CYBER TRIAL IN SECOND LIFE

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Independent Clinical Proposal in Conjunction with the Berkman Center Clinical Program

Placement: Berkman Center Clinical Program

Title: CYBER TRIAL IN SECOND LIFE

Project: Trial Practice Representation of Real-Life Cases in the Court of Public Opinion

Faculty Sponsor/Supervisor: Professor Charles Nesson

Meet: Early Monday Evenings

Location: Berkman Center, 23 Everett St., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


This offering, which is open to all Harvard students, involves representing real clients not in an actual courtroom or legislature but in the Court of Public Opinion. Working on behalf of the individuals described below, students will gain experience honing their lawyering skills by working in teams to prepare and try in the simulated environment of Second Life a real case from start to finish. This legal practice experience provides an opportunity for learning in an important area not available through existing clinical courses, and will provide students with substantial experience in the realities of the work of a lawyer in several timely, significant legal settings.

Students will prepare and conduct a trial in Second Life.

We expect to contact and advocate, in part, on behalf of actual parties in ongoing proceedings, using the real facts, documents and other materials from their cases. And we expect to generate real-world results for these parties in the form of heightened public awareness of and attention to the important issues their cases raise and quite possibly in actual resolution of the parties’ dispute.

Students will work as part of a team to research and prepare the real-life facts and evidence of each case for trial, present it in a classroom environment in a practice run, and then present it to a real jury in the 3D virtual environment of Second Life. Following the verdict, the teams will produce an editorial piece about the issue of the case to present in both traditional and new citizens media.

Jurors will be drawn from our audience of at-large Second Life participants. They will be introduced to the issues of the cases in a class discussion format, participate in the trials as jurors, witnesses, or audience members, and follow the trial with a question and answer session and opportunity to give feedback to the parties.

This model builds on and improves elements of a previous experience for both students and at-large participants. Our goals, in addition to delivering a satisfactory learning experience to all participants, will be to model dispute-resolution and teaching in combined real and virtual environments and to deliver actual value to the parties in the real-world dispute.


The first case selected is:

  • United States vs. Josh Wolf, in which video blogger Josh Wolf is held in contempt of court and imprisoned for refusing to turn over the complete video of a local protest to the U.S. government. Wolf was incarcerated in 2006 after resisting a subpoena to testify before a Federal Grand jury and for refusing to turn over his source material for video he shot of a San Francisco protest against the G8 Summit in 2005. Wolf, 24, is the recipient of the 2006 Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Award as Journalist of the Year. For more information see http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/beware/ ; http://www.joshwolf.net/ ; and (email from Josh's uncle)

A possible second case is:

  • RIAA vs. DJ Drama, in which hip-hop mixtape producer and distributor DJ Drama is accused of violating the copyright of several major music labels by including copyrighted materials on his mixtapes. Although DJ Drama is clearly in violation of the copyright law, he has a long-term relationship with these same music labels through which he has frequently been present at the studio recording sessions of the tracks that he includes on his mixtapes with the knowledge and consent of the labels. ( http://www.freethedjs.com/)

We are seeking a third case that focuses on a real dispute between two residents of Second Life who agree to have their dispute arbitrated in our court.

This offering is part of a larger investigation of the potential uses of the virtual world for research and education, Professor Nesson Principle Investigator, Rebecca Nesson Principle Collaborator, and Scott Sneddon First Assistant.