Presentation on Drones, Media Hacking & Just-in-Time Media

Attorney Shannon Brown presented a continuing education program (CLE) for lawyers addressing emerging technologies issues such as drones, hacking, and just-in-time news reporting. The presentation was for the 21st Annual Media Lawyers Conference sponsored by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.


The FAA currently prohibits the commercial use of drones. Federal legislation enacted in 2012, however, may allow some commercial uses—but not before 2015 and only if such anticipated regulations withstand court challenges (including formidable anti-preemption issues). States, under their general police powers, are enacting legislation to limit drone use and cite serious privacy, surveillance, and public safety issues (what happens when a drone fails and crashes into a busy highway or a children’s playground). Local governments also enact ordinances under nuisance laws to limit drone use. Nevertheless, a vocal drone lobby continues to press for getting an estimated $19 billion of drones in use despite the outstanding, privacy and liability issues.

Hacking, Hacking-the-Media, and Emerging Data Driven Journalism

Hacking describes broad methods of figuring out how things work and then applying that knowledge to make things work how you want them to work—usually in new and innovative ways.

Most assume hackers are all just cybercriminals bent on stealing. As this presentation noted, that is not the case. Hackers have traditionally and continue to provide valuable services to the community by applying their technology skills. (For example, hackers provide free community services via hackathons. See, e.g., Hackathons used by government, industry for app development, recruitment or Hackers wanted: Governments and others attract coders with hackathons.) Increasingly, the media, as other professions, will need to integrate hacking strategies (where the term hacking is used in its proper context) to analyze data as part of news gathering. Nevertheless, outdated computer crimes laws (e.g., the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act passed in 1984/1986, 18 USC 1030) and misapplication of computer crime statutes by prosecutors (at both the federal and state levels) may have serious consequences for media organizations performing their necessary functions—including felony charges and formidable civil liability. One journalist already faces 105 years in prison. See For investigating private intelligence practices, American journalist faces 105 years in prison .