Posts by this author:

Tips for living in London by Londoners themselves

I recently contributed to Law Absolute’s post on living in London. Guess I am officially a Londoner!

Find the link attached below.


On another note, I will soon be writing a post on life after law school and keeping you all updated on the Life of a London (ex) Law student and how grad life has been.

In the meantime, check out Law Absolute for some tips on applying in the legal field and getting experience. As a recent Law graduate and speaking to some of my peers, I know how tough and competitive it can sometimes be. When I am asked by some of my mentees how to best navigate this, I advise them to research as much as possible and speak to as many people as they can in the field and get out there. It definitely helped me.


Book Review: Intercept

Check out my latest review for The Society of Computers and Law on Intercept by Gordon Corera. Original Link: (http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=ed48270)

Lorraine Chimbga reviews Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies by Gordon Corera (Orion Publishing, Paperback – £8.99, pp 448, ISBN: 9781780227849)


At first glance, Intercept may not seem of obvious interest to those within the legal profession with its talk of spies and the secret history of computers. That would be a mistake. Although Corera does not direct the book towards the legal profession, his exposition on the evolution of surveillance and its implications is clear enough to draw parallels with the current legal landscape. Corera manages to bring to the fore not only the historical underpinnings driving the development of computers for surveillance, but also the subtleties that aren’t immediately obvious, such as the political, economical and intellectual desires that drove this evolution.

With aptly named chapters, Corera moves you through the history and evolution of spying, computers and the relationship between them. Intercept transports you back in time to the conception of modern espionage during the war, the vehicle that instigated the rise of computers, and then takes you forward to the present time.  Although this book is firmly non-fiction, it is notable that Corera’s flair for writing vividly brings to life the events that have shaped these developments. It is easy to imagine oneself being immersed in the scene, witnessing the evolution of spying, data gathering and analysis and that makes this an easy and interesting read.

Intercept continually shows that history does indeed repeat itself and nothing ever changes. It highlights the fact that the rivalry between the USA and the UK over intelligence is nothing new and grew out of the Second World War. Whilst Britain faced austerity and the wrath of trade unions, the USA forged a path forward and continued to innovate after the war and the Cold War to develop its intelligence systems.

During the Cold War the fear of a Third World War drove both sides to compete with each other to be the first ones who would decode and intercept soviet messages. In the chapter Coming of Age, Corera paints the history of how after the war corporations were at the forefront of developing computers. Intelligence became a business and, as a result, building secure systems was secondary to designing programs that would be the first to market to beat competitors. Security issues were more often than not an afterthought and Corera points out that this is a truth – even today, security costs.

This development also goes a long way to explain the symbiotic relationship between the public and private sector and how it came to be that the state outsources surveillance to private companies whilst being able to benefit from tapping into this. In the 1970s, the dangers of computers and their vulnerabilities were already being highlighted after Anderson’s report and the subsequent tiger teams which were set up to hack into systems on purpose to demonstrate that they were not really secure. The weaknesses of computers, it seems, were the same then, as they are now. Corera points out that, ‘many of the flaws [regarding computer security], that allow an attacker have been known for decades- many since the Anderson Report. But they have not been fixed.’ (p 74)

Spies, espionage and covert interception of communications are perhaps things you would traditionally not expect a lawyer to take particular notice of, but Corera subtly makes it clear why it is important more than ever that as a society we pay attention to our information and who is interested in it.  Intercept comes at an interesting time, when surveillance and the issue of data protection and state surveillance is at the fore. One only needs to look at a few recent examples; the Edward Snowden revelations, the Snooper’s Charter and the debate and legal issues it has raised, or how the recent craze for Pokémon Go has been revealed to be an activity of mass data collection.

After reading Intercept, it is hard to not make the connection and realise that the issue of surveillance, the security of computers and the costs of using devices capable of being tapped are nothing new. This book is essential for anyone wishing to understand the implications of systematically collecting, monitoring and analysing data on a mass scale.

It also encourages us to question the implications of leaving it to the select few to undertake these activities – largely unaccountable to the subjects of surveillance, us. Corera is able to provide a refreshing glance into what is happening in modern society and, as he points out, it is important to question now, more than ever, ‘Not what can you do with technology, but what should you do with technology.’ (p 391) A political question which is too important to be left to the select few, and a question that has far-reaching legal implications.

Lorraine Chimbga graduates from UCL Laws this summer, having also spent a year at LSE doing Information Technology Law: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/raiine


21 and Graduated

I survived the Hunger Games!

Two weeks ago was the tangible culmination of three rollercoaster years finally coming to an end. When the exam season finally finished in May I didn’t quite know how to feel when I was still waking up at 6am but had nothing to revise or read because I had to. It was weird suddenly having all this stress free (kind of) time as I waited for results.

I tried to reflect on my time at UCL. And it was nothing like I had imagined it would be. It wasn’t the straight and narrow path I had envisioned for myself as a naïve 18 year old fresh eyed first year. It was a journey filled with more ups and downs, dare I cliché-ly say this, than a roller coaster. It was a huge learning curve, not only academically but personally. And ultimately I grew from it and somehow managed to survive law school.

This post, I guess, is more for those who are thinking of doing this or are still going through law school. Once again, as I always say whenever I am asked about how to best deal with law school or university in general, just do your best. Remember that you are you, you are different to everyone else you are studying with. Your experiences, your background, your emotions, your understanding and how you approach things are different to everyone else and unique to you and that’s an amazing thing to embrace.

One thing I had to learn during my time, was not to compare. I had to learn to compete not with others, but with myself because when I was comparing myself to others I wasn’t entirely happy. I learnt what my limits were, how to manage my expectations and ultimately I learnt how to fail. This may sound strange but as I said in an earlier post (Dealing with Disappointment), it’s hard to lose when you become used to not necessarily winning all the time but getting things right.

I had come from always being at the top or the girl that won things or didn’t have to try really hard. Law school was that much needed ego tamer and I am glad (at times reluctantly) that I was able to have this experience because ultimately it made me better. Better at being realistic, better at managing stress, my emotions, my expectations and looking after myself when things got tough. Again, I learnt how to win in the middle of failure.

For anyone who is going through this or will be going through this journey remember this: it is your journey, and what you make of it. And no matter what happens there is still always time to come back winning. Trust me I went from finishing with a Desmond D (2:2) in 1st and 2nd year to getting 1st in 3rd year. It is possible.

Any Advice?

If I could give one piece of advice to my first year self to avoid the scenario I found myself in with low grades and not really happy, it would be: it’s not about doing all nighters or spending the whole day at the library. It’s about the quality of your study, work smart and don’t make yourself busy for the sake of it. Quality over quantity and balance helped me to pull it together in third year.

Another thing I would say is find new ways of working and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet the expectations you were used to, it’s ok to take time to adjust.

Also if you don’t have a training contract by the end of first year, its not the end of the world and there is nothing wrong with you. Make sure it’s something you want, and look for other ways to prove your experience or passion for the career. It could be that part-time job you do, volunteering, the societies you are a part of or even the blog you run. When making applications it’s about selling yourself after doing the research.

Don’t forget to look after yourself, take a break and ask for help when you need it. In the end it will be ok. Even more so when you know you did your best, and despite what the application requirements may say, that’s what matters. Do your best, for you.

As for this blog, it may no longer be strictly about the life of a London law student, but I will continue to answer queries, give advice/mentor where I can. I will also try and chart what it is like being a graduate and actually adulting and keep you updated on life after law school!

21 and RemainINg Hopeful

Today… One day I will look back and see that lived I through history. Although this might sound strange, history never looks like history when you are living it. Although I have tried to keep this platform neutral , today I felt, to put it mildly, numb, then worried, then angry and numb once more.

Today I woke up like any other day, but it wasn’t like any other day. Anxiously, I checked the news but somehow I already knew what the result would be. I could sense the disturbance in the force. Was it the result I would have hoped for? No.

This campaign had been a rollercoaster. In the run up I had continually tried to research and reason the arguments on both sides, understanding the gravity of either on our futures. I had read the newspapers, scrutinised the statistics, the pie charts the critics, the academics, the experts, heard the sound bites and witnessed the impassioned Facebook posts and pleas and memes.

I tried to claw back to my memories of studying EU Law to once more make sense of that legislative maze. To weigh it up, to see if it could once again inform my reasons. Having lived in London for the last three years though, I knew instinctively what my answer would be. I would vote to remain. Not only because I was young and that any decision to leave would be an uncertain gamble for my future. Not only because I had studied the subject and seen the benefits it brought. Not only because a vote to remain would still offer the chance of reform and if needed, a decision to leave in the future once a certain plan had been put in place or suggested. Not only because I was too “blinded” by the institution to see that we had “let go of our control” as someone suggested. Living in London, and judging by the map of results, it seems, I was in a bubble.

Living in London has not only brought fantastic experiences. But I had grown accustomed to different. Different people, different ethnicities, different religions, different views, different languages, different life experiences and mindsets. I had been in close contact with different. Different hadn’t made me any worse off, if anything it had matured me as a person. I had no morbid fixation on different because there, different was normal because I was surrounded by it.

A vote to leave would have been a denial of myself, of these experiences, of the people that I had met and of my identity as a former immigrant ‘who came here to steal jobs and claim benefits as a young child who had somehow weasled herself into British Citizenship. Unfortunately, in a campaign that grew to be vitriolic and xenophobic as it hinged on Schrödinger’s immigrant- one who steals your jobs whilst simultaneously claiming your benefits- I became disheartened.

I became disheartened as unions were broken amongst family members and friends, and colleagues and commentators and countries, as ideologies and rhetoric became increasingly divided. I was horrified and numbed when it resulted in a death and Farage still had the balls to say this was a victory won without a single bullet being shot (also is he suggesting he would have resorted to violence?). I became disheartened as I realised just how many people saw me as other by virtue of a geographical happenstance in my birth and my physical appearance.

But amongst all that I still have hope. Yes #Bremain might have ultimately lost in this battle, but then it is up to us to not give up.

We have seen the results of what happens when we begin to become complacent with holding those who govern us to account.
We have seen the results of what happens when we are complacent in educating each other and conversing with each other, to prevent such division.
We have seen what happens when we do not speak ‘because it doesn’t concern us’ in this instance.
We have seen the consequences of abstaining when we don’t understand something rather than researching and asking, or demanding the answers to the questions we have as an electorate.
We have seen what happens when we don’t call out ignorance and harmful ideologies as threatening.

As a people, as individuals, whether we voted to remain or leave, we now all have a duty to participate and shape this uncertainty. We cannot give up now. We cannot just leave it because it is done now. We cannot remain complacent and uninterested.

We must all fight to build something cooperatively in the ruins that have been left, we must all participate in shaping what is coming. It is no use to complain and spectate. Sign petitions, demand , debate, converse, cooperate. We each have a responsibility to take action either way because it not only affects us, the world, but future generations to come.

Above all else we must foster tolerance and an understanding of each other. Different is what makes me, and if there is one thing I have learnt during my three years of studying in such a multicultural city, different isn’t always dangerous, but through different something beautiful can be built and in that hope and love can be found.

Protecting the Real Value of Computer Programs: Functionality and Source Code

Recently, I entered the Society for Computers and Law Student Essay Prize competition. For the last year in addition to my normal UCL haunt, I had been able to attend LSE and do an Information Technology module, which proved not only interesting but invaluable for this. Here is my highly commended piece, which addressed the question, “To what extent should the functionality, as opposed to the source code, of computer programs be protected by copyright?” Tell me what you think!

The original link can be found here: http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=ed47964

Protecting the Real Value of Computer Programs: Functionality and Source Code

This piece from Lorraine Chimbga was a runner-up in the SCL Student Essay Prize competition. It addressed the following topic (from a range of suggested topics): To what extent should the functionality, as opposed to the source code, of computer programs be protected by copyright.


This discussion will first explore the ideas presented by John Perry Barlow in his classic essay, ‘The Economy of Ideas’.[1] This is done so as to provide an alternative background to the question in order to inform us as to why it is important to recognise that protecting the functionality rather than the source code of software is vital to reconsidering our traditional conception of economic value; copyright protection may no longer be appropriate.  I will then discuss the three central English cases in light of this and explore why it is vital that we find alternative ways of protecting the value in software which, in my opinion, does not reside in the source code but the functionality or in other words the ‘look and feel’ of the results that the code produces.[2] 

The nature of value in the digital environment 

‘The Economy of Ideas’ may have been written at the dawn of the internet but this insightful paper about the problems of applying classical notions of intellectual property rights (IPR) to the digital age, seems to hold true today. When one looks at the way in which the English courts have decided and developed the three main software cases one can see that Barlow was almost acting as a seer for the future digital age and the dangers of not appreciating the weight of its new currency: information. He recognized that its unique nature would require a move away from the old legal conceptions if we were to continue to be able to protect ideas effectively in the new digital world.

Barlow’s main thesis was that information wants to be free. As a result, the traditional approach and understanding of IPR in the Information Society would not exist much longer due to the very nature of Information. He conceived it as a natural life force that could not be contained like a wild beast of nature.[3]  Unlike the old conception of IPR where protection was attached to the physical thing, when it concerns information in the digital society, the wine no longer needs the bottle because it freely flows.[4]

Particularly in relation to software, one can see the truth of his warning that, despite the ‘fierce grip’ of the old legal structure, the way in which companies trade in information would have to change otherwise they would increasingly find that the courts were unable to deal sensibly with technological issues. As a result, disputes would increasingly have to be settled out of court since verdicts would not be predictable enough to be supportive of long-term enterprise. Barlow urged us to therefore reconsider our approach to the reward and protection of ideas in this unique wilderness by instead adopting alternative models of distribution rather than relying on traditional copyright as the mechanism of control. Although it is clear that the software industry continues to thrive, Barlow’s insightful prediction seems to hold particularly true in light of the three main cases that have helped to develop the English line of case law.

The Digitisation of Copyright: An Erosion of Exclusive Copyright Right

Copyright has been the expansive platform through which one’s creative expressions have been protected. Historically, IPR attached to physical objects for example, although the protection was of the words, one would attach a notice of copyright to the physical book and control its production. The problem now lies in the fact that computers are machines which were designed to make copies. They can easily reproduce information and, due to this ease, it is cheaper and relatively easy to reproduce and distribute whatever they copy. Once making a copy required permissions and at times the use of difficult methods, meaning that as a form of protection copyright easily lent itself to owners being able to protect and enforce the exclusive right to control derivative works.

The 1988 Act provides that computer software is protected as literary work.[5] The issue arises in relation to the courts and their unclear understanding of the distinction between source and software code. The latter is the language that is used to create the software, whereas the source code is what produces the results or functions that the computer follows. The software code functions from what is the protected ‘literary’ expression: the source code. This means that when it comes to software, copyright operates in a unique manner, since the element that is protected is never directly consumed by the user. None of this source code is ever seen by the end-user since they only ever experience what could be termed as the ‘look and feel’ of the software.[6] Barlow’s thesis that we should consider alternative methods to indirectly protect this valuable ‘look and feel’ element ring true. He recognised that the interplay between the idea and expression, and the look and feel of the software was an important and unique undermining of copyright since copyright relies on directly protecting the physical element of an idea.

Moreover, the scope of copyright only covers literal expressions and doesn’t extend to ideas or generic elements. We are then faced with an issue whereby software isn’t just about this source code; the graphic user interfaces (GUI) which users see are arguably what is commercially valuable. In the context of the digital world one could argue they are just as much a form of literary expression as the source code due to the technical skill required in their creation.

The courts and the software cases

The courts have been unable to elucidate a principle that effectively meets the need to protect the ideas that go into the creation of software rather than just the source code. In other words, the courts have abstractly applied copyright perhaps due to a limited understanding of the way the digital environment works by protecting the ‘written’ language that performs the function, rather than what is commercially valuable to creators: the look and feel of their software. It is submitted that the English line of cases do not necessarily reflect the commercial reality and value of the way in which software is visually presented. It is clear to see that the scope of copyright is limited in the way that it only covers literary works. The courts’ attempts to interpret the outdated legal structure in light of the digital world has raised problems in the English line of cases involving software.

In Navitaire, EasyJet designed their own software based on the OpenRes system owned by Navitaire.[7] Although EasyJet specifically requested that the look and feel of Navitaire’s software be copied, the key element in the case was that EasyJet’s developers never copied Navitaire’s original source code. When the issue came before the courts, the judge awarded Navitaire copyright in the screen display but found that there had been no substantial copying and on the basis of an analogy of a chef improving a fellow rival’s recipe, EasyJet had not infringed upon Navitaire since their source code was unique, despite the GUI looking and feeling the same. Considering the unique nature of code, one could write different lines of code but still essentially copy the look and feel or functionality of another’s software. It is submitted that they misunderstood where value lay in the creation of software. Here the courts failed to establish and recognise that when it came to software the functionality was where the value resided rather than the source code.

The next case in line failed to also develop in light of the commercial realities of the value that was apparent in the way the software was presented. Nova alleged that their artistic works (the bitmap graphics and frames displayed to the user) and the literary works of the designer’s notes and the programme had been infringed upon. Although there were similar features with Nova’s software, the court decided that Mazooma’s version had not been a reproduction of asubstantial part of the artistic or literary works and that only ideas had been taken by Mazooma’s programmer. This seems to prove Barlow’s point that litigation would become like a game of ‘Russian roulette depending on the depth of the presiding judge’s clue-impairment’.[8] In this case by not recognising that the traditional modes of protection had begun to drift away from there being a physical medium to protect, the court seems to have helped to distance the law from actually reflecting the commercial reality and the increasing value placed on information i.e. protecting ideas themselves. Due to the misunderstanding of what was trying to be protected in relation to the creation of software and using an outdated model of copyright, the court protected the wrong thing: the source code, rather than the actual functions of that code, which can be highly valuable to creators as a brand. This presents a harm to the information society which thrives on the trade of ideas themselves as Barlow predicted.

What followed was the complex case SAS Institute whereby SAS developed their own software which allowed users to develop their own programmes in the SAS language.[9]However, if customers wanted to switch from SAS, it was a costly and difficult task. World Programming created their own software which could execute SAS-based apps by emulating the platform as closely as possible. Again like the preceding cases, there was no suggestion that World Programming had access to the protected source code or that they had copied any of the structural design. SAS raised three important questions: (i) the extent to which copyright protected ideas, procedures, methods of operation and mathematical concepts were distinct from those expressions; (ii) the extent to which copyright protected the functionality and interfaces of computer programs and the programming languages in which they were expressed; and (iii) the test to be applied to determine what amounted to reproduction of asubstantial part in cases such as the instant case.

Initially, Arnold J ruled that the 1988 Act would only interpret protection as being for ‘expressions’ and not ‘ideas, procedures, methods of operation and mathematical concepts’ since this would be wandering into the realm of patent. When the case was sent to the EU court, they also confirmed that you could not protect the language used to create software and that so long as direct replication or extraction of the software code did not take place, studying the software to create your own version was permissible. One could argue that allowing such study is conducive to the continuing innovation of software through competition. However, it again misses the great point outlined by Barlow that the commercial value in the information age now lies in the expression of ideas themselves. This holds particularly true for software; the value isn’t necessarily concentrated in the source code. One could argue that being able to write in the different computer languages such as Java, HTML, C+ etc. is a skill and it is here submitted that these are new forms of creative expression themselves.  The courts not affording protection for ideas due to a strict adherence to an outdated form and conception of what expression is has meant that the case law that is supposed to afford protection could not be further from the commercial reality even if it tried. In light of the suggestions that Barlow made on freeing up the protection of information it is clear that by following the line of cases before them, the court in SAS once again missed an opportunity to choose to protect the functionality of software rather than the code.

Whilst the aims of copyright and patent may be correct, they are limited in their ability to handle the issues posed by computer technology.[10] The law will have to be further modified to accommodate computer-related invention. Alternatives need to be found that balance the need to protect the exclusive rights of the software copyright holder with encouraging continuing creativity and innovation, whilst also balancing with it the needs and expectations and everyday practices of those who live in the information society – consider the ease with which consumers pirate software.  Barlow, similarly to Lessig, suggests, that protection for ideas may not lie within the law, rather that the architecture of cyberspace may lend itself to the protection of ideas online.[11] He argues that, in the absence of objects, value will be based more on relationship than possession. In light of Barlow’s essay, it is clear that the cases missed an opportunity to recognise and develop alternative methods of protection. For example, to allow software to wander into the realm of patent law might perhaps have been a chance to develop a hybrid form of protection that recognises the unique nature of software and the need to protect the functionality (or the look and feel), which isn’t currently protected, rather than just the source code. Alternatively, rather than striving to protect software through a hybrid of patent and copyright law, creators could instead focus on the unique nature of information and their relationship with the market. Mainly that, if you offer a good enough product for free, people are likely to pay for the most relevant and reliable source of the information.


In conclusion, by looking at the three main cases discussed, one can see that the courts have developed a principle whereby the source code (which only developers ever see) is protected, however the visual representation of the software (where the true value arguably lies) is left to fall into the cracks between copyright and patents or to be left entirely unprotected. As long as one doesn’t directly copy this source code but creates software that looks and feels like the software of another, this seems to be permissible. Clearly, not only are we protecting the wrong thing when it comes to software, but copyright law doesn’t work well as a device for preserving value and ideas for property in the digital age where information can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed at relatively low costs. We need to be able to reconsider or even come up with a new way of offering protection for the exclusive rights one has over their property whilst also appreciating the unique nature of the digital world and realising that value lies in different places to the traditional physical world. For software this means the functionality should be protected more than it currently is.

Lorraine Chimbga graduates from UCL Laws this summer, having also spent a year at LSE doing Information Technology Law: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/raiine


[1] The Economy of Ideas: Rethinking Property in the Digital Age, John Perry Barlow, 1994

[2]  Murray A, Information Technology Law (Oxford University Press 2013) Ch10.4

[3] ibid. (n1)

[4] ibid.

[5] Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, s 3(1)

[6] ibid. (n2)

[7] Navitaire Inc. v EasyJet Airline Co. & Anor [2004] EWHC 1725 (Ch) (30 July 2004)

[8] Ibid. (n1)

[9] SAS Institute Inc. v World Programming Ltd [2013] EWHC 69 URL

[10] Johnson, Deborah (1999) ‘Computer Ethics in the 21st Century’, keynote address 1999

[11] Lessig L, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (Basic Books 1999)