyptian copyright law does not include a comprehensive list of rights in copyright, and agreements listing every single right to be transferred in this situation would infer a narrow scope of rights being transferred.

Ultimately, it was held that because the U.S. courts do not recognize moral rights and that the plaintiff transferred all non-moral rights in Khosara, the plaintiff lacked standing to bring suit.

Copyright in the United States are economic rights; however, the United States does have limited moral rights that extend to authors for works of visual art consisting of the right to claim authorship, disclaim authorship, and protect visual artwork from unnatural or unnecessary mutilation.

There’s more to using a work than just copyright. If someone is morally opposed to how his or her work is being used, there are ethical reasons not to use it, especially for nonprofit organizations. If an author of a work finds use of the work offensive, the organization should consider finding an alternative as use of the work may negatively impact the organization’s reputation, especially nonprofit organizations, even if the use of the work is legal.

(Read the civil minutes from the court in Fahmy v. Jay-Z)


Let’s Go Crazy YouTube Dancing Baby (Lenz v. Universal Music)

Lenz uploaded a 29 second video on YouTube of her baby dancing to the song “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince playing in the background. Universal sent a cease-and-desist letter, and YouTube took the video down. Lenz responded to YouTube claiming fair use, which required Universal to respond within six weeks. After no response, YouTube reinstated the video. Lenz filed suit against Universal.

In the suit, the judge ruled that copyright owners must consider whether their content has been used within the parameters of fair use before issuing a takedown notice. Copyright owners face liability if they knowingly misrepresent good faith belief that content was not fair use in their takedown notification. Merely paying lip service to the consideration of good faith belief is insufficient. Algorithms used to identically match content for review is allowed, but any review of good faith use a computer cannot perform must be done by a person. Copyright owners must establish an actual good faith belief that something is not fair use before issuing a takedown notice.

For example, imagine you run a blog exposing bad lending practices by a bank. Part of your blog displays public forms used by the bank. If what you have used falls under fair use, the bank wouldn’t be allowed to send you a takedown notice claiming copyright merely as a censorship tactic. Because fair use must be considered, transformative or critical works may have a strong case against takedown notices, especially when a takedown notice is being used as a form of censorship. Don’t let copyright be censorship. Reach out to copyright counsel regarding leaving material up for fair use, as there may be options available to you to keep transformative or critical works up.

(Read the court's opinion in Lenz v. Universal)


Point Break Parody  (Keeling v. Hars)

Keeling created a parody of the 1991 film Point Break that lead to the question: can an unauthorized work that makes “fair use” of its source receive copyright protection?

Keeling’s play Point Break Live! added props, jokes, staging, and other aspects to transform the work into a parody. The suit arose when the production company that was performing the work began doing its own version of the play and stopped paying Keeling, claiming that she had no right to her script because it was based on the film. Copyright protection may extend to a work that exhibits sufficient minimal degree of originality in selecting, coordinating, and arranging otherwise un-protectable underlying elements. The Copyright Act grants independent copyright protection to derivative works separate from any preexisting copyright in the work used unlawfully. Nothing in the statute prohibits extension of copyright when the material is used lawfully, such as through fair use.

In determining fair use, a jury may consider any of the following: the purpose and character of the use (which is the heart of the inquiry for parodies), the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use on the potential market.

The jury’s finding of fair use was upheld, meaning Keeling could protect her original underlying contributions of arranging Point Blank in a way with new meaning as parody.

Fair use allows the unauthorized use of copyright protected works, and as long as the creator of an unauthorized derivative work stays within the bounds of fair use and adds sufficient originality, the creator may claim copyright protection and sue for infringement on the original contributions he or she added to the work.

(Read the court's opinion in Keeling v. Hars)


Happy Birthday Song (Rupa Marya, et al. v. Warner, et al.

For years, Warner has collected millions in licensing fees associated with the use of the Happy Birthday song. Warner was the alleged successor-in-interest to Summy Co., which allegedly held rights to the song after agreements were made with the original creators, the Hills sisters.

The court held that the copyright claim filed by Summy Co. in 1935 granted rights only in the melody, but not the song’s lyrics. The melody had already entered public domain in 1949. Ownership of the lyrics was not determined outside of the determination that Warner had no rights in the lyrics. Works that are in the public domain, like the Happy Birthday melody, can be used by anyone. Anything before 1923 is generally safe. A few resources that can be used to find works in the public domain are Totally Free ImagesPublic Domain PicturesCreative Commons and Appropedia’s Public Domain Search. Cornell also has a comprehensive Copyright Term and the Public Domain chart available.

(Read the court's opinion in Marya v. Warner)


Author’s Note

Additionally, it’s important to know who has ownership and how that ownership affects copyright protection when others are involved when creating any work.

Joint works are works prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole. The term of the copyright consists of the life of the last surviving author. Each joint author owns an undivided interest in the copyright for the work as a whole.

Employers – not employees – are considered the legal author if a work is “made for hire” and not independently contracted. The case CCNV v. Reid gave us something called “the Reid factors” for determining what qualifies as “work for hire.” The factors are weighed by factual significance, and not all factors are required in the determination. The factors are: (1) the skill required; (2) the source of the instrumentalities and tools; (3) the location of the work; (4) the duration of the relationship between parties; (5) whether the hiring party has the right to assign additional projects to the hired party; (6) the extent of the hired party’s discretion over when and how long to work; (7) the method of payment; (8) the hired party’s role in hiring and paying assistants; (9) whether the work is part of the regular business of the hiring party; (10) whether the hiring party is in business; (11) the provision of employee benefits; and (12) the tax treatment of the hired party.

Copyright protection for a “work for hire” (or "corporate works") that secure federal statutory protection for the first time after 1978 receive copyright protection until 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever comes first. This is how Mickey Mouse (Steamboat Willie) has most recently evaded entering Public Domain. The U.S. Copyright Office has a guide to the duration of corporate work protection.


Seattle Social Justice Hackathon - Day 2


If you missed it be sure to check out my report on day 1.


Day 2 started bright and early at 9:00 with a breakfast while working. For my team Conflicting Hacking we spent the morning getting the tech working together, there were a couple rounds of discovering we had been doing unnecessary work. The big thing is we had been setting up a server so we could install QnA Markup and use it to do our triage system, it turned out we could just embed the whole thing as html and save a ton of work.

At about noon everyone took a break for lunch and we listened to a talk by Milan Markovic talk about some of the myths of in social justice. After that we got back to work, I spent some time slapping up a temporary website to demonstrate how things would look and then got down to implementing everything my partners Jim levy and Tom Seymour had put together.


This is the point where we ran into some trouble, we had planned on having two 

different people creating working together to create the code, however we had a lot of issues with integrating them together. This culminated in having to amputate the final product to get something functional, a more in depth breakdown will be at the end of this article.


Time always seems to fly at this sort of event where you are trying to fit so much into such a short period. At 6 they had everyone submit their projects and make their way to dinner and presentations. After a few minutes of decompressing, socializing and eating we got on our way to presentations.


In no particular order here are the seven projects that presented and the three judges who presided.


Diana Singleton of the Access to Justice Institute

Brian Howe of Impact Hub Seattle

Aurora Martin of Columbia Legal Aid


Conflict Hacking (my group)

Conflict Hacking in a nutshell is triage for people that don’t know what sort of help they need. This is different from many of the other triage systems because it also covers some of the nonlegal solutions like conflict management and coaching.


         Court Whisperer

This is an app that helps people fill out court forms on their phone. This app simplifies the language and intelligently sequences the questions and propagates the data to all the appropriate sections. This then takes all that data and inserts it into the original document so there is no need for any change on the courts side.



EDForward is a program that will assemble high quality curriculum and provide it free to teachers and students. Currently the pilot program will be teaching children about how the justice system works and what their rights are.


         Legal GoGo

Legal GoGo is a crowdfunding platform that is designed to help people raise money to defend against criminal charges. In addition to raising money this site will also help connect attorneys to the people raising money.


         WAIAC Project

This is a program that is similar to others in North America that protects the authenticity on Native American Arts and Crafts in Washington. In addition to providing labeling to help distinguish authentic products it will provide services ranging from providing geolocational data of licensed vendors to helping enforce the 1935 Indian Arts and Crafts Act.


Social Justice League

They is a tool that makes it easy for share resources at Neighborhood Legal Clinics which might lack basic resources like printers or computers. Theirs is an application that allows the user to basically add documents to an online shopping cart and then either send them to the client or to an office to get them printed out and mailed.


Paid It!

Many people have been forced out of the banking system due to no being able to pay fees or meet minimum balances. Paid It aims to support these people by helping them document their transactions through taking photographs and emailing them as a form of receipt.


After each group had ten minutes of combined presenting and Q&A the judges retired to deliberate. One of the sponsors was Puget Sound Legal and they were kind enough to record the presentation, you can see them over on their blog.  During this time Marty Smith of MetaJure gave talk about the need for innovation in the legal sector. As he said everyone who had taken the effort to show up was obviously on board, but he did go into some finer points and used some of his experience as examples. Much of what he discussed can be found in detail in his article Lawyers and Innovation: Waiting for Einstein.


After this the judges came back and declare Paid It!, Social Justice League, and Court Whisperer to be the winners. The winning teams will be connected directly with sponsors and community partners to help them work on their projects, of particular note Impact Hub donated scholarships for access to their coworking space. In addition in January they will be invited to present at a demo day to the community what the have done.



Specifically concerning Conflict Hacking I think QnA Markup is a really cool tool but it needs a little more development to use it for what we were doing. In retrospect I wish I had used Twine, I haven’t personally used it but it does similar things but has a much larger user base and has more documentation and refinement.


Concerning the Hackathon things went very well overall, here is a short list of some of the highlights and learning experiences.


Highlights and Learning Experiences


Slack worked out pretty well for this event it was a handy way to disseminate information prior to the event. Once the event started we did use it, some updates came through it and we created our own chat room and used it to help coordinate things when we were off site. Onsite we were at arm’s length from each other and didn’t really use it. Afterwards it’s nice because there is still a little information coming out through it, and it makes it easy to get in contact with other people from the event.

Social Media

Everyone was on point here. Before, during, and after there was a constant good presence on social media, better than many of the large well-funded conferences I have been to.


The biggest nuisance was the lack of reliable wireless. In my team of three people two could not connect to the wireless, one eventually managed to get online with help from one of the organizers (thanks Dan!) and the other had to physically jack into the unsecured wired network. The moral here is to mitigate anything that will hamper people trying to work, some things like parking can be hard to fully deal with but you should try.



The speakers were great, I can only wish I got that level of presentation every event I attended. My only regret is I don’t think we have recordings of all of them. In particular Milan Markovic said a lot of things I’d like to go over again. The other things is I would make it clear that the talks during working time are optional and keep them short, it can be agonizing to have to leave off work for 20-30 minutes in the middle of the day.



My one other small complaint is that things were a bit chaotic Friday night when we were organizing teams. What happened was after each person had pitched their idea we were turned loose to mingle and find a team. The effect was it was hard to know what teams needed people and in some cases just where the team was located. An event I attended in the past was much more structured and it worked out a bit better. How that one worked is after all the ideas were pitched they took each idea and had an informal show of each person that thought they might work on that project. Since each person could vote as many times as they liked it gave a good view of what people actually wanted to do. With these numbers they determined a cutoff point and killed any projects that didn’t have enough interest. After this each project lead stood in a different physical area and then people were free to talk to them and eventually decide where they wanted to work. This has the benefit that it was easy to tell when one team is short people and another had too many. The SSJH used color coded name tags to help people it was an interesting idea that didn’t seem to make much of an impact. I’d be curious to see if a slightly different implementation of it could do more.



We had a constant stream of good food provided over the two days. For reference here was roughly what we ate:

Friday Dinner

Spinach Dip with and without crab

Spring Rolls with peanut sauce

Sliders with cheese and caramelized onions


Saturday Breakfast

Food from Costco

Coffee, assorted bagels and muffins, lots of different fruits.


Saturday Lunch


Veggie trays


Saturday Dinner

Chicken Dip

Caprese salad on little skewers

Fried eggrolls with mustard and plum sauce

Assorted meats on skewers

Pulled pork sliders


There were also some snacks available all day, mostly just some granola bars, chips, pretzels, and water.


This is clearly a meal plan that has had a little thought put into it. Here are a few things to note:

·         Hot meals in the evening are very nice but there is no real need to spend the money to get breakfast or lunch catered.

·         Pizza and veggie trays from lunch can be let out for extended periods and will keep everyone busy until dinner, alleviating the need for more snacks.

·         Costco is the most efficient way to do a good breakfast.

·         With good meal planning you do not need to invest a lot in snacks


A few things I think could be slightly tweaked to improve it.

·         A cooler full of drinks to have on hand, make it easy to get caffeine at any time.

·         For lunch include some of those Costco wraps or other options that aren’t as greasy as pizza.

·         Include a little more variety of options for breakfast, these isn’t much for people looking to go lighter on the carbs, consider some nontraditional items or even do the wraps for breakfast.

·         Try to keep the menus a little more cohesive. Rather than a collection of food aim to create a meal.


To summarize, this was a great event where lots of fun was had and good work done. A big thank you to Miguel, Daniel, and Diana for organizing this and for all of the sponsors for making this possible. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this weekend in the coming months.




There were two main problems we were having with QnA Markup. The first was the fact that tabs are used for organization. Over the course of development things were rearranged a bit and having to manually add and remove tabs was a huge pain.


The second problem is that the goto function did not dynamically change when things were moved around. That meant when to different parts were combined, or lines were added, most of the goto functions had to be completely redone.


In retrospect I should have investigated using Twine. Twine is a tool for creating nonlinear stories than published to html, in addition it is open-source, under active development, and widely used. It would have probably taken a little fiddling around with CSS to get it to look nice but it would have been over all worth it.




This weekend Seattle University School of Law is hosting the Seattle Social Justice Hackathon. This hackathon aims to bring together the tech and law communities together and build tools to help close the gap in access to justice in lower income families. More information can be found at

This post is a summary of Friday evening, there will be a follow up article coving Saturday.

The way this hackathon is set up on Friday everyone shows up, both community members and participants will pitch project ideas, and then people will join up with teams that interest them.  Once teams are set up the official business is done for the evening, people are free to work as much as they would like before going home.

Saturday is when the bulk of the work gets done, starting fairly early in the morning people show up and work. There are generally breaks for meals and guest speakers, but meals are often eaten while working and talks skipped in favor of getting more work done. At 6 in the evening  everyone is going to wrap up their projects and present them in front of their peers and a panel of judges. After everyone presents and some deliberation the judges will select winners to receive a prize. The exact deatails of the prize are up in the air but it will be resources to continue development of the project. Following that everyone either goes home to catch up on well deserved sleep or indulges in a liquid vice of choice.


On Friday evening we kicked off with some good food catered by Seattle University and an opening speech by Hon. Don Horowitz. Following that we had the idea pitch.

Some of the highlights included.

  • An app to help people outside the banking system make record of payments,  aimed at helping people who face eviction and don’t have good records.
  • A service like for expungements. Greatly reducing the time and cost of getting a record sealed,
  • A set of open source curriculum aimed at the K-12 that helps teach some of the basic concepts of the legal system people are likely to be exposed to.

I myself ended up working on what is basically a meta triage system that curates most of its content. We aim to take people from the point where they say “I have a conflict” or “I have a question” and get them pointed at some good resources.

We got the rough outline together pretty quickly, most of the evening was spent dealing with technical issues. We plan on using QnA markup and that means installing it on our own server.  After much hassle we solved the problem by throwing a small amount of money at it, and right about then it hit midnight and we decided to call it until the next morning.



Over in our LSTech mailing list there has been some good discussion about document assembly. Here are some resources that Claudia Johnson of LawHelp Interactive has been kind enough to assemble. Everything here has been developed with LSC TIG funding for the community. If you are currently working on a project or are planning on starting one soon get in touch. In addition to contacting us directly you can join our LSTech mailing list and tap the collective knowledge.


1. LHI Online Developer trainings—beginner series—you can watch the videos and read the notes for the 2014 lessons here:  (we are right now doing the 2015 Online training series and will release closer to December). These lessons include homework and was developed so that students can do one lesson per week, for total of 5 required and 2 options lessons in a more self paced manner). I will share with the list once the lessons for 2015 are posted.


2.LHI Resource page:   This is an active website that has a library of materials geared to share best practices on online forms projects from A to Z. It includes a planning folder, fundraising ideas and models, evaluation tools and reports, best practices, creating forms for gender neutrality, accessibility. It includes all the materials for the online forms monthly call where we share projects and models as well as technical trainings and presentations from other conferences and national forums.


3. This is helpful if you are planning to set up kiosks where users can create forms:


It is worth noting that all of these above resources require you to create an account that is human verified, so if you think you might be interested in accessing them at some point it’s worth registering now so you don’t have to wait.


4. Various articles written by Capstone Practice—  with special highlight for the Key to a Succesful Document Assembly Document

If you are going to the TIG Conference, or you are sending your staff to the TIG Conference, please note that we are planning on offering a Beginner's Track and a Beyond the Basics live training to learn how to create forms.  The training will take place on Monday 1/11 and Tuesday 1/12. For more information, please go to: