Internet has initiated a series of fundamental shifts in our
information ecosystem. First, anyone with a computer and Internet access
can create a message, while the costs of production have dramatically
decreased in the digital age. Second, the message network of the
Internet enables global and real-time transmission of information at
marginal costs close to zero. Third, the Internet leads to an
unprecedented level of access both to information infrastructure and
content. Fourth, the Internet has shaped what users do with information.
These four shifts have in turn permitted the emergence of new
businesses and business models: Wikipedia and YouTube illustrate the
power of user-created content. RapidShare and Soundcloud are two
examples of new forms of content distribution. Search engines like
Google or projects such as the Digital Public Library of America are the
symbols of new ways to access information. And sites like YouTube or
Facebook illustrate the increased levels of interactivity among users on
the one hand and content on the other.
In this seminar, Urs Gasser will work with a small group of students
to gain a deeper understanding of the legal implications of these
seismic shifts at the intersection of law, technology, and new business
models. The seminar takes a phenomenological approach: Instead of
dividing topics along the lines of traditional areas of law (such as,
e.g., competition law, privacy, IP, etc.), we will discuss the
multi-faceted legal questions in their respective context, based on
studies of recent cases and developments. The seminar also takes into
account that online businesses operate in a global environment. While
addressing key questions such as, for example, the liability of online
intermediaries, we will be discussing statutory and case law from both
the U.S. and from Europe. Urs Gasser will invite a small group of
outside speakers to participate in a subset of class meetings.
The course has three main objectives. First, it seeks to familarize
the students with important and enduring changes in the information
economy. Second, it analyzes – focusing on online businesses – the key
legal and regulatory problems faced by decision-makers in the private
(and public) sector. Third, it aims to introduce a set of frameworks and
analytical tools that might be helpful to lawyers when dealing with
future shifts triggered by the Internet.
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