Internet Law 2001: Syllabus

St. John's University School of Law

Professor Wendy Seltzer, email
Telephone: (212) 715-7815

Week 1: Introduction

No assigned reading.
Course Information
Current Assignment

Week 2: What is the Nature of the Internet?

  • American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno, 929 F.Supp. 824 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (affirmed, Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 117 S.Ct. 2329, 1997). Read the findings of fact (paragraphs #1-48) and skim the rest.
  • Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace ("Code"), chapters 1-3
  • John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
  • skim Hobbes' Internet Timeline
    The District Court in ACLU v. Reno granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Communications Decency Act, section 223, which imposed criminal penalties for making "indecent" or "patently offensive" material available to minors. (We will discuss the challenges of blocking and filtering in a few weeks.) What defines the Internet for the ACLU v. Reno court? How does their view of the facts shape the judges' legal conclusions, and might counsel have argued differently? How does this court's Internet compare to Lessig's? to Barlow's?
  • Week 3: Management or Governance?

  • Sharon Eisner Gillett and Mitchell Kapor, The Self-governing Internet: Coordination by Design
  • Request for Comments (RFC) 1958: Architectural Principles of the Internet
  • ICANN Fact Sheet
  • United States Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Management of Internet Names and Addresses (The "White Paper")
  • ICANN Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws (browse online)
  • Browse the ICANN public meeting archives online
  • Spend 15 minutes browsing
  • Lessig, Code, chapters 4-7.
  • Browse one of
    The RFCs (Requests for Comment) are a series of notes, describing and standardizing the Internet's technical protocols and policies. As the Internet Engineering Task Force's credo states "We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code." The RFCs help make the code of the Internet run.

    As the Internet assumed a larger commercial role, the Clinton administration took interest. The White Paper represents its more political approach to Internet management. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the organization formed at the conclusion of the White Paper process. How well does it fill the role? What is ICANN's role?

  • Week 4: Jurisdiction and Overlapping Sovereignties

    Who can be sued where on the global Internet? Is online activity punishable everywhere or nowhere? Focus on the factual settings and think about where these activities should be subject to jurisdiction.

    Week 5: Speech 1: "We Must Protect the Children"

    Required Reading:

    Be aware of the chronology of filtering legislation and ligitation:

    CDA: Communications Decency Act (1996), purported to regulate the access of minors to "indecent" and "patently offensive" speech on the Internet. The CDA's child-protection provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 117 S.Ct. 2329 (1997)

    COPA (a.k.a. Son of CDA): Child Online Protection Act (1998), imposed criminal liability on anyone who "makes any communication for commercial purposes that is available to any minor and that includes any material that is harmful to minors"; technical prevention is an affirmative defense. Enforcement enjoined by Philadelphia District Court and Third Circuit, now on certiorari to the Supreme Court as Ashcroft v. ACLU. COPA as amended.

    Mainstream Loudon v. Board of Trustees, 24 F. Supp. 2d 552 (ED Va. 1998). Public library's "Policy on Internet Sexual Harassment" mandated filters on all public Internet-access computers. Library patrons and websites sued and won an injunction against the law's enforcement.

    CIPA or CHIPA: Children's Internet Protection Act (2001). Uses federal e-rate funding to mandate filtering of Internet access in public schools and libraries. Subject of two pending lawsuits by the ACLU and ALA; trial scheduled for 2002.

    Note also the CPPA, Child Pornography Prevention Act (1996), criminalizing production of "virtual child pornography." Portions of that law were found unconstitutional in Free Speech Coalition v. Reno, 198 F.3d 1083 (9th Cir. 1999), cert. granted sub nom Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.

    Additional Resources:

    Week 6: Speech 2: Anonymity and/or Accountability


    Not Required

    Week 7: Introduction to Intellectual Property on the Web

    This week's session introduces the intellectual property issues we will study in greater depth in upcoming weeks, and the application of off-line standards to the Web.

    Statutory authority: selected sections from Copyright Act, Lanham Trademark Act, and Patent Act 17 U.S.C. 102, 106, 107, 117; 15 U.S.C. 1125; 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103

    The Economy of Ideas, John Perry Barlow, Wired, March 1994

    The following are some of the cases and situations we will discuss in class. They are not required reading for this week. In thinking about how far to protect information, it's also useful to consider the underlying economics. Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian's Information Rules, A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy offers one set of analyses.

    Week 8: Doing Business Online

    Week 9: Privacy, Spam, and Modes of Regulation

    Week 10: Copyright, Copy Protection, Copyleft

  • Lessig, Code, chapters 8, 10
  • Who Will Own Your Next Good Idea, Charles C. Mann, Atlantic Monthly, September 1998

    Week 11: Domain Names and Cybersquatting

    Week 12: Antitrust in Cyberspace

    Week 13: Security and Encryption

    No Class This Week, enjoy your turkey and cranberries.

    Week 14: Conclusion: Digital Music Case Study