The Cyberlaw Clinic is pleased to report that earlier today the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General released its internal audit of the FBI’s use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act from 2007–2009. Release of the Inspector General report comes soon after the Clinic prepared a FOIA request seeking a copy of the report, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.
The Ninth Circuit issued its long-awaited en banc opinion in the case, Garcia v. Google, this week, and the decision is generally a big win for advocates of free speech. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit had previously enjoined YouTube from hosting the controversial Innocence of Muslims video, which received worldwide attention in September 2012 for its disparaging remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Plaintiff Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress who appeared in Innocence of Muslims, claimed a copyright interest in the film based on her performance and used that purported copyright as grounds to demand YouTube remove the video.
Yesterday was a busy day before the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts (SJC), as the Court heard arguments in Commonwealth v. Estabrook and Commonwealth v. Lucas. The Cyberlaw Clinic filed amicus briefs in both cases. Clinic students Naomi Gilens (JD ’16) and Sandra Hanian (JD ’15) attended the arguments on Thursday, along with Clinical Instructor Vivek Krishnamurthy and Clinical Fellow Andy Sellars.
Spring 2015 Cyberlaw Clinic students Jack Xu and Cecillia Xie joined the Clinic’s Managing Director Chris Bavitz on a trip to Seattle last month to participate in the WeRobot 2015 robotics law and policy conference at University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. Accompanied by Chelsea Barabas of the MIT Center for Civic Media, the Clinic’s representatives attended the conference to present their working draft paper entitled, “Legal and Ethical Issues in the Use of Telepresence Robots: Best Practices and Toolkit.” J. Nathan Matias, also of the Center for Civic Media, contributed to the paper but was unable to attend the event.
I attended a fantastic event last week, hosted by the Clinic’s good friend (and soon-to-be colleague) Susan Crawford at Columbia University‘s Tow Center For Digital Journalism. The event followed a series of workshops that Susan hosted at the Tow Center, with generous support from the Ford Foundation, aimed at answering the following question: “What could a university center do to advance policymaking and planning for fiber-optic networks that provide everyone in the United States with high-speed Internet access and (a) improve local governance and (b) support civic journalism?”
The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (PDF) this week in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in Commonwealth v. Estabrook, SJC–11833. The case concerns location privacy and cell phone technology — specifically, whether law enforcement can gather a large amount of cell phone location information if it only plans to use a small fraction of that information in a prosecution. This is the third brief the Clinic has filed on location privacy issues in Massachusetts, including briefs for EFF in Commonwealth v. Augustine and Commonwealth v. Rousseau in 2013.
On Tuesday, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (PDF) in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on behalf of the New England First Amendment Coalition, Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC (owners of the Boston Globe), Hearst Television, Inc. (owners of WCVB-TV Channel 5 in Boston), the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, Inc., and the New England Society of Newspaper Editors in Commonwealth v. Lucas, SJC-11830. The case was brought under the Massachusetts false campaign speech law, M.G.L. ch. 56 § 42 (“Section 42″). The defendant in the case, a treasurer with a political action committee that sent a mailer in the 2014 state election, challenged the constitutionality of the statute under the First Amendment and Article 16 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.
I wrote a guest post over at the HLS Admissions Office blog, highlighting just some of the great programs and initiatives going on at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Separate and apart from the Cyberlaw Clinic (which is based at Berkman), the Center’s research staff, core team, Geeks, and Fellows community do extraordinary work on all manner of issues relating to technology and the Internet. The post follows a great piece at “Harvard Law Today,” focusing more broadly on resources and programming for those interested in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship at HLS and around the University.
We at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society — and, in particular, here at the Cyberlaw Clinic — are thrilled to share today’s announcement from our friends and frequent collaborators at the MIT Media Lab of the Lab’s new Digital Currency Initiative. MIT has been a leader on both the study and implementation of bitcoin-based systems, with the MIT Bitcoin Club bringing students and others together to think about the development of bitcoin-related platforms and the MIT Bitcoin Project putting virtual currency in the virtual hands of students in an effort to generate interest in emerging payment systems. We are ecstatic to see the Media Lab put its weight behind research on and facilitation of blockchain-based technologies and welcome the effort to formalize its role as a neutral hub and convening force on the topic of digital currency.
As we reported way back in October 2013, the Cyberlaw Clinic was pleased to support the Electronic Frontier Foundation in its challenge to the so-called “podcasting patent,” claimed by Personal Audio LLC. EFF sought inter partes review of key claims in the patent — patent number 8,112,504 (a/k/a the “‘504 patent”) — before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. On Friday, April 10, 2015, the USPTO issued its decision invalidating those claims. In the words of Dan Nazer, who holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents at EFF, “We’re glad the Patent Office recognized what we all knew: ‘podcasting’ had been around for many years and this company does not own it.” Congratulations to EFF and podcasters everywhere!