Companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber have created new markets and improved our lives by reducing search costs, but at the same time, these firms collect massive amounts of data from their users. Who owns this data, and what legal duties do these firms owe to their users or to the public? Should the collection of user data be regulated in some form? (If yes, then by whom? Who would do the regulating?) These are hard questions, and a good place to start is this excellent essay by Brishen Rogers, a law professor at Temple University, on “the social costs of Uber” and other ride-sharing services. (Props go to Oscar Ruiz for bringing Professor Rogers’s paper to our attention.) Here is an overview of the paper:
This essay … argues that Uber’s success stems not (just) from regulatory arbitrage or other malfeasance, but from having created a far more efficient market for car-hire services. It then argues that Uber’s rise is cause for both optimism and pessimism. In addition to its obvious positive effects on consumer welfare, Uber’s partial consolidation of the car-hire sector and its compilation of data on passenger and driver behavior may enable Uber and regulators to ensure safety and root out discrimination against passengers with relative ease. In that regard, Uber may be an improvement over the existing taxi sector, which is quite difficult to regulate, though of course much depends on political will. Uber’s longer-term impact on labor standards is quite unclear, however, and it may have dark implications for the future of low-wage work more generally.
Google, globalization, and culture
We will be presenting our work-in-progress titled “Misappropriation in The Old Man and the Sea” at the XVII Biennial International Hemingway Conference taking place in Oak Park, Illinois this week. (We presented a previous draft of this paper last year at Florida International University, and we are hoping to publish a revised draft in a future issue of The Hemingway Review.) Here is the abstract of our paper:
We consider whether the great writer Ernest Hemingway committed the tort of misappropriation or violated any legal rights under Cuban law when he published his masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea. In summary, Hemingway either borrowed or stole (depending on one’s perspective) the following elements of his timeless novella from three Cuban fishermen: (i) the actual story itself [from Carlos Gutierrez], (ii) the “back-story” and other biographical details of the main character of the story, Santiago [from Gregorio Fuentes] and (iii) Santiago’s ascetic persona and physical characteristics [from Anselmo Hernandez]. Although we concede that Hemingway combined these ingredients to create a new and original artistic work, the question we are considering here is whether Hemingway’s creative combination of such elements is enough to negate a legal claim under U.S. or Cuban law.