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Internet and Society 1999
The Technologies and Politics of Control


Watch for news including assignments, waiting list moves and syllabus updates.

December 8, 1999: Two questions this week, due Thursday at 4AM with the second one having a rotisserie, due next Monday 4AM:

  1. Read through your answers and rotisserie responses from the last eleven weeks. Now that the course is almost over, are there any which you would change? If so, how would you change them and why. If not, pick the answer you are most committed to and argue the opposite view. (500 words)
  2. What question(s) would you most like to see addressed in our last class together. (100 words)
November 26, 1999: There will only be one question for next week, it is:
    You are a national legislator who has received a deluge of letters demanding increased protection for children from on-line pornography. After a few third graders were caught browsing pornography on a school computer, a ninth grader was found looking at pictures on the Playboy web site at the library and most of a fifth grade class was caught with a copy of a racy story from a sex-related newsgroup that one of the boys in the class printed out and brought in from home. How will you react?
    (500 Words)
    N.B. The rotisserie will happen once on this question, meaning that you will receive a classmate's answer to comment on. When commenting on that answer, react as if you were an opposing candidate for the legislator's seat in a shortly upcoming election. What is your reaction?
Happy Thanksgiving,
November 18, 1999: The scribe's notes from class ten are up, and so are comments from the real-time text submission system. -Tommy

November 15, 1999: Questions for this week:

  1. Is the MAPS RBL a good thing or a bad thing? Is there any theory by which someone adversely affected by the list could seek legal redress? Should some kind of redress be available? - (500 Words)
  2. What will be the biggest threat to Internet freedom? Where and/or who will that threat come from? - (250 Words)
    NB There will be two reverberations for the second question. That means that you will answer that question for this Thursday at 4AM EST; then respond to another student's answer for Saturday 4AM EST (you may not want to leave it until Friday night); then respond to the reponse of another student to yet another student's answer for Monday 4AM EST.

scribe's notes from class nine are now available.

November 8, 1999: There will be no rotisserie questions this week so that you may recuperate from fly out and prepare for next week. -Alex

Last on October 21, 1999: The scribe's notes from class seven are up, and so are comments from the real-time text submission system. -Ben

Later October 21, 1999: I will be giving a one hour "Introduction to HTML" class followed by one hour of "Basic HTML Question and Answer Session" from 2-4 PM on Tuesday October 26th in Pound 201. Members of IS99 are all welcome to attend. If you would like to do a little reading beforehand, check out:


October 21, 1999: To sign up for the MIT/HLS forum, please follow the steps here. Or, in detail:

  1. Visit the Web page http://photo.net/ug and click on the link for the class Fall 1999 Internet and Society. You should get a request to log in and register as a member of the community system. Log in with your email address and fill out the information. You'll see that the system has created a personal workspace for you, which you can play around with later.

  2. Revisit the page at http://photo.net/ug and once again click on the the link for the class Fall 1999 Internet and Society. This time, you should get a confirmation page that asks you to sign up for membership in the group. Click on the link marked "sign up".

  3. Now you should be able to enter the discussion forum by using one of the following two links:

October 14, 1999: The scribe's notes from class six are up, and so are comments from the real-time text submission system. -Ben

October 12, 1999: IMPORTANT: You will notice that your rotisserie questions for this week (see below) are now due at the regular time, 1 a.m. Thursday very early morning, October 14 (NOT 4 am). We were unable to reset the clock for this week. We are still working on it, but for now, please stick to the 1 a.m. deadline. Sorry about that!

October 8, 1999: Questions for next week (will be sent Tuesday morning, October 12 and due Thursday at 1AM) will be as follows:

  • Question 1
    As an IS99 project, you have created a killer app that is potentially marketable to a much wider community than Harvard Law School. Having done the bulk of the work on the project, you see youself as a potential (and rightful) claimant to your product. Who else would lay claim to it? Which legal arguments work for or against you? Assuming that you win the intellectual property battle, what kind of license would you choose and why?
    Write a 350 word comment.

  • Question 2
    Come up with a hypothetical technology that would change the current balance of power in one of the areas that we have talked about in class: security, privacy, governance, harmful speech... Briefly describe how your technology would work. How would it affect that balance of power and what are the consequences?
    Write a 400 word comment.

October 7, 1999: The scribe's notes from class five are up, and so are comments from the real-time text submission system. -Ben

October 2: Questions for next week (will be sent Monday, October 2 and due Thursday at 1AM) will be as follows:

  1. Check out http://www.eff.org/pub/Legal/Cases/Baker_UMich_case/baker_arrest_branam.article and http://www.eff.org/pub/Legal/Cases/Baker_UMich_case/baker_charges_dismissed.article. Are Ken Zeran and Jake Baker's classmate simply necessary casualties of today's freewheeling Internet speech environment? Aside from whatever "curing" speech they or their supporters might make to attack the harm of the original speech, should we see to it that there are technical and/or legal means available to identify who posted the original speech and pursue some sort of direct remedy for it?
    (350 words)
  2. Find the "Nuremburg Files" web site and visit it. (Email ishelp@eon.law.harvard.edu if you can't find it, but it *is* out there.) Would you award damages or an injunction against the site authors? Against the Internet Service Provider that "carried" the site after the ISP had been made aware of its nature, particularly if the ISP failed to keep records identifying the original authors?
    (350 words)

September 30, 1999: The scribe's notes from class four are up. -Ben

September 29, 1999: Breaking ICANN news! U.S. Reaches Deal on Internet Addresses (NYTimes free registration required), NSI reaches Net name agreement with groups (c|net) and Analysts: NSI remains dominant, may spin off part of business (again c|net). On the privacy front, online auction site EBay is asserting its privacy from being searched by spiders (the programs that troll the web looking for content to index). ZDNet's report and Slashdot's response to it are both interesting reads. -Alex

Very Early September 28, 1999: Questions are posted to the Courseware. -Alex

September 27, 1999: Week 4 and 5 readings are available from the syllabus page. Questions for this week will be posted very soon and due at the usual time, late Wednesday night, Thursday at 1AM. -Alex

September 23, 1999: The scribe's notes from class three are up, and so are comments from the real-time text submission system. -Ben

September 21, 1999: Archives of the class "names" email list are now available on the web and via NNTP. To access them on the web, go here, press Log On, and then choose IS99-names. To access the archives via NNTP, just click here if your browser and newsreader are already setup properly to automatically reach new NNTP groups. If not, you'll need to manually configure NNTP access to the IS99-names group on our server, cyber.law.harvard.edu, according to the instructions provided with your news reader. -Ben

Just a little bit later September 20, 1999: The glossary is now up and I will add to it as the weeks progress. If you have a particular request, e-mail ishelp@eon.law.harvard.edu. - Becca

Even Later September 20, 1999: Rotisserie questions will go out tonight at 1AM and be due early Thursday morning at 1AM. They will be:

    Question 1
    Last week proved that the Net moves faster than any of us--our readings on crypto were dated as they came off the xerox machine; President Clinton announced what many are touting as a major turnaround in administration policy on export of cryptographic software: see http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/politics/story/21786.html?wnpg=all.
    A reporter from the Mass Ave. Journal has called you seeking your comment on the proposal. She's read all the White House pabulum declaring the new "Cyberspace Electronic Security Act" to be the best thing since sliced pabulum. (See http://www.epic.org/crypto/legislation/cesa/factsheet.html.) She's inclined to agree--and is wondering where you think the bill might fall short and who is likely to be least satisfied with it. She'd be perfectly happy with some good leads--areas that will need further elaboration before one can be end up forming a view about the bill and its place in the crypto debates. (Her deadline is Thursday, 1 a.m.)
    Write a 250 comment--glib but substantive.

    Question 2
    You've now experienced--suffered?--a week with the "names" listserv. Suppose ICANN, in its pursuit of global consensus, wants to encourage "semiotic democracy"--an ability for anyone who cares about an issue not simply to vote on it, but to speak and deliberate on it with other interested parties. Is something like "names" useful for this? Do you find yourself enlightened by the discussion, overwhelmed by it, and/or ... ? Should we open "names" up to anyone who wants to join from the outside world?
    150 words.

    Question 3a
    We currently live in a world where the U.S. government--for national security and law enforcement reasons--is in a technical arms race to retain and enhance its ability to crack increasingly strong cryptography both within and without its borders.
    Which of the following two future worlds do you prefer and why?

    1. The U.S. government has the technical ability to break prevailing public crypto schemes. It binds itself to a "warrant requirement" so that it won't do so within its borders without probable cause and a magistrate's signature.
    2. The U.S. government cannot readily crack common crypto schemes. These schemes become routinely adopted for telephony and other data traffic.

    Roughly 250 words.

    Question 3b
    U.S. regulations and policy to date have categorized cryptographic software as a "munition." The FBI has made its views of the dangers of the crypto "weapon" clear. How do your views about the regulation of crypto comport with your views about gun control?
    100 words; more if you're passionate about it.

We left out the tech question this week because most of you will have to learn filtering to handle the [names] list.- Alex

Later September 20, 1999: The scribe's notes from class two are up. Week 3 Readings are also up.- Alex

September 20, 1999: Two quick news bytes: NameSecure, a registrar competitor to NSI introduced an alternative (new) domain name dispute resolution policy and, as discussed in class, President Clinton relaxed crypto exports. - Alex

September 16, 1999: To clear up any misunderstanding various e-mails may have caused. If you have not already submitted your assignments for this week. E-mail them to ishelp@eon.law.harvard.edu as the text of the message by class time today. If you have already e-mailed your assignments or posted them to the courseware then you needn't e-mail them now.- Alex

September 13, 1999: We have extended the registration deadline untill 9 PM tonight. So register now! That extension means that the assignments will not be viewable through the courseware untill tomorrow morning, but, don't despair. A preview of the homework assignments appears below:

    1) Who own the root DNS? (500 words)
    2) Virtual Works, a web consulting firm in Reston, VA owns and uses vw.net. Volkswagen, the auto maker, owns and uses vw.com and claims rights in the mark "VW". Volkswagen has sued Virtual Works. Who should prevail and why?(250 words)
    3) Is your last name taken as a domain name? For example, mine "Macgillivray", is taken at macgillivray.com and macgillivray.net but not by me and is not taken at not macgillivray.ca (I'm canadian). For a bonus, in which gTLDs is your last name taken and by whom?
Question 3 is an example of the type of short hands-on technical question we will give each week to get you to actually immerse yourself in the technology -- if only slightly. These questions are not meant to be very time consuming or require a Computer Science degree, however, you may always ask for help from the TFs if you are stuck. -Alex

Later September 12, 1999: 80 students have already registered for the course software. We will be "admitting" those students to the courseware at 10PM tonight (Sunday) so you have untill then to join that list by registering. You will get an e-mail when admitted to the courseware. -Alex

September 12, 1999: Some students have asked whether the readings posted on this page (under the Sept. 10 news item) are required reading for the course. They are not. Readings on this page, unless explicitly referred to as required readings, are optional. Sorry for the confusion. -Alex

September 10, 1999: 25 students have already registered for the course software. You must register by Sunday night! Also, in the news today, is a c|net story entitled "Domain name ruling favors small businesses" (or go to the Slashdot discussion of the article) and a zdnet article which highlights the importance of names, "The Internet name game" -- I bet Stiv.com is taken as you read this. - Alex

Later September 9, 1999: If you have any problem registering, please e-mail Alex.- Alex

September 9, 1999: Your assignments for the first week of class will be available on Monday from this web site but first, you need to register with our courseware now. The deadline for registration is Sunday night.- Alex


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