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Internet & Society: The Technologies and Politics of Control - Spring 2002

Course Description: This course examines current legal, political, and technical struggles for control/ownership of the global Internet and its content. The course will draw upon a growing body of cyberlaw cases and commentary, class members' research, and participation by invited guests, including lobbyists, politicians, journalists, and scholars from the HLS faculty and elsewhere.

Course themes include the interaction between emerging Internet self-governance regimes and rule by traditional sovereigns; the expression of conflicting interests of commercial and individual Internet speakers/broadcasters; new modes of control over widely distributed intellectual property ("privication"); and the potential for market giants and other architects of Internet technologies to constrain behavior online in ways governments find difficult to assimilate. Classroom discussion of these topics will be augmented by online discussion software through which students will have one-on-one exchanges about issues in the course. There are no technical or substantive prerequisites, but students should be prepared to use and experiment with new technologies as part of their coursework and participation. An extra tech review session-both for use of the Internet adjunct to the class, and to help understand the technology underlying the substantive policy issues-will be scheduled to go over some architectural basics of the Net.

This will be a 3-credit course (2 classroom credits + 1 non-classroom credit). This reflects an Internet-driven "question exchange" that will be a weekly part of the course assignments, plus a 15-page paper due at the end of the course. The course's 3 credits alone do not satisfy the Written Work Requirement but additional credit for the Written Work Requirement may be available. Students interested in writing their third-year paper in conjunction with this course should contact the instructor. The course may occasionally meet contemporaneously with MIT's "Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier." Such meetings will be during the course's regular time slot, but may meet in Ames Courtroom or on the MIT campus.