In the shoes of a hackathon participant

January 21st, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “In the shoes of a hackathon participant”

Written by Anette Piirsalu, a European Law Bachelor student at Maastricht University, Faculty of Law. Anette is interested in the interplay of law, technology and business. She plans to continue her career in privacy matters, and possibly do a further degree in ICT.

When I heard about the Brightlands Hackathon that took place in the end of November, I was immediately very excited and determined to participate. I had heard of that event before, and it seemed like a very fun experience. However, as the event came closer, these emotions were gradually replaced by a feeling of discomfort of doing something completely different. After all, I am just a law student. What would I do at a hackathon? I imagined there to be bunch of IT and business people who could probably contribute to the projects far better than I could. Thus, I doubted a lot whether to actually sign myself up or not. Yet, as a last minute decision I still decided to sign up and just see what happens!

On Friday evening I got on a train to Heerlen. Already on the way I met other students from Maastricht also going to the hackathon, and when we arrived at the campus, I thought to myself “so far, so good”. The event started with idea pitching – everyone who had an idea already could present this to the rest. Others could then join the ideas they had the most belief in. Of course I did not arrive there with an idea. I was just there to see what the weekend would bring. As it turned out, then a lot of others had also thought the same, thus, there were quite few people who pitched their ideas. However, after hearing the different ideas, many were inspired and came up with their ideas on the spot. Therefore, in the end ten teams were formed and the work began! We moved to our group room and started to develop our idea of what we wanted to do. This was definitely far from easy!  The first evening was the most frustrating. We ended up ditching our original idea, however, we did not manage to come up with any new idea that would really solve the issues we were thinking about. Therefore, in the end of the first day, when I went to sleep around 3AM, I was a bit uncertain about how the next day would go. However, Saturday started off great – we came up with the idea first thing in the morning and everything from then on went super smoothly. We had a very nice group dynamics and we worked very well together. It was very exciting to develop the product and come up with a business plan. Every once in a while different coaches would step by and gave us new techniques on how to continue. I think those different techniques and methods were super useful and something I definitely took with me from the event.

On Sunday morning – the day of the pitching – you could already feel the excitement in the air. Everybody was putting on the final touches on their presentations. I did not come to the event with an idea to win, I did not really think about it at all before Sunday. However, after all our hard work, I did find myself thinking that we could actually win this. On the other hand, while listening to other teams, there were several very strong ideas. Our pitch was the last one, thus, we had to wait nervously for all the other nine teams to present before we got our turn. The pitch itself went by very quickly followed by a huge feeling of relief. We had done everything we could, now it was just time to wait… And then the time came for the announcements. I cannot even describe the feeling I had when they announced us as winners! All I know is that I was very glad that I decided to participate. I met amazing people and got such an incredible experience which helped me to figure out what I want to do in the future. Therefore, I recommend all of you to just come to the Rethinking Justice Hackathon and see what happens! I am 100% sure that you will not leave disappointed and you will make memories that last a lifetime!

Will I ever be to blame with a level 5 vehicle?

January 14th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Will I ever be to blame with a level 5 vehicle?”

Written by Doryane Lemeunier, a European Law Bachelor’s student at Maastricht University, Faculty of Law. Doryane has an international background having spent two years in United World College in Mostar and is currently developing her skills in a more national domain at the University of Glasgow. She is furthermore interested in pursuing her studies in the field of EU Competition law at the University of Amsterdam.

Entering a world of technology and magic. Some people’s dreams are to fly, but even more people when you ask around will tell you: “I wish I could teleport…”

Could that be a thing as the world’s technologies evolve so rapidly? Scientist have managed to teleport information in 2014 as a result of an experiment carried out under the supervision of Dr Hanson at the TU Delft’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience.

If that ever happens, I will make sure to write an article in due time about how the law deals with that sort of technology. Nowadays, we might not yet be able to teleport, but for the last couple of years it seems that the automobile has been moving towards an automatic era, creating cars that can be self-driven. Wouldn’t that also entail new laws in the field of tort and traffic? So far nothing has been concretised since fully self-driving cars have not made their appearances on public roads.

As the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) doesn’t fail to mention: there are different levels at which a car is considered to have some automatism:

Level 0 – No Automation: “the full time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving tasks, even when enhanced by warnings or intervention systems”

Level 1 – Driver Assistance: “the driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver perform all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task”

Level 2 – Partial Automation: “the driving mode-specific execution by one or more driver assistance systems of both steering and acceleration/ deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver perform all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task”

Level 3 – Conditional Automation: “the driving mode-specific performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene”

Level 4 – High Automation: “the driving mode-specific performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene”

Level 5 – Full Automation: “the full-time performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver”

[Click here for more information]

The Volkswagen Group has unveiled its first concept Level 5 autonomous vehicle. Named Sedric, it’s envisioned as capable of operating any driving mode in any environmental condition, allowing passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Compared to everything we have had so far this is a big technological improvement, and the law indeed has to keep up with it.

Articles about liabilities have already been published. But let’s sit back and look at all the potential scenarios. Could it mean that a level 5 autonomous pick up the children from school? Could it mean that one could fall asleep or get some work done while the car transports them somewhere? Could it mean no more driver’s licences? Could it really mean one could get in the car drunk?!

These are a lot of questions that should carefully be considered by the legislature, since many situations will probably follow from these cars. The human mind being far from lawless and defects in manufacture and design being possible, who will be to blame? Who will take the fall?

Michael I. Krauss, has already written his idea about the turn tort law should take in this respect. In his mind there can be three possible defects:

  • Manufacturing defects in which case the manufacturer should be held liable for having marketed a product that did not perform as advertised.
  • Informational defects, where again manufacturers should be held liable only in case they acted negligently in the sense that they would be acting negligently if a reasonable manufacturer could have provided a better warning. Concerning informational defects however nothing more is said. What if the car has given clear signs of warning but the user has not noticed, would the user be held responsible?
  • Design defects in which case similarly to informational defects the rule should be based on negligence.

Nothing is mentioned in regards to the liability of the user when it comes to safeguard or control the vehicle in case of defect. Therefore, can a user ever be blamed when using a level 5 car?

It seems that the already imagined rules do not cover every scenario. Assuming a person came back drunk from a party and used the car to go home, prior to which the car informed the user of an informational defect, however being drunk the user didn’t notice and causes an accident, should the user then be held liable?

Take the same situation, but this time a child over 15 gets in the car, doesn’t necessarily understand what the car is trying to warn him about and drives off?

Should there be any more safeguards? Should there still be a minimum age? Should there still be a sobriety level to be respected?

What happens if the police tries to stop the car, for an allocated stop and search, how will the car notice if the user is sleeping? Should that involve new devices, for example electronic devices to make sure the cars pull over? Wouldn’t that undermine the security of the system when put into the wrong hands?

Many questions are still to be answered, the self-driving cars are definitely a security topic that the legislature should think through very carefully before putting them on the road.

Geneva Motor Show 2017: VW Group unveils ‘Sedric’

You Don’t Need to Be a Superhero to Be in the Justice League: Rethinking Justice Hackathon (3-4 March 2018)

January 3rd, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “You Don’t Need to Be a Superhero to Be in the Justice League: Rethinking Justice Hackathon (3-4 March 2018)”

Why Do We Need Another Hackathon?

Making the world a better place is easier said than done. This is why every contribution to the noble cause embraced by humanity through the Sustainable Development Goals matters, because success is the sum of small efforts. Ours is a shared world: citizens, businesses, states and institutions all face the same risks and challenges, and so there is a constant need for society to innovate – to find better ways of doing things. Ideally, this can be done in order to bring about more justice in the world. What we mean by justice is simply more fairness, in the way in which citizens, civil society, businesses and public institutions interact with one another.

While thinking about broad theme has its advantages, we want to create a nurturing environment and mindset where someone with an idea can go ahead and do something about it. This is how the Rethinking Justice Hackathon came to life: students, staff and alumni from Maastricht University, as well as friends from the industry, coming together in a 24 hour hackathon to celebrate free thinking and enthusiastic doing.

We want to hold a hackathon that celebrates rethinking justice in all its dimensions: individual, social, commercial, political or cultural. To accommodate this wide range of options while making sure that our participants can focus their attention on topics that are narrower than this, we created four different challenges. Each challenge is led by a Partner, who operates in a field relevant for the theme of the hackathon and will be actively involved in pre-hackathon events. The four Partners we are collaborating with for this edition are: The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (Social Justice challenge); eBay (E-Commerce Conflicts challenge); Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts (Courts of the Future challenge); and Maastricht University’s Institute of Data Science (Data-Driven Justice challenge). Each of the partners will host a workshop for participants, so the latter can understand how they can relate to the challenges from the perspective of their own disciplines and expertise, while also allowing the participants to immerse in the way of thinking of our Partners:

– for the Hague (HiiL) and Brussels (eBay), we will arrange for transportation so that students can jump into a bus and be brought to our partners’ venue;

– for Maastricht (IDS), the workshop will be held in the IDS HQ at the Brightlands Health Campus;

– we will also facilitate an online workshop given by DIFC Courts.

Hackathons as Education at Maastricht University

As one of the youngest Dutch universities, Maastricht’s pedagogy has always stood out because of its Problem-Based Learning approach: departing from real-life problems and learning by doing, either through independent inquiry or group collaboration. For this reason, we consider hackathons and PBL to be a match made in heaven: creativity, leadership, perseverance, empathy, communication – all of these 21st-century skills that are so central to modern work experiences have friendly roots in the pedagogical concepts of Maastricht University education.

Real Interdisciplinarity

We want this event to take the shape of a hackathon because we believe in the creativity and stimulation it generates. Because of its nature, we expect participants to engage all their pre-knowledge in not only coming up with concepts but actually starting to execute them in as far as that is possible. For teams to come up with well-rounded ideas, interdisciplinarity is one aspect we are heavily vested in, to make sure that we attract enough interest from disciplines that complement each other and that can gain a lot of mutual benefits, which in turn can increase the quality of presented projects.

Our main goal is to ensure the highest quality possible for an educational hackathon experience. For this to happen, participants must gather as much pre-knowledge as possible, and together with the Partners of the challenges, we will facilitate knowledge acquisition. To that end, we will facilitate an additional series of workshops on the actual day of the hackathon, on a need-to-train basis. Teams encountering various issues while working on the challenges will be able to get tailored coaching for their problem-solving needs. For such workshops, we will issue online badges (Badgr), so participants can display their skills mastery on social media.

Registration and Team Division

Participants register individually and rank the four challenges according to preference. We will match their preferences across disciplines and backgrounds to ensure as much team diversity as possible, and create teams which will be allocated to the different challenges.

We have 100 places open for participants, who need to apply individually, and if selected, will be placed in teams on the basis of indicated preferences, so we can make sure everyone gets to enjoy a REAL interdisciplinary experience. We will announce the Hackathon participants on 3 February! Final participants will be charged a €24 participation fee upon confirmation (that’s investing €1 per hour in a 24-hour skills training event and getting a lot of free food, drinks and road trips in return).


The main purpose of this hackathon is educational (Hackathons = PBL). However, apart from the very experience, we aim to offer our participants, and apart from the employability importance of this activity in their profiles, we want to make sure that good ideas can be followed-up on. To this end, we will choose the two best projects on social innovation and commercial innovation:

The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law will offer further coaching to members of the first winning team with a view to applying to the Innovating Justice Accelerator where they can further win €20,000 from the Dutch Ministry of Justice to develop their project. The Brightlands Techruption Incubator will offer guidance and counseling to members of the second winning team, to further consider whether the project can be incubated at Brightlands as a start-up. All participants will receive an online badge for their overall participation in the Hackathon.

Get ready for a challenging, intense, creative and satisfying justice-hacking experience! Check us out and don’t forget to apply until 1 February!

Want to be your own lawyer – fire up your laptop

December 24th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Want to be your own lawyer – fire up your laptop”

Written by Juri Wiedemann, a European law school graduate inspired by our Meetup organized during the Technolaweeks where we had the chance to welcome Pim Betist, the CEO of VraagHugo.

How long does it take to get a law degree? To know the ins and outs of your legal system well enough to draw up your own contracts, to be your own corporate lawyer, not having to rely on someone else’s expertise which costs you hundreds of euros an hour? Eight years, seven? About as long as becoming a doctor? Maybe not, maybe all you need is a computer. Maybe all you need is to fire up a laptop to be your own corporate lawyer.

Have you, as a young and ambitious entrepreneur, ever heard that voice in your head saying, ‘you can’t pay for all this, it will ruin you’? Or have you, as a skilled freelancer feared that the steps you need to take before you can contract out your work make the endeavour unrealistic to begin with? I believe one of the main reasons for these hurdles are legal requirements, more specifically the price of legal services. Take an employment contract for example, you will need a lawyer to draw it up, a lawyer who costs you more than a hundred euros an hour. Who is going to pay for that? Conventional legal services are too expensive. For a legal professional to be allowed to do her job takes long years of studying and requires stringent qualifications. This makes the market for legal services very restricted, driving up costs to prices which start-ups, freelancers or small businesses either cannot or don’t want to afford. At the same time, lawyers can be fed up with drafting the same standard contracts over and over again. Most of the terms in a contract are standardised and filling in the few individualised sections probably does not give legal professionals much sense of purpose. Drafting the same contracts day in day out is not for everyone. Who still wants to do the same job every day of every year for all their lives, especially in our generation. A solution could be interdisciplinary. The problems for both the freelancers, start-ups and small businesses, as well as for traditional legal professionals by mixing law with another discipline. This discipline could be, and has in many ways already been, technology.

A computer can do the job of a contract lawyer at a much lower rate. Subscribing to a legal service such as VraagHugo for example, costs 150euros for a year, probably the same amount of money a lawyer would have cost for just an hour of work. With the cheaper price however, comes less professionalism. One might not want to trust a computer with a legal question. A potential employee might be reluctant to sign a document printed from the internet. An employer might be reluctant to rely on that same document. Freelancers might not feel reinsured and legitimised by it. The lack of professionalism could put the parties off. Conventional legal practice inspires confidence, consistency, and trust. As an individual trying to start a business, you certainly don’t want to run into legal trouble straight away, you don’t want to have to go to court over trivial matters. That would drive you right back into the arms of an expensive qualified lawyer. Could a computer maybe also instil the necessary confidence into people, to trust it with their legal decisions, with their business?

Partnerships are a crucial factor in this. VraagHugo for example collaborates with Deloitte and DFT Kennis. Those names instil confidence. You would rather rely on them than a website, right? Especially if you can get their expertise at the price of the web-service the answer will certainly be affirmative. But how can the big company benefit from this partnership? VraagHugo allows you to do the bulk of your standard legal work yourself. The documents you need to start working as a freelancer, or employment contracts to hire your first employee are all available. You won’t need an expensive professional to provide these for you. Thereby, it allows the professionals at the big companies to be more efficient, to focus more resources on work that is still too complex for you and your computer. Furthermore, it allows you to sit back in confidence, knowing that these big names were part of making the legal documents you need available to you.

Partnerships with firms who employ professionals from many fields can also allow company’s like VraagHugo to grow into different sectors. This can ideally prevent you from having to run to an expensive professional once you or your start-up has any problem other than requiring a basic contract, like auditing or tax services. In time, with the help of established names in those sectors, your computer might also be the only resource you need. Facilitating such growth, these partnerships also announce to the legal and other professions that technology is the future, and that traditional lawyers, auditors, etc. can and should work together with people skilled in technology to provide smarter, sustainable and efficient services for the future.

For now, a lack of awareness might be the biggest struggle. Do young entrepreneurs know about the alternative services like VraagHugo, do small businesses and freelancers? I did not, most people I know who study law or business did not know about these developments either. The lack of awareness about these new ways of doing business, or doing law might be the result of too little interdisciplinary education, too little contact between students and professionals from law, business and technology. So, whether you are a tech person, a law person, or an entrepreneur, let’s embrace the change. Let us not be stuck in a boxy tradition that we don’t belong to. Let’s mix what hasn’t been and be the future.

Internet Police

December 17th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Internet Police”

Written by Doryane Lemeunier, a European Law Bachelor’s student at Maastricht University, Faculty of Law. Doryane has an international background having spent two years in United World College in Mostar and is currently developing her skills in a more national domain at the University of Glasgow. She is furthermore interested in pursuing her studies in the field of EU Competition law at the University of Amsterdam.

Everyone has heard about the increasing amount of teenage suicides every year. Yes, this is a dull and hard topic, especially for the families and friends that have had to suffer through those dark times. Over the years, technology has been developing, and it seems that the law has not caught up to the same pace. This brings me to my next point: social media, this dangerous and vast space that some of us have a hard time grasping, just like the fact that the universe is infinite, it seems that the web has no frontiers. As the internet evolves, new apps come out, the youth gets more and more excited, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or even Tinder. These places seem fun, and they are for a while until some mean soul comes across them and starts using them for the wrong purposes which essentially poisons the beauty of these fun tools.

What would you think about an internet police? Obviously, there are vague rules that protect people and more specifically underage teenagers from the usage of these sites, but still not enough to prevent, one of the most horrible feelings of them all: bullying. How easy is it for a teacher to notice verbal or physical bullying in a school? Rather, compared to hidden snapchat conversations when as soon as the message is read: it vanishes!

Now, the question arises: “How can rules manage to stop this attitude from happening online?” Well here is an idea, children under a certain age of maturity (according to national rules though preferable internationally harmonised) should be protected, and maybe shouldn’t enjoy the privacy to the extent they benefit from the current rules. The internet seems to be a separate world; in reality it is a separate world: it’s a virtual world. And the same rules that apply to the real world might not be strict enough. There is no “safe word” or “safe button” for them to report conversations without having to look ‘dumb’ in front of their friends. This is where the internet police should come into place. Why shouldn’t there be a safe button, within the messenger of people under a certain age, that would notify the internet police that would then sanction the “bully”. The internet police could form part of the department of cybercrime in each national state, or be a larger international organisation with easy access, and have a specific job dedicated to the youth.

It is true one can report users, but really that has never really proven to be efficient. How come fake accounts exist? There should be no possibility of this happening, or at least not one so easily attainable by the young. Why doesn’t anyone need to prove their identity before creating an account? Some people may find the idea outrageous, but for the younger generation, many parents lack the ability to teach their children how to use the internet, because they barely know how to use it themselves.

Moreover, many teenagers before committing the fatal act, look it up on the internet, nobody can ever find out about this because they either have their own computers, or they smartly erase the history of the web search. Again in such scenarios once a person under a certain age has looked through a minimum of ‘x’ websites on how to commit suicide, a notification should come to the internet police that would immediately inform the parents of the situation. Options of having a very rapid notification to the parents, could be directly integrated in the computer setups when it is meant for a teenager.

The internet needs to become a safe place, before more children feel their lives are coming apart because of it, and here are some ideas on how to achieve it. Most importantly, raising awareness first.


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