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Freshman Seminar, Cyberspace in Court: Law of the Internet - Fall 2011

Cyberspace in Court: Law of the Internet

Phillip R. Malone (Harvard Law School)

Half course (fall term) Monday, 3-5

The Internet is at once a constructive and disruptive technology. The migration of more and more of our society, culture, and lives online offers unprecedented opportunities for everyone to do new and amazing things. At the same time, that migration creates conflicts and collisions that no one could have anticipated even a few years ago. Partisans in these conflicts frequently turn to the courts and/or to the legislative branch for the outcomes they desire.

This seminar will consider how some of the most important and intriguing collisions of interests in the online space have played out or are playing out now in lawsuits in the courts or in proposals before legislatures, both in the U.S. and abroad. These include highly visible controversies involving Google, Facebook, YouTube, Craigslist, wikileaks, Anonymous and others.

The seminar’s focus will center on a cluster of topics that includes copyright and fair use, peer-to-peer file sharing, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the proposed PROTECT IP Act; online speech, anonymity, and accountability; privacy in the context of social networking, behavioral targeting, data mining and GPS tracking; hacking and cybercrime; and citizen journalism, new media and the future of journalism. We will adjust our precise topics and the attention we give to each based on students’ interests. The seminar ultimately will examine broad questions of social and technology policy through the lens of law and legal disputes.

The seminar will stress rigorous analysis and utilize a practical, problem-solving approach. No technical knowledge is required but students should be open to experimenting with new information technologies in a learning environment. Course requirements will include active participation in class discussions and occasional short exercises, regular reading of a handful of Internet-law blogs, a handful of short blog posts during the semester, and a team-written final paper or equivalent special project due at the end of the semester.