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SXSW Legal Roundup: Ulbricht's Mom, Patent Laws and Snowden Speaks

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 14, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Right now, and for the past week, Austin has been the place to be. With SXSW going on, the annual conference on all things interactive (and musical), the gathering has had its share of legal news. Here are some of the legal highlights of SXSW.

Silk Road Founder's Mom Appeals to Attendees

Last October, Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of Silk Road was indicted on charges ranging from money laundering, conspiracy to distribute drugs, and hiring someone to commit murder. Ulbricht's mother, Lyn Ulbricht has made it her mission to help her son, and she's been making the rounds at SXSW, trying to raise money for her son's legal defense, thinking that the "crowd at SXSW would be receptive" to her cause, reports The New York Times. Though she received lots of moral support, there has been no "major uptick in donations," says the Times.

Patent Law Reform

A panel of patent attorneys discussed the continuing problem of patent trolls, and the effects on small business owners. Google's Senior Counsel at the legal and policy office in Washington, D.C., Lee Dunn, stated: "More and more, we're seeing Main Street businesses being sued on patents, often for using basic online tools. ... We need to find a solution that can reduce the risk for small and medium companies," reports The Washington Post. The panel seemed encouraged that law makers are acting quickly and decisively on the issue, with pending bills in the House and Senate, says The Washington Post.

No Uber for SXSW Attendees

Austin police have made their position clear, Uber is not a form of permitted transportation and SXSW attendees have been advised not to use the service, reports TechCrunch.

Snowden Speaks

If you're not sick of hearing about Edward Snowden, he spoke via a Google Hangout at SXSW about privacy in the digital age, together with his attorneys. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything, you can watch his panel here.


Did you know that SXSW Interactive offers CLE? Well, it does. Unfortunately, it happened on Tuesday. But feel free to mark your calendar for next year's SXSW conference on March 13-17, 2015. There is also a smaller scale SXSW interactive conference in Las Vegas on July 13-16, though we're not sure yet if CLE will be offered there.

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