Mar 17, 2016
No, I'm not kidding.
One Henry Ihejirika developed a web application called Ziinet, which was an expert system for bankruptcy law that provided a service to whomever could pay the $216us charge for 60 days of access. The idea was that you paid your fee to log into the web application and hammer in the information relevant to your bankruptcy proceedings. The application would analyse your situation, draw up affadavits (presumably drawing upon a database of pre-written statements and paragraphs - if you write enough papers of any kind, it only stands to reason that re-using parts of older papers is the most efficient way of writing), generate forms, and present them to you to sign, notarise, and file. The application was a little too good at its job, unfortunately; all software has bugs, and Ziinet made a couple of mistakes on one customer's bankruptcy paperwork. When push came to shove, the customer blamed the web application for the mistakes, so the Federal Court of California declared that Ziinet was too sophisticated to be considered a clerical assistance application and indicted Ihejirika for practising law without a license. It seems that the court did not draw much of a distinction between the developer and the software developed (which could be a scary legal precedent) and took him to the cleaners. Ihejirika is henceforth forbidden from providing such services in the future, fined, and fleeced of everything he'd made with his expert system. Appeals in the 9th Circuit Court of California last week upheld this decision.