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Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Paul Ohm

Paul Ohm

Professor of Law
Georgetown University Law Center

Click here for Professor Ohm's faculty listing

Forthright Code

Click here for the Spring Lecture Invitation

Thursday, March 22, 2018



Coronado Club

To RSVP or for further information, contact or 713.743.2180
One Hour of CLE Credit

Paul Ohm is Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He specializes in communications and technology law and serves as a faculty director for the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown.

In his scholarly work, Professor Ohm tries to build new interdisciplinary bridges between law and computer science. Much of his scholarship focuses on how evolving technology disrupts individual privacy. His article, Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization, 57 UCLA L. Rev. 1701 (2010), sparked an international debate about the need to reshape dramatically the way we regulate privacy. Professor Ohm is commonly cited and quoted by news organizations including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

Professor Ohm began his academic career on the faculty of the University of Colorado Law School, where he also served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Director for the Silicon Flatirons Center. From 2012 to 2013, Professor Ohm served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Federal Trade Commission. Before becoming a professor, he served as an Honors Program trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Before that, he clerked for Judge Betty Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Mariana Pfaelzer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. He is a graduate of the UCLA School of Law.

Before attending law school, Professor Ohm worked for several years as a computer programmer and network systems administrator after earning undergraduate degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from Yale University. Today he continues to write thousands of lines of python and perl code each year. Professor Ohm blogs at Freedom to Tinker.

Recent Scholarship and Works in Progress: The Surveillance Regulation Toolkit: Thinking Beyond Probable Cause, in The Cambridge Handbook of Surveillance Law (David Gray & Stephen Henderson eds., Cambridge University Press forthcoming); Proof of Work: Learning from Computer Scientific Approaches to Desirable Inefficiency (working paper with Jonathan Frankel);The Silver Lining to Internet Balkanization, UCLA L. Rev. Discourse __ (forthcoming); Regulating Software When Everything Has Software, 84 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1672-1702 (2016) (with Blake Reid); We Couldn't Kill the Internet If We Tried, 130 Harv. L. Rev. F. 79-85 (2016); Sensitive Information, 88 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1125-1196 (2015); The Life of Riley (v. California), 48 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 133-142 (2015); Response: The Underwhelming Benefits of Big Data, 161 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENNumbra 339-346 (2013).

Forthright Code

We want our software not to lie to us. The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general have long enforced laws prohibiting "deceptive acts or practices," and recently, they have started bringing actions against companies for deploying "deceptive code" or "deceptive design."

But as every parent knows, not lying is not the same thing as being honest and forthright. Even when software isn't deceptive, far too often it still is not as honest as it could be, giving rise to consumer harm, power imbalances, and a worrisome restructuring of society. With increasing and troubling frequency, software hides the full truth, in order to control or manipulate us.

What if regulators and law enforcement agencies could mandate not just non-deceptiveness but also forthrightness from our code? Companies might be punished for prominently displaying a button saying, "Yes, I agree," while making the "No, I disagree" choice hard-to-spot and hard-to-click. It might become illegal to bury a privacy-enhancing choice behind four clicks, when the default choice requires none.

In this lecture, Professor Paul Ohm will lay out the case for a new law obligating developers to use forthright code.

A new obligation for forthrightness must strike a fine legal balance, protecting consumers against new perils of our software-mediated age without treading too much on First Amendment expression. We ought to try to strike this balance, Professor Ohm will argue, especially in light of looming new challenges from artificial intelligence. AI systems are prone to discriminate and otherwise act unfairly, and it is hard to understand what is going on in these opaque and complex systems. Forthrightness goes farther than recent calls for "explainability" or "interpretability" by requiring a deeper, more fundamental demonstration of fairness than these proposals -- one which will help us distinguish between fundamentally fair systems and those that are merely surrounded by a thin veneer of fairness.


2018 PAUL OHM, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
Forthright Code

2018 PAUL OHM, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
Forthright Code

Commentator: Sharon A. Israel

2017 CHRISTOPHER JON SPRIGMAN, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
Copyright and Creative Incentives: What We Know (And Don't)

2017 CHRISTOPHER JON SPRIGMAN, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
Copyright and Creative Incentives: What We Know (And Don't)

Commentator: Bob McAughan


2016 MARK LEMLEY, William H. Neukom Professor of Law, Stanford Law School
Rethinking Assignor Estoppel

Commentator: Ed Fein


2015 JEANNE FROMER, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
Should the Law Care Why Intellectual Property Rights Have Been Asserted?

Commentator: Richard Phillips

Julie Cohen

2014 JULIE E. COHEN, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
Post-Industrial Property

Commentator: Bart Showalter

David McGowan

2013 DAVID MCGOWAN, Lyle L. Jones Professor of Competition & Innovation Law and Director, Center for Intellectual Property Law & Markets, University of San Diego School of Law
The Unfallen Sky: Assessing the Relative Effectiveness of Legal and Market Adaptations to Technological Change

Commentator: Jacqueline Lipton

R. Anthony Reese

2012 R. ANTHONY REESE, Chancellor's Professor of Law, University of California - Irvine School of Law
What Does Copyright Law Owe the Future?

Commentator: Paul R. Morico

Paul Goldstein

2011 PAUL GOLDSTEIN, Stella W. and Ira S. Lillick Professor of Law, Stanford Law School
Copyright on a Clean Slate

Commentator: Phillip Page

Douglas Lichtman

2010 DOUGLAS LICHTMAN, Professor of Law, University of California – Los Angeles School of Law
Pricing Patents: The RAND Commitment

Commentator: Gordon White

William O. Hennessey

2009 WILLIAM O. HENNESSEY, Professor of Law and Chair, Intellectual Property Graduate Programs, Franklin Pierce Law Center
Thirty Years (and More) of IP in China: A Personal Reflection

Commentator: Margaret (Meg) Boulware

Robert Merges

2008 ROBERT MERGES, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Professor of Law and Technology, Director, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, University of California School of Law – Boalt Hall
The Concept of Property in the Digital Age

Commentator: Henry N. Garrana

Joel Reidenberg

2007 JOEL REIDENBERG, Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center on Law and Information Policy, Fordham University School of Law
The Rule of Intellectual Property Law in the Internet Economy

Commentator: Jeff C. Dodd

Arthur Gajarsa

2006 THE HONORABLE ARTHUR J. GAJARSA, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Patents in a Changing Economy

Commentator: Scott F. Partridge

Scott Kieff

2005 F. SCOTT KIEFF, Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis-School of Law
Theory & Practice in Commercializing Innovation


Commentator: John D. Norris

Jane Ginsburg

2004 JANE C. GINSBURG, Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, Columbia University School of Law
The Right to Claim Authorship after Dastar

Commentator: Paul E. Krieger