Burriss: Laws behind technology


We've often commented here on how laws and legislation are often years behind new technologies. For example, the Tennessee Supreme Court is currently gathering information in an attempt to update how the media provide electronic trial coverage.

And when were those rules last changed; in 1995, some 20 years ago.

Obviously the last 20 years have seen a plethora of new recording devices, including unobtrusive laptop computers, tablets and cell phones. In fact, the old rules, which are still in force, refer to audio cassette recorders, and make no mention of computers in the courtroom.
But already, the proposed rules are out of date.

Currently, reporters have to obtain permission of the court before engaging in electronic coverage. But the new proposed rules do not apply to a reporter who is not using an electronic device. This is a throw-back to when print reporters used paper and pencil to take notes. That is, the old rules specifically did not apply to reporters not using a camera.

Now, to turn this around, the proposed rules apply to a reporter using an electronic device. In other words, if a reporter wants to use a laptop computer, a tablet or a cell phone to take notes, he or she must apply to the court for permission.
But look around at any meeting you attend. You will see dozens of people using laptops, tables and cell phones, not to record the proceedings, but to take notes.

And here's another rub. It is possible to record the entire court proceeding, and use that recording only as a glorified set of notes, never to be broadcast or transmitted over the air or over the internet.

Indeed, this recording will be more accurate than any set of hand-written notes could ever possibly be.
Keeping up with technology is almost a full-time job for all of us. For the legal system, it is perhaps even more difficult, but certainly much more important.