The BBJ’s Tech 10: Eric Bryant
Jun 10, 2016, 6:00am EDT
Eric Bryant is a partner at the law firm Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston LLC.
Education: Bachelor’s from Duke University; law degree from University of Maryland, College Park
Why he got involved in technology: “That’s where we have the most challenges. That’s where we have the most opportunity.”
With technological innovations comes a need for a legal framework.
Eric Bryant is right in the middle of establishing that.
A partner at the law firm Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston LLC, Bryant says he spends about 40 to 45 percent of his time on tech-related issues.
“I enjoy it. I liken it to the railroad industry when that was growing. Or the transition to electricity,” said Bryant. “People create these businesses that change our society and make it better in one way or the next. Somebody’s got to figure out a playing field and a set of rules.”
Bryant, who lives in Baltimore and works in Annapolis, serves as a Maryland counsel for Uber Technologies Inc. and worked with lawmakers on legislation that brought ridesharing to Maryland. Bryant said his first exposure to Uber was hailing a ride in 2012 with a tech-savvy friend at a Charlotte convention.
“A year later I got call from Uber saying, ‘We’re in Maryland. This thing is done by way of a phone app. We may have some problems,’” he said.
Sure enough, debates raged.
“It was big taxi vs. little technology. The people against the entrenched monopoly,” Bryant said.
In the end, it came down to the wire.
“Uber got to the point where they were willing to walk away from the table,” Bryant said. “Ultimately what made this thing work? The leaders of the General Assembly said, ‘This thing is happening. The people want it. We can’t be the ones to stop it.’”
Additionally, Bryant has crafted model legislation essentially identifying what happens to digital assets when people die. And he has represented AOL Inc., the parent company of Advertising.com, on affiliate nexus tax issues before the Maryland General Assembly. At issue years ago was a proposal to tax transactions when customers clicked a site and made purchase despite no brick-and-mortar presence.
That meant big money for Advertising.com. Bryant stressed the little guy — say, the cycling enthusiast with a basic web presence.
“This would have had a very bad impact on these very small business — people who, at the time of this proposal, were in the depths of the great recession,” Bryant said. “The tax would have sent the signal that you don’t want to encourage innovation, e-commerce and web activities.”