On Tuesday, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued its ruling in Commonwealth v. Augustine (available here). The Court ruled that police officers need to obtain a warrant before they obtain information about your location from a cell phone service provider. The Cyberlaw Clinic filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, arguing against warrantless collection of location records. The Court agreed that location data is sufficiently sensitive to require constitutional protection, building on its decision last year requiring warrants for GPS tracking.
Harvard Law School students interested in the Cyberlaw Clinic are invited to meet the Clinic’s supervising attorneys over lunch on Thursday, February 20, 2014 from 12:00 noon – 1:00 pm in WCC 5052. Pizza will be served. Instructors from the Clinic will offer perspectives on the Clinic’s docket and describe their practice-based approach to teaching technology law and advocacy skills.
As we make our way through the short 2014 winter term and start thinking ahead to spring, it seems like a good time to take stock of goings-on here at the Cyberlaw Clinic over the past twelve months.
On Monday, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Massachusetts, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the case of Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt, SJC No. 11358. In the brief, we argue that the Fifth Amendment and article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights prohibit the government from compelling a defendant to decrypt their electronic data for use against them in criminal proceedings because it involves the kind of testimonial acts protected by constitutional protections against self-incrimination.
The Cyberlaw Clinic is excited to be a part of an innovative collaboration launched this week by Fordham Law School’s Center on Law and Information Policy (“CLIP”). CLIP has developed and released a curriculum for privacy education geared toward middle-school students and has teamed up with institutions at law schools nationwide (including Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society) to implement it. The Clinic — in collaboration with Berkman’s Youth and Media Lab – will be helping to adapt and roll out the curriculum to middle-schoolers next spring.
The Cyberlaw Clinic is pleased to have assisted the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other attorneys working pro bono in filing a formal challenge to the so-called “podcasting patent.” Personal Audio LLC has relied on the patent to shake down podcasters big and small for licensing fees. The petition for inter partes review, presented yesterday to the US Patent and Trademark Office, is the first legal filing in EFF’s “Save Podcasting” campaign launched in May. If the petition is successful, podcasters will be able to rest easy and keep doing what they have been doing for decades without paying licensing fees. The full text of the petition is available here, and more details are available on the EFF website.
Today, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The case is Commonwealth v. Augustine, and the issue is whether law enforcement officers can obtain someone’s cell phone location data without first obtaining a warrant.
The Sixth Circuit issued an important decision today in Seaton v. TripAdvisor, LLC, a case concerning Tennessee defamation law and the scope of liability for online intermediaries that aggregate user-submitted content (in this case, hotel reviews). The Cyberlaw Clinic submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Digital Media Law Project in support of defendant TripAdvisor, and we’re pleased to report the Court of Appeals — like the District Court below — sided with TripAdvisor and rejected the plaintiff’s claims.
The Cyberlaw Clinic has been working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to make use of the “Third-Party Pre-Issuance Submission” process to file what we call “presubs.” This process was introduced in 2012 to allow the public to help patent examiners understand the state of the art before issuing patents. Since anyone, even a non-lawyer, can use this process, it provides the opportunity to crowdsource the search for relevant prior art and prevent overly-broad patents from issuing and harming innovation.