As we approach the end of 2017, it is a time to reflect on the dizzying pace of technology evolution this year, and the amazing array of legal issues it presented. Similarly, it is a time to look forward and anticipate what technology-related issues we will be thinking about in the coming year.

For 2017, the list is long and varied.

This year, the true potential of blockchain was recognized by many in the commercial sector. While recent blockchain-related headlines have focused on the rise (and regulation) of cryptocurrencies, a great deal of the blockchain action has been in back office applications in financial services, supply chain and other areas.  Industry wide consortia have been formed, trials and proof of concepts have been run, and, as evidenced by the recent announcement by the Australian Stock Exchange to replace its clearing and settlement system with a blockchain based system, we are moving into full production implementations of blockchain systems.

Cybersecurity garnered major attention in 2017. Unfortunately, data breaches continued to be a constant headline item, as were related class action litigation. As a result, cybersecurity was a “top of the agenda” item for state and federal agencies, state legislatures, regulators, corporate boards, GCs and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

As a related matter, privacy issues were also front and center this year. In particular,  we saw increased activity in some of the cutting edge areas of privacy law, including biometrics-related litigation (particularly under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (known as BIPA)), video streaming privacy (particularly under the Video Privacy Protection Act, or the VPPA)) and mobile-related privacy issues.

There are many other issues that occupied our minds this year, including artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, online copyright liability (including application of the DMCA in online contexts), and publisher/distributor liability for third party content online (under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act).  Additionally, parties involved in agreements of all types have been increasingly focused on technology-related legal risk, and were more intent on addressing and shifting technology-related risks with very specific contractual provisions.

Both Congress and the two federal agencies have recently taken action aimed at making technological advances accessible to individuals with hearing and visual limitations. These initiatives coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

In some respects, these actions overlap on various

This past Tuesday I spoke briefly about the topic of “Cloud Computing” at our 16th Annual Seminar on New Media, Technology and the Law at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. The main point of the discussion was that the term “cloud computing” is a rather ill-defined concept that encompasses many different kinds of “remote computing” technology (to use a somewhat archaic term for essentially the same things). The meaning of the term “cloud computing” varies depending upon the speaker, thus the term is being used refer to everything from data center services (Dell Computing) to hosted application development services (SalesForce’s to Web-based e-mail and word processing applications (a Pew Internet and American Life Project report). And of course, it is used in advertising those services as well.

The discussion at the seminar was planned in advanced, and I felt vindicated on the day of the event when Ben Worthen’s Wall Street Journal Business Blog contained a post entitled Overuse Clouds Buzz Term’s Meaning, making precisely the same point, i.e., that the term is applied in a confusing way to many different technologies.

Well today, Ben Worthen has written of his vindication by no less than Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, who admitted in a meeting with analysts that he doesn’t know what the term means either, referring to the computing industry as “fashion-driven” and the term as “gibberish.” That won’t stop him from advertising Oracle products using the term, though, he allows: “I’m not going to fight this thing. But I don’t understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud computing other than change the wording of some of our ads. That’s my view.”

So, in the midst of all these admissions of confusion, if you wish to get a good sense of the scope of the term, and of some of the specific types of technologies that it may describe, I highly recommend an InfoWorld article published last April, “What Cloud Computing Really Means,” by Galen Gruman and Eric Knorr. The article categorizes and describes that various technologies that may be included in the term, and provides helpful examples of each.

And PS, if you would like to receive an invitation to next year’s New Media, Technology and the Law seminar in New York, please send me an e-mail at jneuburger[at] and I will add you to our mailing list.