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Frequently Asked Questions

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    What is Openlaw?

    Openlaw is an experiment in crafting legal argument in an open forum. With your assistance, we will develop arguments, draft pleadings, and edit briefs online. You are invited to join the process by adding thoughts to the "brainstorm" bulletin boards, drafting and commenting on drafts in progress, and suggesting reference sources.

    Why Openlaw?

    Building on the model of open source software, we believe that an open development process best harnesses the distributed resources of the Internet community. What we lose in secrecy, we expect to regain in depth of sources and breadth of argument.

    How can I join?

    We welcome all participants in our drafting process. To join the team, follow the register link on the sidebar and enter your email address and a chosen username and password (all other information is optional). Registration will give you access to all portions of the Openlaw site.

    Where do I begin?

    Head to any of the homepages for the individual cases, listed on the Openlaw front page and in the sidebar. Each one will have its own process, and may use different tools, including mailing lists, web discussion forums, web-based annotation, chats, video presentations, and more. To participate in some of the discussion areas, you may be asked to register first.

    How else can I support the project?

    The first case we are litigating with Openlaw is Eldred v. Ashcroft (formerly Eldred v. Reno), a challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act that added 20 years to the copyright exclusion period. As well as crafting legal arguments here, you can support our fight for the public domain by joining Copyright's Commons, a coalition against the copyright extension, and by marking your works with a counter-copyright, [cc].

    March 13, 2002 -- Eldred Legal Defense Fund
    While the lawyers in this case are donating their time, there are significant expenses the community could help us meet. If you want to help, please send a check to:
       Eldred Legal Defense Fund
    c/o Carinne Johnson
    Stanford Law School
    Crown Quadrangle
    559 Nathan Abbott Way
    Stanford, CA 94305-8610

    or via PayPal to

    Any money left over will be contributed to an appropriate charity.

    In Openlaw/DVD, we are helping the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to defend public freedom to use digital media. We are developing arguments in defense of the individuals and web publishers being sued by the movie industry for posting DeCSS code, allegedly to break the access controls on DVD, and earlier submitted an amicus brief in the New York case.

    In our next case, open access, we will assist four Massachusetts communities in an ongoing legal battle with AT&T over open access. The communities filed a request with the Commonwealth's Department of Telecommunications and Energy's (DTE) Cable Television Division for full hearings on whether open access is in the public interest. The communities earlier refused to allow transfer of cable licenses from MediaOne to AT&T unless AT&T agreed to offer Internet Service Providers non-discriminatory access to the broadband network.

    Openlaw is also hosting discussions of the ongoing Microsoft Case.

    Can I add a case to Openlaw?

    As a general rule, the Berkman Center does not (and cannot) provide individual legal assistance. The Openlaw project is still in its formative stages as we determine how open legal collaboration can work. If you have a case that you believe fits with the Berkman Center's public interest focus (see our mission and projects pages), and feel that an open discussion forum would be useful, you may contact a Berkman Center faculty member or fellow, or contact the Openlaw project coordinators. Note that we cannot host independent forums here.

    How can I suggest a new tool or discussion format?

    We're always looking for ways to improve the Openlaw process, in addition to the collaboration tools listed here. If you have technical or procedural suggestions, or thoughts that do not relate to a particular legal matter, please send them to

    Berkman Center for Internet & Society