Projects Funded

Applications opened on 24 August 2016 and closed on 1 July 2019. Details of all projects funded under the NZLF Information Law and Policy Project are provided here.

The Taxation of the Digital Economy

New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2018 International Research Fellow: Craig Elliffe, BCom, LLB (Hons) (Otago), LLM (Hons), PhD (Cambridge), and FCA (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand). Professor of Law at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law.

Value: $125,000 (max)
Anticipated completion: November 2020

Project Description:
Despite the phenomenal growth of e-commerce in New Zealand and world-wide, many multinationals pay little tax in countries where they do business. Craig’s research will examine tax problems created by the digital economy and propose solutions to this complex international challenge. The International Research Fellowship award will enable his research in New Zealand and overseas to evaluate international strategies to address the issue and suggest potential solutions from a New Zealand perspective. He will work with politicians, tax policy officials and academia, and the outputs from this project will include a monograph, symposia and public conference that will inform discussion and debate on solutions for addressing the issue.

Legislation as Code in New Zealand

Principal Investigators: Tom Barraclough, Curtis Barnes, Hamish Fraser

Research grant awarded: up to $101,521
Anticipated completion: 1 September 2020

Project Description:
This project will examine the legal, social, constitutional and democratic implications of converting, drafting and consuming legislation in machine-readable computer languages, commonly known as code. From a theoretical perspective, the task of drafting legislation as code is largely one of language and logic. However, regardless of whether the English language can be translated into code without any change in meaning, there are secondary questions to consider about how the role and function of law will change when it is constituted in machine-readable form. A constitutionally appropriate approach means that, while Government is a crucial partner in a wider social discussion about legislation as code, it cannot be the only decision-maker to investigate, implement and advocate for law as code.

OpenLaw Case Analytics

Principal Investigators: Tom Barraclough, Curtis Barnes, Warren Forster; Andrew Easterbrook & William Parry – OpenLaw NZ

Research grant awarded: up to $79,126
Anticipated completion: 1 September 2020

Project Description:
This project is about applying automated technologies and analytics to case law so as to greatly enhance access to justice. When extrapolated, we believe this particular application will demonstrate how such automated technologies can be used to derive meaningful information from raw case law data. This information will be accessible to the public. The possibilities that flow from this would be a significant breakthrough in access to justice. We strongly believe that the output of this project will justify further research and innovation as well as benefiting the New Zealand legal community in the broadest possible sense. The core goal of the project is to develop automated tools that greatly reduce the time and expertise necessary to conduct legal research, both academic and practical. In short, as an output of the project, insights that once would have required a team of legal researchers working many hours will be attainable by laypersons in a fraction of the time.

Digital Revolution and the Law

New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2019 Distinguished Visiting Fellow: The Rt Hon Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, 2013 – 2017)

Project description:
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd visited New Zealand from 9 Sept to 12 Oct 2019 as the New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2019 Distinguished visiting Fellow and gave public lectures on the effect of the digital revolution on law.

Lord Thomas was a former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2013-2017) and is an internationally respected contract scholar and theorist of private law. He has a particular interest in aspects of IT, digitisation, data and AI – particularly their effect on law.

While in New Zealand he was hosted by the Faculty of Law at the University of Waikato and toured all law schools, giving staff seminars and public lectures. These focused on the effect of the digital (or fourth industrial) revolution on the law, legal practice and the courts and legal education.

For more information, dates and topics for Lord Thomas’ public lectures
Law Dean Wayne Rumbles’ interview with Lord Thomas – video 2 mins 20 sec

Support by Law Foundation’s ILAPP for Legal Research Foundation’s 2019 Visiting Scholar

Professor Anne S.Y. Cheung (Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong)

Grant awarded to Legal Research Foundation: up to $15,000
Visited in the first two weeks of June 2019

Project Description:
Anne S.Y. Cheung visited New Zealand and was based at the Department of Commercial Law, University of Auckland. Anne delivered three public lectures: ‘Data Privacy in the Big Data Era’ (in Auckland and Wellington) and ‘Rating Reputation’ (in Auckland). During her visit in Wellington, Anne had meetings at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Department of Internal Affairs.

Anne is a Professor at the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong. She received her legal education at the University of Hong Kong (LLB), the University of Toronto (JD), University of London (LLM) and Stanford University (JSD). She has taught Media Law, and Law and Society. Her research interests include freedom of expression and privacy, focusing on the challenges brought by the internet and technology. Her recent projects are on cyberbullying, and China’s social credit system. She has been a committee member of the Hong Kong Press Council and a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society, Berlin, Germany. She was a visiting professor at the Harry Radzyner Law School (IDC, Israel), Tsinghua University (China), University of Ottawa (Canada), Academia Sinica (Taiwan) and Hans Bredow Institute of the University of Hamburg (Germany). She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Media Law, International Journal of Law in Context and Media & Arts Law Review.

Anne’s writings have been published in the Harvard Journal of International Law (Online) (selected as Feature Article); Computer Law and Security Review; International Data Privacy Law; Journal of Comparative Law; and Journal of Media Law. She is the author of Self-Censorship and the Struggle for Press Freedom in Hong Kong (Brill, 2003), the author and co-editor of the book Privacy and Legal Issues in Cloud Computing with Rolf H. Weber (Edward Elgar Publishing, UK, 2015). Her most recent works include “Moving Beyond Consent For Citizen Science in Big Data Health and Medical Research,” 16(1) Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property 15 (2018); and Anne SY Cheung and Wolfgang Schulz, “Reputation Protection on Online Rating Sites,” 21 Stanford Technology Law Review (2018, forthcoming).

Facial Recognition Technology in New Zealand: Developing a Legal and Ethical Framework

Project leader: Associate Professor Nessa Lynch (Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $52,988
Anticipated completion: November 2020

Project description:
This project seeks to address a regulation gap through ascertaining how facial recognition technology (FRT) can and should be regulated in New Zealand. While the benefits that might be offered by State FRT surveillance are increasingly observable, its effect on civil liberties is more subtle, but certainly pernicious. Given the potential for FRT to be used as a key identity and access management tool in the future, there are pertinent questions around how images are being collected and stored now by the private sector. Where are these images being stored? Who has access to this data? What else might the images be used for?

Technology in Legal Education for New Zealand: Today and into the Future

Project leader: Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles (Dean of Law Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, University of Waikato), with the support of NZ Law Deans and Academics

Research grant awarded: $347,000
Anticipated completion: May 2021

Project description:
This nationwide collaborative project, across New Zealand law faculties/schools, is an initiative that involves systematically planning and preparing to include more Information Technology-related content in core legal undergraduate education. This project also seeks to develop a portal that will serve as a dynamic repository of knowledge and resources to assist with the integration of technologically-related content into the law curriculum, as well as establish an important and creative platform for dialogue, exchange of ideas and practice, and innovative thinking between subject academics, industry and the profession.

Technology in Legal Education New Zealand (TeLENZ) web site

Perception inception: New Zealand’s collision with emerging audio-visual effects technologies

Principal investigators: Tom Barraclough and Curtis Barnes

Research grant awarded: $80,250
Completed: May 2019

Project description:
Contemporary audio-visual effects technologies now allow for the creation and manipulation of information in challenging ways never before encountered. They can be used to put words in people’s mouths, portray people doing things they never did, copy their faces and voices, or even create entirely new faces and voices that appear thoroughly human. This study will consider the wide-ranging social, legal and policy issues arising. These issues are problematic for property law, consumer rights, human rights, evidence law and cyber security. They will also fundamentally change the way we trust and interact with one another and media. The researchers will develop an understanding of these technologies which will then inform the identification and exploration of the range of legal and social issues. They will proceed to define this important and rapidly emerging area of technology law, producing and promoting a report which guides creators, consumers, and policymakers for the future.

For more information, please visit their project website

Identifying Encryption Principles for New Zealand (ENCRYPT NZ)

Principal investigators: Dr Michael Dizon (Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, University of Waikato), Associate Professor Ryan Ko (Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Director of the NZ Institute for Security and Crime Science, and Head of the Cyber Security Lab, University of Waikato) and Dean of Law, Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles (Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, University of Waikato)

Research grant awarded: $59,000
Completed: December 2019

Project description:
Data encryption underlies technologies used for computer and network security, but our current law does not expressly cover the issue. This study will consider principles for a national encryption policy for New Zealand and investigate the legal, technical and social dimensions that could help better prepare New Zealand against cyber attacks and threats. The researchers will describe and analyse encryption and its challenges, and examine relevant law in New Zealand and internationally. They will research the values and interests of groups most concerned with encryption – government, business and the general public – and will recommend principles for policy development.

For more information, please visit their project website

Digital Technology and Democracy: Scoping Project

Principal investigator: Marianne Elliott

Research grant awarded: $56,660
Completed: May 2019

Project description:
This study will explore the opportunities, risks and threats posed to New Zealand’s democracy by digital technology, with a focus on social media and digital platforms. The study will involve a literature review and surveys involving experts and sector/industry stakeholders regarding their views about how digital and social media impact democratic engagement in New Zealand, as well as a representative sample of citizens who use social media and digital platforms in New Zealand.

Research Publication: Digital Threats to Democracy

Aotearoa’s Future Courts: Accessibility in an Online Court

Principal investigator: Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin (Legal Issues Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: $101,161
Anticipated completion: November 2020

Project description:
Many countries, including New Zealand, struggle to provide affordable, readily accessible means of resolving civil disputes. Online courts offer a potential solution and are being explored in jurisdictions such as England and Victoria, Australia. In anticipation of online courts being considered for New Zealand, this study will examine how litigants can explain their disputes clearly enough to be used in an online resolution process. The multi-disciplinary research team, led by Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin of Otago University Legal Issues Centre, will look at how well lay people translate justiciable disputes into legally coherent claims. It will also study how well lawyers communicate client disputes to court, and what innovations might help lay people explain their disputes to an online court.

Use of Posthumous Healthcare Data

Principal investigators: Dr Jon Cornwall (Centre for Early Learning in Medicine, University of Otago) and Dr Jesse Wall (Faculty of Law, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: $87,418
Anticipated completion: October 2020

Project description:
Advances in digital technology mean that patient information can be stored and used more efficiently. Data from deceased patients can be a valuable information source for analysis between and within generations, potentially leading to improved healthcare outcomes. However, the use and potential misuse of posthumous healthcare data raise ethico-legal questions around what should happen to our personal digital healthcare legacies. The issues raised need to be addressed to ensure confidence and trust is maintained in the system. This study will examine current law, ethical guidelines and practice in New Zealand and overseas, as well as public perceptions and attitudes on the collection and use of personal health data. The researchers intend to use the findings from this initial study to carry out a larger research study on the availability and use of digitised healthcare information of individuals across their lifespan.

Data Localisation and World Trade Organisation Rules

New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2017 Doctoral Scholarship: Nikita Melashchenko (Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $30,000
Anticipated completion: October 2020

Project description:
Nikita’s doctoral research looks at how data localisation measures implemented by many states might contradict World Trade Organisation rules. The problem with data localisation regulations is that they limit the flow of data important to the development and the success of international trade. Nikita’s research involves three main tasks. First, he will test the legality of certain regulatory measures of the Russian Federation regarding data processing and transfer against the WTO Marrakesh Agreement. Secondly, Nikita will attempt to define the boundaries of states’ regulatory autonomy related to data, based on the acquired results. Lastly, he will consider the possibility of developing regulatory approaches that would preserve the balance between the right to regulate data in pursuit of legitimate policy objectives and obligations under the WTO international trade regime.

Artificial Intelligence and Law in New Zealand

Principal investigators: Associate Professor Colin Gavaghan (Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, Faculty of Law, University of Otago), Associate Professor Ali Knott (Department of Computer Science, University of Otago), and Professor James Maclaurin (Department of Philosophy, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: $432,217

Completed Phase 1: May 2019
Anticipated completion Phase 2: November 2020

Project description:
The proposed research involves a three-year multidisciplinary research study evaluating legal and policy implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for New Zealand. The study will address general themes and challenges associated with AI and will contain several specific sub-themes. The major research questions will relate to:

  • challenges posed by autonomous and semi-autonomous machines to notions of responsibility and culpability;
  • questions of transparency and scrutability posed by decision-making algorithms, with particular reference to the criminal justice system;
  • questions relating to employment, and in particular the replacement of human jobs by AI; and
  • questions of ‘machine morality’, and the normative rules with which autonomous machines will be programmed.
For more information, please visit their project website

Regulation of New Technology: Institutions and Processes

Principal investigator: Dr James Every-Palmer QC (Stout Street Chambers, Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $22,250
Completed: March 2018

Project description:
The goal of this study is to consider which institutions and processes are most appropriate for accommodating new technologies into New Zealand’s regulatory and legal frameworks. The research will map the kinds of issues which new technologies commonly give rise to; consider the current approach to accommodating new technologies; and look at alternative institutional and procedural options based on first principles and the experience of other countries. New technologies and associated business models such as bitcoin, drones, Uber, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, grid scale battery technologies and digital rights management give rise to a wide variety of regulatory issues. The proposed study will seek to understand what overarching lessons can be learnt about the appropriate regulatory institutions and processes for accommodating such technologies.

For more information, please visit the researcher’s website
Research Publication: Regulation of New Technology – Institutions and Processes

Realising the Potential of Autonomous Vehicles in New Zealand

New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2016 International Research Fellow: Michael Cameron, LLB BSc (Lead Legislation Solicitor, Department of Corrections)

Value: $125,000 (max)
Completed: April 2018

Project description:
The aim of the project is to undertake research into the options for reforming the law to facilitate the safe and successful deployment of autonomous vehicles in New Zealand. The project will envisage the ideal scenarios for autonomous vehicle use in New Zealand, and investigate the ways current law may encourage or hinder this. This will lead to identifying how the laws could be amended to encourage excellent outcomes.

Research Publication: Realising the Potential of Driverless Vehicles – recommendations for law reform

Regulating Digital Currencies That Use Blockchain Technology

Principal investigator: Associate Professor Alexandra Sims (University of Auckland – Business School)

Research grant awarded: $52,467
Completed: September 2018

Project description:
This project will explore the way in which law should be developed and provide a framework of best practice-recommendations for how blockchain technology in the banking sector should be regulated. Blockchain technology is poised to disrupt and revolutionise a number of industries, not least the finance industry. Blockchain technology allows the creation of a robust, decentralised method of recording and confirming transactions through a peer consensus process, as opposed to the longstanding practice of using a centralised platform such as a bank or credit card provider to verify transactions. This innovation eliminates the traditional middleman and gate keepers such as banks. A fundamental characteristic of blockchain systems is that transactions are made using a ‘cryptocurrency’, in which the identities of involved parties are masked by way of encryption therefore allowing payments that are anonymous and secure. The project aims to provide a framework that can be applied in practice by the legislature and thus the regulators, the project team is interdisciplinary and comprises a mix of legal and banking/finance academics.

For more information, please visit their lead investigator’s website
Research Publication: Regulating Cryptocurrencies in New Zealand


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