I had the privilege of attending 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!
Harvard Law School 1Ls and 2Ls should note that registration for HLS clinics during the 2015-16 academic year takes place on Wednesday April 1st and Thursday April 2nd. Details are available on the HLS Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs’ website. In advance of registration, the HLS Clinical Fair will take place on Wednesday, March 25th from 6:00 to 8:oo pm. The Fair is a great opportunity to meet representatives from all the HLS clinics, and the Cyberlaw Clinic staff will be there to tell you about our work. Our staff also invites any students interested in enrolling in the Cyberlaw Clinic next year to an open house on Friday, March 27th from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in our offices on the garden level of 23 Everett Street. Clinic staff and students will be around and available to chat about their experiences. We hope to see you there!
Today marks the beginning of Fair Use Week, a celebration of the doctrine of fair use in copyright law. Fair use allows a judge to decide – using a set of four factors articulated by the Copyright Act to guide the analysis – that a person can use another’s copyrighted work without permission or payment, despite the copyright holder’s normal ability to control the use.
The Clinic is pleased to have played a role in preparing a far-reaching new report released by the Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, addressing questions about intermediary liability around the world. The report is a first output of a larger initiative on the governance of online intermediaries. It consists of: (a) a case study series exploring online intermediary liability frameworks and issues in Brazil, the European Union, India, South Korea, the United States, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam; and (b) a synthesis paper that seeks to distill key observations and provide a high-level analysis of some of the structural elements that characterize varying governance frameworks, with a focus on intermediary liability regimes and their evolution. Clinical Fellow Andy Sellars helped to support the project overall, and he — along with the Clinic’s Managing Director Chris Bavitz and two summer 2014 Cyberlaw Clinic interns, Nick DeCoster and Michael Lambert — helped to craft the US case study.
On Friday, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed a comment on behalf of a coalition of medical device researchers in the Library of Congress’s triennial rulemaking regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anticircumvention provisions. As we noted in the blog post from when the Clinic filed an initial petition in this rulemaking, every three years the Librarian of Congress, at the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, considers exemptions to the general law against circumventing technological measures that prevent the public from accessing copyrighted works. These exemptions are granted in cases where the law against circumventing technological measures around copyrighted works unduly prevents the public from making lawful uses of those works. (For more on anti-circumvention law, see the Chilling Effects FAQ.)