News and information useful to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students, faculty and staff.

Archive for the ‘Apps/Technology’


Reset Your Law Account Yourself

We all forget or misplace passwords.

Our IT depart has created a do it yourself reset your law account feature. You’ll need to go to “Quicklinks” on the the right hand side of the page.

 

Does Size Matter? Thinking About Videos in the Courtroom

Recently, during the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse a lot of conversation came up about the nature of video. This, fortunately for me, does not have anything to do with the rules of evidence or really anything that requires any specific legal knowledge. Though there could certainly be a blog post discussing the minutia of legal matters in what we will look at today, but this is neither that post nor is it that day.

The Context

During the trial on Wednesday 10 November, the prosecution sought to play a video on an iPad that showed the events of the night in question. Before playing it, however, he mentioned that a zoom function on the iPad would be used. To be honest, with all the playback devices and options available I found the idea of using an iPad unusual. It was here that the defense objected. They argued that the ‘logarithms’ and ‘algorithms’ of “the Apple software on the device might show a distorted version by ‘creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there.’” The judge questioned if the video had been manipulated in any way. Further, the judge rejected the idea that zooming in on a video was the same thing as using a magnifying glass.pinch to zoom

 

The Technology

So what is going on here, at least from a technical perspective.

Back in 2007 at the launch of the iPhone the public-at-large was introduced to pinch-to-zoom, which is the most on-the-nose name for a technology since, well, maybe forever. In addition to this method, Apple devices also use a zoom feature which is very popular. Both work essentially the same: they alter the size of what is on the screen. What is occurring when you zoom in on something like a video is definitely amazing on its face, but it is not running any kind of serious software to manipulate the original file. It is certainly not doing anything like the work on Eulerian Video Magnification.

But what is an algorithm? Merriam-Webster give the essence of the word as, “a set of steps that is followed to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process.” An example of this would be a morning routine:

 

IF workday then Wake up early then Get out of bed then Shower then Brush teeth then Make coffee then Get dressed then Leave for work

 

IF NOT workday then Sleep in

 

Does this mean that the defense is correct that zooming into a video uses ‘algorithms’? On a technical level, yes, but that is only correct because this is a machine and its operation is dependent on following instructions; however, what the court is being asked to believe is that:

 

IF an iPad uses algorithms to zoom in on a video THEN what you see on the screen is a lie created by the algorithm

 

That is an incredibly specific argument that the defense is making about technology. Here is the statement expressed logically:

 

p -> q

 

Here is a truth table to examine the logic:

 

p q p->q
T T T
T F F
F T T
F F T

 

IF/THEN statements are known as logical implication, and this type of statement can be a little strange. Initially, we can simply ignore the last two lines of the truth table because the implication cannot be false if the initial premise is false. Consider a more obvious statement: IF you do your chores THEN I will give you a dollar. Whether or not I fulfill my part of the obligation rests on you doing your chores; however, if you do not do them then it really does not matter if I give you a dollar.

Back to the courtroom. Because computers just follow rules, at least for now, then we know it is true that computers (including iPads) use algorithms to zoom in a video. Somebody had to tell a computer that the pixels that make up a video whose resolution is 1280×720 need to keep their shape and space if you display the video at 120% of its original size. That leaves us needing to know if the algorithm “creates what it thinks is there.”  The short answer is that it does not. Pinch-to-zoom does not remove a video file from its “virginal state.”

Which is not to say that video should be accepted merely because we can see it with our own eyes. The quality of a video can be compromised when it is converted from one format to another, which is a very common practice with digital video. For example, video is sometimes shot in one format, .raw for example, then converted or rendered to another, like .mp4, because it makes the video smaller, easier to stream, or work on a wider array of platforms. There are also less innocent examples for video modification when you consider the growth of technology like deep fakes. None of this is what the defense is arguing.

The Conclusion

While it is possible for a video to lose its “virginal state” due to any number of regular practices or intentional deceptions, there is just nothing inherently additive or destructive occurring when you use pinch-to-zoom. Even the effectiveness of zooming a video is determined not at the time of viewing but based on the hardware and software constraints of the tool that took the video initially. The well-known scenes of zooming in on license plates from bodega video cameras in shows like CSI is just not possible.

This culminated with the video being shown on a Windows computer connected to a TV. The full screen feature was not even used for playback.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson opined that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” In an attempt to reduce ignorance of technology, this blog will begin a new feature titled Comment 8 to help you maintain competence in the daily technologies that will define your profession and daily life. The first planned topic will cover VPNs.

 

In a Nutshell Study Aids Series Available Online or in Print

The popular Nutshell Study Aids Series is available in print or online via West Academic Study Aids.

To access the study aids, you must log into the law school proxy server using your 7-digit CSU ID number and the password you use to log into the computer lab. You also have the option to create a personal account. Full instructions are here.

Access to the online study aids is unlimited, so use them as often as you like.

Mental Health and Well-Being Recap

Over the past few years we’ve done a number of posts on mental health and well-being. Some of the posts cover items in our collection, while others are about an article or website, and others are tips. We thought we’d highlight some of the recent ones in case you missed them:

Recharge Outdoors for Your Mental Health

Apps for Mental Health

ABA Student Lawyer Mental Health Essentials

Meditation & Yoga Videos on Our Mental Health Guide

Ten Books on Meditation, Mindfulness and Yoga from Our Collection

Mindfulness Study of Law Students Shows Positive Results

Stress Relief with a Legal Coloring Book

Self-Care and Racial Stress

 

What is an NFT? Does It Have a Copyright?

NFT stands for Nonfungible Tokens: “An NFT is a digitized, authenticated token linked to a digital asset, and the NFT is recorded on a blockchain, most commonly the Ethereum blockchain. Typically, the blockchain does not store the actual work that is tokenized because it is too large.” NFTs are used in the digital universe and are common in the arts (images, videos, music, etc.). A recent article from JD Supra lays out the basics on NFTs and copyright considerations.

NFTs are unable to be duplicated (or faked) due to a unique serial number (or hash) that can be used to prove its ownership and authenticity. The hash also provides the provenance of an item, including payment history.

Generally, purchasing an item does not grant copyright of the item to the purchaser and the same is true of NFTs.  Copyright issues related to NFTs are sure to land in the courts in the near future since the technology only began in 2015. See the linked article above for more information on copyrights as they relate to NFTs.