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Clinic Files Brief Supporting Cert Petition in Oracle v. Google

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Source: Pixabay

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus curiae brief (.pdf) in the United States Supreme Court in Oracle v. Google, No. 18-956, on behalf of a group of intellectual property law scholars. The brief supported Google’s petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Google’s petition is the latest stage in a nearly decade-long litigation battle between Oracle and Google concerning Google’s use of Oracle’s application programming interface (“API”) in Google’s Android smartphone platform.  The case raises two major sets of copyright issues.  The first concerns the scope of copyright protection for APIs and the line between protectable expression and purely functional elements of computer code.  The second concerns whether, if an API is protected by copyright, use of that API may fall under fair use. The Clinic’s brief supports Google on the second of those points, urging the Court to take the case and resolve the fair use issue.

By way of background, in 2010, Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement. A jury in the Northern District of California reached a verdict in favor of Google on May 31, 2012. Oracle appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reversed the verdict and remanded for a retrial.  The Federal Circuit held that the “structure, sequence and organization” of software is copyrightable. Google petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which was denied.

A second trial began in 2016 and ended with another verdict for Google — this time on the grounds that Google’s use of the Oracle API constituted fair use within the meaning of Section 107 of the Copyright Act.  The Federal Circuit reversed again, this time holding that Google’s use of Oracle’s API code was not fair use.

Amici who joined the Clinic’s brief are intellectual property scholars who are concerned that the Federal Circuit’s decision below misapplied the fair use doctrine. In arguing that the Supreme Court should grant certiorari in this case, amici described at least three ways in which circuits have split in applying fair use standards.  First, while several other circuits have been applying the clear error standard, the Ninth Circuit interpreted the Supreme Court’s decision in Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539 (1985) to require de novo review of fair use determinations. Second, the Supreme Court first articulated the “transformative use” test for fair use in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994), but lower courts have had trouble drawing clear lines in its application. Third, the Supreme Court never clarified the relationship between Campbell and Harper, resulting in some courts ruling that Campbell’s “transformativeness” test overruled Harper’s market-oriented test based on 17 U.S.C. § 107, while others held on to Harper’s holding, creating a circuit split in fair use applications. The brief concluded by asking the Court to grant Google’s petition for a writ of certiorariand hear the case on its merits.

Amici on the brief included:

  • Prof. Michael Kasdan is a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York University School of Law;
  • Prof. Orly Lobel is the Don Weckstein Professor of Labor and Employment Law at University of San Diego School of Law;
  • Prof. Lydia Loren is the Henry J. Casey Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School;
  • Prof. Mark McKenna is the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School;
  • Prof. Lateef Mtima is a Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law;
  • Prof. Elizabeth L. Rosenblatt is an Associate Professor of Law at Whittier School of Law, and a Visiting Professor of Law at University of California, Davis, School of Law;
  • Christopher B. Seaman is an Associate Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law; and
  • Rebecca Tushnet is the Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard Law School.

Many other amicus briefs supported Google’s petition for certiorari, including a brief (.pdf) filed by a separate copyright scholars coalition led by Pam Samuelson and Catherine Crump at UC Berkeley and a team from Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. That brief focused on questions of copyrightability and the scope of protection for APIs.

Fall 2018 Cyberlaw Clinic students Robert Joynt and Madeline Salinas and Spring 2019 Advanced Cyberlaw Clinic students LeHeng Li and Jaisel Patel contributed to the amicus brief, working with Clinical Professor Christopher Bavitz. The Clinic team collaborated closely with Professor Rebecca Tushnet to develop the arguments in this brief.

Template License and Collaboration Agreements for AI Art

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic 

As the Cyberlaw Clinic has continued to deepen its practice in AI-generated art (and as AI art has increasingly cropped up in the news), it’s become clear that developers and artists are looking for guidance on how to handle rights in these new works. Clinical Instructors Jessica Fjeld and Mason Kortz have previously written about how to conceptualize the anatomy of AI art for rights purposes; translating that theory into practice was an obvious next step, and today marks the release of a new set of templates created with input from Sarah Schwettmann and SJ Klein of MIT.

We’ve launched the template project with agreements for the two most common situations:

  • license template, for when someone undertaking an AI art project wants to use existing works of art (music, visual art, writing, etc.) as inputs for their system, for example as training data
  • collaboration agreement template, for when two or more people are working together to build, train, and run an AI art system

The templates are accompanied by a how-to guide, which explains the choices that the template authors made in drafting the agreements, and what additional information users will need to provide.

While AI art projects often produce cutting-edge, boundary-blurring results, the community that produces them is collaborative and interdependent. For this reason, the templates encourage (but do not require) parties participating in the creation of these works to open-source their outputs, under Creative Commons or comparable licenses.

The licenses are themselves released under a CC0 public domain dedication, and we hope users will iterate on them and share useful changes back with the community through Github.

Cyberlaw Clinic Files Amicus Brief for Former Magistrate Judges re: Surveillance Orders

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Source: Pexels

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of a group of former United States Magistrate Judges, supporting the unsealing of government surveillance orders and applications. The brief supports Jason Leopold, a BuzzFeed News journalist, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (“RCFP”). The appeal arises out of a petition that Leopold filed in the D.C. District Court to unseal applications and orders for pen registers, trap and trace devices, tracking devices, stored email, and other types of surveillance, many of which remain sealed indefinitely in practice. He argued that, once the seal is no longer necessary, public access to these judicial records is required under the First Amendment and common law right of access to court records. Leopold was later joined by RCFP.

The parties originally worked with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia to narrow the scope of the request, but although some information was turned over, the majority of the applications and orders remained sealed. On February 26, 2018, the district court denied petitioners access to any additional old surveillance matters and granted only very limited access to surveillance applications and orders going forward. The court based its decision largely on the administrative burden the full request would place on the government.

Leopold and RCFP have appealed the district court decision to the D.C. Circuit, asking for the court to grant access to the records under the First Amendment and the common law right of access to judicial records. Although the lower court decision is specific to the context of the D.C. district, Leopold’s case has the potential to shape how federal courts generally handle requests for information regarding government surveillance practices.

Amici are all former United States magistrate judges with a shared interest in unsealing federal surveillance orders and a diverse set of experiences on and off the bench:

  • Judge Mildred Methvin has served as judge in Louisiana, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and is a former AUSA. She is currently an attorney and mediator in Louisiana.
  • Judge Brian Owsley has served as a judge in Texas and is a former trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.  He is currently an assistant professor of law at University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law.
  • Judge Viktor Pohorelsky served as a judge in New York. Prior to his judicial appointment, he had a fourteen-year career as a litigator in private practice and as an AUSA.
  • Judge Stephen Smith served as a judge in Texas and is the current director of the Fourth Amendment & Open Courts program at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
  • Judge David Waxse served as a judge in Kansas and is the former President of the Kansas Bar Association and former Chair of the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Based on their more than 90 years of collective experience on the bench, amici explain the practical consequences of unsealing surveillance matters. Amici outline the process of unsealing surveillance applications and orders in their courtrooms and discuss places where the administrative burden can be reduced, including the shift to e-filing of sealed surveillance applications and orders.

Amici further explain why the burdens of unsealing are not as dire as the district court predicted: surveillance filings can be easily redacted, the majority of unsealings of old surveillance matters proceed unopposed, and properly redacted surveillance documents present no real risk to law enforcement practices. Amici also explain the downsides of considering government inconvenience when determining whether the public should have access to surveillance orders. As administrative practices vary greatly across judges and across government offices, taking the administrative burden into account would effectively make the common law right depend on the size, efficiency, and workload of the government office who made the request or the judge who received it.

The Cyberlaw Clinic is honored to have represented such august amici and hopes the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will seriously consider their input. Fall 2018 Cyberlaw Clinic student Akua Abu helped develop arguments for the brief, and the brief was written by Winter 2019 student Alexandra Noonan with assistance from Clinical Fellow Kendra Albert and Clinical Instructor Mason Kortz.

In Suing Boston, Airbnb Argues It’s Not Responsible For Illegal Listings

Via WGBH 

Source: Flickr

By: Isaiah Thompson

Last summer, Boston’s City Council and Mayor Marty Walsh passed Boston’s first ordinance regulating short-term rentals in the city, aimed at allowing homeowners to make extra money while stopping investor owners from buying up real estate to establish de facto Airbnb hotels.

The ordinance allows homeowners to rent extra rooms, or one entire apartment, as long as they register with the city and pay a small fee; and it prohibits short-term rentals by absentee, or so-called “investor” owners.

Airbnb lobbied hard against the measure; when it passed, the company threw the book at the City of Boston: Airbnb sued the city in federal court, arguing the ordinance is illegal.

The lawsuit here could have national implications.

That’s because central to the company’s case is a federal law called the Communications Decency Act – or CDA – specifically, one part of that act known as Section 230.

It says that internet companies can’t be held responsible for what users post on it.

“So basically what that means is I cannot be held responsible as the publisher of information that a user puts up there,” says Mason Kortz. Kortz is a clinical instructional fellow at Harvard Law School Cyber Law Clinic.

“If I post something defamatory about you on Facebook – I can be held liable, Facebook cannot be held liable,” Kortz explains. “Because they didn’t post the defamatory material, they just provided a service.”

In this case, Airbnb is taking aim at parts of Boston’s ordinance that penalize any quote ” booking agent” for listing rentals that violate the city’s new rules.

Airbnb argues it’s just publishing those ads — if people want to post illegal rentals — according to the Communications Decency Act – hey, that’s not Airbnb’s problem.

Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment.

Of course, Airbnb doesn’t just publish other people’s ads – the platform helps users register and post listings, it connects hosts and prospective renters, it provides feedback and ratings – and of course, it takes a cut of the rental proceeds.

“The argument I think Boston is likely to bring here is that they’re not holding Airbnb liable for publishing the advertisements that are put up by third-party hosts,” says Kortz.

“They’re holding them liable for facilitating third-party booking.”

It’s not the first time that argument’s been raised. The City of San Francisco raised the same argument, after Airbnb sued over a similar ordinance there – and a federal district judge sided with San Francisco.

“The district court said publishing the listings was not a problem,” says Eric Goldman, a professor of law at the University of Santa Clara and a co-director of the school’s High Tech Law Institute.

“However the moment that Airbnb took money on behalf of the listing vendor, then the city could regulate its activity and impose basically unrestricted sanctions..”

Airbnb appealed that decision, but the lawsuit was settled before the higher courts could rule one way or another.

That’s why Airbnb’s lawsuit against the City of Boston could set the stage for how and whether local communities across the country can regulate Airbnb and other and other Internet giants.

Goldman, who helped write an amicus brief supporting Airbnb in its motion for an injunction, says he understands cities’ concerns with preserving rental housing. But he disagrees with the district court’s ruling.

“Imagine if we were talking about a business like Ebay … the logic seems to be saying anybody could impose restrictions on Ebay … now Ebay has to be in the business of policing millions of small vendors that it doesn’t have the ability of policing,” Goldman argues. .

“Now we start to say any online market place can be turned into a police state.”

But other legal scholars disagree.

Abbey Stemler is a professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University; Stemler also wrote an amicus brief, in a similar lawsuit brought by Airbnb against the City of Santa Monica – but on behalf of the city, not Airbnb.

“Section 230 has been grossly misinterpreted,” argues Stemler. The act, she says, “has been invoked to say, ‘We cannot be regulated we cannot be deputized to regulate ourselves.”

Stemler agrees that the CDA’s protections in many ways helped foster a better, freer internet – but says that the Act was never meant to immunize deep-pocketed companies like Airbnb from cities’ and towns’ traditional right to govern and regulate their own communities.

“Local communities have to be able to have a say on how these two thing interact, the physical and the digital,” Stemler says.

“Section 230 was never meant to to prohibit all forms of regulation for technologies that use the internet – it simply wasn’t.”

But Stemler says there could be trouble ahead for Boston – especially because of another part of the city’s ordinance, that requires Airbnb to submit regular reports to the city detailing where, when and for how many days its users are engaging in short-term rentals.

Another federal law – also cited in Airbnb’s lawsuit – protects online platforms from sharing user information. And because Airbnb doesn’t make host addresses public, the city will have an uphill battle enforcing its own ordinance without that information.

Stemler says the city might have to settle for spot enforcement – or relying on complaints.

Meanwhile, Airbnb and the city have called a temporary cease-fire: the city agreed to hold off enforcing the parts of its ordinance that could punish Airbnb, while the federal judge overseeing the cases decides whether or not to grant Airbnb a temporary injunction.

The ordinance remains in full effect for prospective hosts.

Clinic Releases Guide to Anti-Circumvention Exemption for Software Preservation

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic 

The Cyberlaw Clinic is pleased to announce the release of “A Preservationist’s Guide to the DMCA Exemption for Software Preservation,” a document created in collaboration with the Software Preservation Network and hosted on the SPN website. The guide —authored by fall 2018 Cyberlaw Clinic student Kee Young Lee and Clinical Fellow Kendra Albert — builds on work that the Clinic and SPN have done together over the past year on the 2018 round of anti-circumvention exemptions announced by the Copyright Office in October of this year.

As we noted in a previous blog post, the Copyright Office conducts a rulemaking every three years to identify situations in which individuals should be exempt from liability under Section 1201 of the Copyright Act in cases where they circumvent a “technical measure that effectively controls access” to a copyrighted work. We were pleased that the latest round of exemptions included one that allows libraries, archives, and museums to circumvent technological protection measures on certain lawfully acquired software for the purposes of preserving software and materials that depend on it. The guide released today aims to frame that exemption in useful, practical terms for the librarians and archivists who will rely on and benefit from it.  “Getting the exemption is just the first step — SPN and the Cyberlaw Clinic are dedicated to supporting practitioners in using the exemption to preserve software,” said Mx. Albert.  “This is the first of a set of guides we plan to release to help institutions make the most of their rights under the law.”

The Sneaky Fight to Give Cable Lines Free Speech Rights

Via Wired  


Source: Flickr

By: Susan Crawford

When you make a phone call, I’m willing to bet you don’t think of the phone line as having free speech rights of its own. That phone line has one job: getting the sound of your voice to the place you want it to go. It isn’t planning to deliver a speech or getting ready to go on Broadway. Although life may be boring for the phone line as a result, it is actually getting a great deal: The phone line can’t get blamed for whatever lousy thing you say during your call.

But if the cable industry gets its way, internet access—today’s basic utility—will be treated just like the press for First Amendment purposes, giving it a free pass in perpetuity from any governmental oversight. In the US, the First Amendment gives the press the right to be free from governmental interference when it publishes or speaks. Any laws or regulations restricting that speech are likely to be subject to rigorous scrutiny by courts and found unconstitutional.

It seems counterintuitive that a phone line could be a “speaker.” But the cable industry very much wants to ensure that the act of transmittingspeech from Point A to Point B is protected by the First Amendment, so that making a cable connection carry any speech it isn’t interested in amounts to unconstitutional “forced speech.”

The addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court roster gives the industry a significant boost. In a 2017 DC Circuit dissenting opinion, Justice Kavanaugh made it clear that he supports giving internet access providers “speaker” privileges, saying that “the First Amendment bars the Government from restricting the editorial discretion of Internet service providers.”

Everything we do and every policy we care about—according a world-class education to every child, responding to climate change, ensuring access to health care—depends on reliable, cheap, nondiscriminatory internet access. So wrapping the internet access industry in the flag of the First Amendment is a terrible idea. It’s a particularly bad idea when it comes to the cable industry, which in most American metros is a local monopoly. Comcast, for example, has very deep pockets and lots of side businesses, giving it both the ability and incentive to pick and choose among the speeches (read: businesses) it prefers.

What’s amazing is that the cable industry seems happy to accept the increased liability that accompanies being treated like a newspaper. Apparently freedom from all rules is worth the risk of someday dealing with lawsuits. The reason: They’ve got plenty of cash to pay lawyers with. It’s a good time to be Spectrum or Comcast.

All the furor over Facebook and Amazon has diverted public attention from Comcast and Charter, just when the cable industry’s risk of regulation has been substantially eliminated through the helpfulness of FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Both companies are peacefully coining profits.

Charter, which sells connectivity under the Spectrum moniker, made about $11 billion during the third quarter of 2018, a period when it added more than 300,000 new subscribers to its roster, and Wall Street is pleased with its “pricing power.” The company can raise its prices whenever it wants, because it faces little or no competition in the cities where it operates. Margins are growing, the company is buying back its stock, and its capital expenses are going down. Charter is in a milking phase, as is Comcast, which just had one of its best quarters in years. As analyst Craig Moffett puts it, cable companies are “infrastructure providers.” And their infrastructure is essentially unchallenged, either by competition or oversight.

The cable industry’s constitutional gambit is part of a broad movement to use the First Amendment as a tool to avoid regulation. Justice Elena Kagan has colorfully described this movement as the “weaponizing” of free speech rights, saying that companies are “turning the First Amendment into a sword.” The public interest group Public Knowledge recently filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit pointing to the Kimberly-Clark corporation, which claimed a First Amendment right to label wipes as “flushable” even if it disagreed with a governmental assessment that they weren’t. A drug supplier (identified only as M7) recently claimed that selling lethal drugs suitable for use in executions to a state was an “expression of political views, no different than signing a referendum petition or selling a T-shirt.”

Those examples sound almost funny. But for the cable industry, this is serious business—a strategy that will have particularly pernicious consequences for communications. Treating the transmission of data as “speech” will make it virtually impossible for the government to say anything at all about internet access. If the government tries to regulate someday, you can be confident that the industry will make a lot of noise in the form of lawsuits focused on cable’s First Amendment rights to carry out its “editorial discretion,” in hopes that Justice Kavanaugh will get a chance to lock in the industry’s status as a member of the press. The “speech” of a handful of giant companies will be privileged over the ability of all Americans—including all other American businesses—to communicate.

Treating these transmitters of online data like constitutionally protected “speakers” would be a disaster. Recently, Charter exercised its “editorial discretion” by refusing to carry the channels of an African American–owned television company, Entertainment Studios, which had been able to make distribution deals with Verizon, AT&T, and DirecTV. Entertainment Studios could barely get a meeting with Charter. It was able to show that white-owned, lesser-known networks were able to sign contracts with Charter during the same period. Charter argued that any racial discrimination claim was blocked by the First Amendment, because laws cannot be used “to force cable companies to accept channels they do not wish to carry.” Last month, the Ninth Circuit refused to go along with this argument, pointing out in simple language that Charter was prohibited from discriminating against networks on the basis of race. Why? Because the Civil Rights Act of 1866 says so.

Given another chance, Charter or Comcast will unquestionably bring this same “forced speech” argument into the context of internet access. They might argue, for example, that a particular online site does not have a right to reach consumers and businesses. Justice Kavanaugh has already signaled his readiness to support this move, saying that “deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN”—the cable TV channel, something a payTV provider can choose whether to carry—”and deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN.com“—the website, presumably reachable over the internet—”are not meaningfully different for First Amendment purposes.”

The next time around, the evidence Entertainment Studios was able to muster may not matter, particularly if such disparate treatment isn’t so obviously based on race or other protected classifications. Comcast has already arguedthat a Vermont requirement that it expand its service area “amount[s] to undue speaker-based burdens on Comcast’s protected speech under the First Amendment.”

Right now, the cable industry is unquestionably operating a service that customers view as a utility. But it is subject to vanishingly few obligations. And now it wants to ensure that it will be wrapped in the Constitution if the government ever tries to change this situation. This should be intolerable.

How Podcast Platforms Respond to Hate Speech: Clinic Releases New Memo

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Source: Pixabay

By: Carol Lin and Zach Glasser

Content regulation emerged as a controversial topic earlier this year after right-wing personality and frequent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones had his Infowars podcast removed from most platforms, including Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, and RadioPublic. Amid a social media firestorm, platforms rushed to ban Jones, sometimes within hours of each other, and often without articulating how exactly Jones’ speech violated their terms. The incident drew attention to the ethical and logistical challenges podcasting platforms face in balancing safety, diversity, and respect for free speech principles when articulating what content they allow on their services, and the difficulties in implementing such policies consistently.

Recognizing the importance of a principled approach, the Cyberlaw Clinic is pleased to release a new memorandum on content regulation policy for the podcasting community drafted by current Clinic students Zach Glasser and Carol Lin with Assistant Director Jessica Fjeld. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of podcasting platform RadioPublic, whose co-founder and CEO Jake Shapiro is a member of the Berkman Klein Fellows Advisory Board.

The memo emerged from the Clinic team’s discussions with RadioPublic following the Infowars controversy, and shares the results of our research about how the industry is presently dealing with hateful content through an analysis of major podcast platform content regulation policies. It lays out a concrete range of options platforms have to moderate offensive speech. It’s our hope that this memo helps tailor the wider conversation about content moderation, including the recent release of guidelines from the Change the Terms coalition, to the particular needs of podcasting platforms.

Learn more here.

A Victory for Software Preservation: DMCA Exemption Granted for SPN

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Source: Pixabay

By: Kendra Albert

The Library of Congress handed a significant win to digital preservationists. On October 26, 2018, the Library of Congress granted an exemption to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision for libraries, archives, and museums to circumvent technological protection measures on certain lawfully acquired software for the purposes of preserving software and materials that depend on it. This exemption will significantly reduce the legal risk involved in preserving software that is no longer available for purchase. The new exemptions [went] into effect on October 28, 2018. The announcement came after a year of rulemaking proceedings before the Copyright Office, and the involvement of several semesters of Clinic students, including Evelyn Chang, Anderson Grossman, Jillian Goodman, Erika Herrera, Austin Bohn, and Erin Thomas. You can read our previous blog posts about the Clinic’s involvement here and here.

Background

17 U.S.C. § 1201 prohibits circumvention of a “technical measure that effectively controls access” to a copyrighted work. This provision has the effect of forbidding someone from breaking “digital rights management” or “DRM” technology – think, for example, of the copy-control technologies that restrict copying of DVDs or CDs (containing film or software). Under Section 1201, the circumvention of the access control measure is itself a violation — one can be held liable for violating Section 1201 by breaking DRM even if the underlying use of the work protected by that DRM is lawful. This can lead to strange results — e.g., someone copies a clip from a DVD for educational purposes (clearly a fair use under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, no liability) but breaks DRM on the DVD in doing so (thus violating Section 1201 and incurring potential liability for that violation).

Recognizing this problem, the law provides that the Copyright Office shall conduct a rulemaking proceeding every three years to consider requests for exemptions from liability under Section 1201. Since the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating the seventh triennial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) rulemaking proceedings last fall, the Cyberlaw Clinic has represented the Software Preservation Network (SPN) before the Copyright Office. The SPN and the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) sought an exemption to the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions to allow libraries, archivists, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to preserve software and software-dependent materials. SPN is an organization dedicated to digital preservation and ensuring long term access to software. The LCA represents librarians in the United States and Canada in addressing copyright and related IP issues.

Why Software Preservation Matters

Software is an important part of our daily lives, and it has changed how we interact with the world. Many writers turn to word processing software instead of the typewriter, and many artists turn to graphics tablets instead of the canvas. As a result, many creative works today are “born digital,” unlike traditionally analog works like literary manuscripts or paintings. We even rely on software to create digital copies of these old analog works to protect their contents from the inevitable degradation of the physical media.

This increased dependence on software as a medium for creative expression has led to increased efforts for preservation of software and software-dependent materials by university libraries and research institutions. Preservation of these works indisputably serves two laudable purposes: to allow historians to document an important aspect of modern culture, and to enable researchers to understand how older software worked and how past users experienced that software.

But the unrelenting march of technology stymies the efforts of digital preservationists. New software products become outdated and obsolete rapidly due to continuing advancements in hardware and software. The modern practice in the software industry of periodically releasing new products and versions while dropping support for old products and versions means that archivists and preservationists may never be able to obtain copies of certain software for preservation purposes. And since computer programs often use proprietary file formats that can change across versions, losing access to software also means losing access to digital files that can only be opened using that software. For example, current versions of AutoCAD do not support opening old AutoCAD files. And even if some computer programs currently support backward compatibility, there is no guarantee that they will continue to support old filetypes going forward.

How the Law Gets in the Way of Preserving Software

Despite the importance of software preservation and the known technological challenges faced by digital preservationists, current legal frameworks frustrate, rather than facilitate, preservation efforts. Even if a copy of old software can be located, preservationists may have difficulty seeking licenses or permissions because the current holders of rights to the old software may not be identifiable. The older the software, the more difficult. And even if rightsholders can be located, they may have little incentive to incur the transaction costs associated with licensing their old software because no market exists for the software.

Legally obtaining copies of old computer programs is not the end of preservationists’ troubles. Computer programs often include built-in technological protection measures (TPMs) to prevent access by unauthorized users. TPMs may require the user to provide product keys or passwords, insert a CD or dongle, or connect to an Internet server for authentication. But preservationists may not be able to access the software using TPMs in the manner intended by the developers, especially for older software. Old TPMs may require using obsolete operating systems, or inserting floppy disks despite modern computers no longer supporting floppy disk drives. If librarians or preservationists circumvent these TPMs in their efforts to study and preserve old computer programs and files, they would be subject to legal liability under the DMCA. Even if rightsholders never actually bring lawsuits against preservationists for circumventing TPMs, as friend of the Clinic Brandon Butler’s recent report suggests, the mere threat of legal liability causes a chilling effect. The consequence is forever losing software and software-dependent materials to the ages.

The Exemption

Most parties, including the opponents, agreed that software preservation is a worthwhile endeavor. While the opponents objected to the broad scope of SPN’s proposed exemption, the Acting Register of Copyrights agreed that librarians, archivists, and preservationists need more latitude in their ability to access computer programs and computer program-dependent materials. And after a year of public comments and hearings, the Librarian of Congress, adopting the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, issued a final rule containing an exemption that encompasses much of what the SPN requested.

The final rule allows eligible libraries, archives, and museums to circumvent technological protection measures on certain lawfully acquired computer programs (including video games) to preserve computer programs and computer program-dependent materials. The final rule includes the SPN’s suggestion, in consideration of the opponents’ concerns about breadth, that the exemption be limited to computer programs that are no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace. The Library of Congress did create some limitations on the exemption, requiring that the computer program is not distributed outside the physical premises of the eligible library, archives, or museum.

Conclusion

On the whole, the new exemption gives digital preservationists significantly more leeway to continue their important work without living under a cloud of litigation risk. The Cyberlaw Clinic will continue to work with the SPN and other software preservation groups to ensure that the law does not inhibit continued access to software for scholarship and research, and will release a more comprehensive guide to the new exemption for preservationists in the coming weeks.

Regulatory Hackers Aren’t Fixing Society. They’re Getting Rich

Via Wired.com 

Source: Pixabay

By: Susan Crawford

Recently I was invited to join a panel to discuss Regulatory Hacking: A Playbook for Startups, a new book by venture capitalist Evan Burfield. The book is sort of a guide for new companies looking for a win-win—doing good by doing well—in highly regulated sectors like health and education. It argues that startups have the opportunity to make trillions of dollars solving global challenges that, in the past, would have been addressed by governments or nonprofits.

Burfield sat at the center of our semicircle of five speakers, all female save for him. He’s a large-framed, confidence-radiating man with a light English accent—an earlier generation might have called him “clubbable.” His message was one of intelligent cooperation by startups with government. He urged the small crowd of students to “map power dynamics” when they launch their businesses. The book’s introduction says it “provides a history of Elon Musk as the ultimate regulatory hacker,” but Musk’s name didn’t come up—maybe because the Musk news of late hasn’t been that adulatory.

The panel discussion took place on sunny afternoon, in a high-floor classroom that looked east over the towers of upper Manhattan. Burfield spoke easily and at length, and as he did I watched a large private helicopter loop lazily toward its landing pad by the East River.

Once the event petered to a close, he ran off to catch a plane. He’s a busy, successful person, a family man as well, with a daughter named Endeavour. (She makes an appearance in the first sentence of the book, asking Alexa to play a song for her.)

Two other speakers on that panel were women with experience as New York City employees—one current, one former— who talked about weaving startups into the workings of government in various ways. They too were confident and competent, as was the woman entrepreneur who, with me, rounded out the panel. We were all appropriately deferential to Burfield; it was his book, after all. (The New York Times, in its review of Regulatory Hacking, called it “chock-full of checklists, matrices, diagrams and jargon all of uneven usefulness.”)

But the talk and the helicopter darkened my mood. It’s tough to find moments of clarity in the calamitous, disorienting era we’re in, but for me that afternoon stands out. Something was off.

By temperament and by training, I am optimistic most of the time. In that room, though, I sensed the assumptions of our age operating in high, silent gear: Business is the most important agent of change in society; government exists to “cooperate” and is mostly incapable and toothless (while simultaneously, if ineptly, threatening); nothing is going to be done about the harrowing, multiple, structural unfairnesses of our time; women who want to survive and be invited to future panel discussions need to be appropriately deferential; and our destiny as a society is being charted by people who never use public transportation. Or fly commercial.

I did speak up, politely, that afternoon. I said many things are profoundly wrong with the way we live in America, and that what we really need to do is make sure government has the capacity and resources to ensure—using technology as a tool, but mostly through sound policy—that everyone with a belly button can lead a thriving life. I urged the students in the audience to spend some time working in government themselves, so that they could see how many people at City Hall are doing their best against impossible odds. I smiled as I spoke; I don’t like sounding like a crank. But it was both saddening and alarming.

Luckily, someone seemingly at the very heart of the Aspen-Davos-Harvard win-win consensus has emerged with a terrific book that takes up many of these themes: Anand Giridharadas, with Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Giridharadas’ work gives me hope that we can start marking a cut in the continuous history we inhabit. We may be launching a new historical narrative.

Giridharadas is an insider. He’s been on the TED stage, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, at the Harvard Kennedy School. (Although I teach at Harvard, I’ve never met him.) And he, like me, is horrified by the blinkered, superficial, and self-serving rhetoric of the privileged class as it looks to avoid personal pain in a thoroughly unfair world.

Giridharadas crisply categorizes the breathless rhetoric of individual startuppy idealism that rolls out from the stages of conferences on the social enterprise circuit. The language routinely used by startup leaders claiming to improve people’s lives—”we will change the world!”—masks a profound desire to avoid confrontation with the unfair and unequal status quo experienced by many Americans. The way things are, after all, is serving the interests of the well-born and well-connected.

One jarring anecdote in Winners Take All has a budgeting startup called Even doing some user-centered-design-ish interviewing of a gig-economy worker, named Heather Jacobs. Jacobs is barely making it, panicked by a punishing commute, staggering student debt, and insecure work hours. The interviewer wants to make sure that Even will meet Jacob’s needs. Could a subscription app help smooth Heather’s jagged paychecks, ensuring by automatic saving of excess incoming cash that she had enough money each month to cover her bills?

“If you asked the question, ‘What is the best way to help Heather Jacobs?’ the honest answer probably wouldn’t be to charge her $260 a year to smooth her income,” Giridharadas writes. He points out that you might, instead, try to fix the systems that are keeping Heather Jacobs poor—you would want to make sure that transit, affordable housing, and student loan assistance were part of the fabric of American life. But then you wouldn’t have much of a startup.

Giridharadas’ message is that the world could be arranged in different ways. But no one in the well-connected world he documents is interested in that restructuring. The people Giridharadas writes about are looking to make a pile of money from doing good, assisted by thought leaders, most foundations, and a guileless, money-oriented public. They face little foundational, structural criticism; no one on the conference circuit wants to be a harsh critic or a genuine public intellectual. Who wants to attack the people who have flown you in to speak?

Most of the time, we are ants crawling across a vast tablecloth, unaware of our context or our destiny. But right now things are off enough that we might want to raise our heads to look around. Hacking is not going to cut it.

Copyright Law Just Got Better for Video Game History

Via Motherboard.com

Source: Pexels

By: Ian Birnbaum and Matthew Gault

A new ruling from the Librarian of Congress is good news for video game preservation. In an 85-page ruling that covered everything from electronic aircraft controls to farm equipment diagnostic software, the Librarian of Congress carved out fair use exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for video games and software in general. These exemptions will make it easier for archivists to save historic video games and for museums to share that cultural history with the public.

“The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code,” the Librarian of Congress said. “In such circumstances, the preservation activities described by proponents are likely to be fair uses.”

These rules are definitely good news for single-player games. “The big change for single-player games happened during the last DMCA review process in 2015, when the Copyright Office decided that museums and archives could break the online authentication for single-player titles that were just phoning home to a server for copy protection reasons,” Phil Salvador—a Washington, DC-area librarian and archivist who runs The Obscuritory, a site that focuses on discussing and preserving obscure, old games—told Motherboard. That 2015 ruling was due to expire this year, but thanks to pressure from activists it was renewed today instead.

“These rules are a big win,” Kendra Albert, a Clinical Instructional Fellow at the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, told Motherboard. Albert represented the Software Preservation Network, which was one of the parties arguing for the change at the Copyright Office. “The 2015 rules cracked the door open for many things, but the exemptions that were granted here are potentially much, much broader.”

 

Read the full article here.

Cities Are Teaming Up To Offer Broadband, and the FCC is Mad

Via Wired.com

Source: Pixabay

By: Susan Crawford

This is a story that defies two strongly held beliefs. The first—embraced fervently by today’s FCC—is that the private marketplace is delivering world-class internet access infrastructure at low prices to all Americans, particularly in urban areas. The second is that cities are so busy competing that they are incapable of cooperating with one another, particularly when they have little in common save proximity.

These two beliefs aren’t necessarily true. Right now, the 16 very different cities that make up the South Bay region of Southern California have gotten fed up with their internet access situation: They’re paying too much for too little. So they are working together to collectively lower the amounts they pay for city communications by at least a third. It’s the first step along a path that, ultimately, will bring far cheaper internet access services to the 1.1 million people who live in the region.

You might think this is impossible. It’s true that many city officials have argued that regional collaborations are resource-intensive and bound to fail. That’s the case in the Boston area, where a city official in Malden (7 miles from Boston City Hall) bluntly told researchers, “I couldn’t support regional government at all. Each community has its own unique set of circumstances and facts and issues.”

The South Bay partnership suggests a promising alternative: Maybe cities can cooperate and save money without compromising their local autonomy. At this same moment, though, the FCC is on a march to smother local authority by blocking states from regulating any aspect of broadband service, supporting states that have raised barriers to municipal networks, deregulating pricing for lines running between cities, and removing local control over rights-of-way that could be used to bring cheaper access into town.

Read the full article here.

Evaluating the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Human Rights

Via Harvard Law Today

By: Carolyn Schmitt

From using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine credit scores to using AI to determine whether a defendant or criminal may offend again, AI-based tools are increasingly being used by people and organizations in positions of authority to make important, often life-altering decisions. But how do these instances impact human rights, such as the right to equality before the law, and the right to an education?

A new report from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (BKC) addresses this issue and weighs the positive and negative impacts of AI on human rights through six “use cases” of algorithmic decision-making systems, including criminal justice risk assessments and credit scores. Whereas many other reports and studies have focused on ethical issues of AI, the BKC report is one of the first efforts to analyze the impacts of AI through a human rights lens, and proposes a new framework for thinking about the impact of AI on human rights. The report was funded, in part, by the Digital Inclusion Lab at Global Affairs Canada.

“One of the things I liked a lot about this project and about a lot of the work we’re doing [in the Algorithms and Justice track of the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative] is that it’s extremely current and tangible. There are a lot of far-off science fiction scenarios that we’re trying to think about, but there’s also stuff happening right now,” says Professor Christopher Bavitz, the WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law, Managing Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at BKC, and senior author on the report. Bavitz also leads the Algorithms and Justice track of the BKC project on the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, which developed this report.

Read the full article here.

Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic Backs Airbnb In Rowdy Guest Suit

Via Law360

By: Joyce Hanson

Mason Kortz, Clinical Instructor, Cyberlaw Clinic

Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic has urged the Ninth Circuit not to touch a lower court decision ending a corporate landlord’s lawsuit accusing Airbnb of helping tenants break building rules and host rowdy guests, saying that a revival of the suit could undermine Communications Decency Act protections of internet startups.

The law clinic’s friend of the court brief, filed Thursday and written on behalf of nonprofit technology policy group Engine Advocacy and Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman, opposes a bid by Apartment Investment and Management Co. to revive the suit based on Aimco’s argument that the Central District of California was wrong to conclude that Airbnb Inc.’s home-sharing website was immune from the suit under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Aimco wants to hold Airbnb liable by advancing two theories that threaten Section 230’s protections, but Ninth Circuit jurisprudence doesn’t support either argument, according to the brief written by Mason A. Kortz, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic.

First, Aimco says Airbnb is liable for providing “brokerage services” — facilitating payments, taking and holding reservations and performing other rental services — a theory that runs contrary to the court’s interpretation of Section 230, which holds that Airbnb’s brokerage services are inseparable from its core service of publishing third-party content, Kortz wrote.

Secondly, he asserted, Aimco wrongly argues that Airbnb has illegally developed content for users who make unlawful offers on the internet. Airbnb’s content-generation, search and anonymization tools can be used lawfully or unlawfully, and the site is not liable as a content developer under Section 230, according to Kortz.

“Aimco’s narrow reading of Section 230 is not only legally unsound, it also has negative consequences from a policy perspective: it would result in less competition and less innovation online, which will be detrimental not only to platform operators, but also to internet users,” Kortz wrote. “Allowing plaintiffs to plead around Section 230 would create legal uncertainty, increase exposure to liability, and remove an important tool for early dismissal of meritless cases.”

Kortz told Law360 on Friday that he wrote the brief because he believes Aimco’s legal arguments threaten to undermine the protections that Section 230 affords small and vulnerable startups.

“Larger companies have the resources to police content on their websites as well as fight legal battles like the one Airbnb is fighting now,” Kortz said. “But smaller companies and early stage startups don’t have those resources. It’s possible that the plaintiff’s interpretation of Section 230 is a very narrow reading of those protections, and the arguments they make vis-a-vis Airbnb could provide a road map for holding any number of online services liable.”

Read the full article here.

Cyberlaw Clinic Represents Amicus Party in Net Neutrality Case

“DC Circ. Sets Net Neutrality Oral Arguments For February”

Via Law360

By: Kelcee Griffis

The D.C. Circuit has set oral arguments in the consolidated net neutrality cases for the morning of Feb. 1, when attorneys in the contentious suit will get face time with the court to air their positions against the Federal Communications Commission’s deregulation of internet service providers.

According to the Friday order, the court will begin arguments at 9:30 a.m. on that day, but more details about how the testimony will be apportioned will be released as the date gets closer.

The FCC decision at issue overturned prohibitions on internet service providers, or ISPs blocking, throttling or granting paid prioritization to preferred web content, and it reclassified the internet as a Title I information service. The reclassification returned online abuses to the regulatory sphere of the Federal Trade Commission, as the internet had been treated before the 2015 Open Internet Order took effect. The FCC’s Republican majority says the move will return the internet to the “light touch” regulatory framework that helped the web thrive in its early stages.

Petitioners in the case disagree with that optimistic view of deregulation. In opening briefs, critics including Mozilla and Public Knowledge said the agency backfilled its reasoning for scrapping the regulatory regime and ignored millions of public comments that urged the commission to leave the Obama-era rules intact. Other primary challengers include Etsy, Incompas, nearly two dozen state attorneys general and other government entities.

Amicus filers that chimed in to support the petitioners include Twilio, the Internet Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Consumers Union and Engine Advocacy. Those groups argued in amicus briefs that the FCC ignored data that suggested the market for internet services isn’t competitive and refuted the FCC’s reasoning that broadband providers will be held in check by fierce broadband competition in most communities, among other points.

In particular, Twilio took issue with the FCC’s reasoning for its actions, which the agency described as necessary to encourage broadband providers to invest in and expand their networks. However, Twilio said, contradictory evidence suggests new products and services are most likely to proliferate and drive demand for network capacity when platforms are guaranteed unbiased internet access. Engine similarly said the reversal harms venture investors and startups that relie on the open internet rules.

The consolidated case was originally assigned to be heard in California, but the parties won an unopposed transfer to the D.C. Circuit, where other net neutrality cases have played out. Final briefs are due Nov. 27, according to the docket.

Mozilla is represented by Markham C. Erickson and Georgios Leris of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.  Public Knowledge is represented by Kevin Kendrick Russell of Goldstein & Russell PC.

Twilio is represented by Adrienne E. Fowler of Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. CCIA is represented in-house by Matt Schruers and John A. Howes Jr. The Internet Association is represented by Christopher J. Wright, Scott Blake Harris, Stephanie Weiner and E. Austin Bonner of Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. Consumers Union is represented by Andrew Jay Schwartzman and James T. Graves of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center. Engine is represented by Christopher T. Bavitz of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School.

The FCC’s in-house representation includes lead counsel Thomas M. Johnson Jr.

The lead case is Mozilla Corp. v. FCC, case number 18-1051, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Why An Army of Small Companies is Defending the Sprint/T-Mobile Merger

Via Wired.com 

Source: Pixabay

Cyberlaw Clinical Professor of Law Susan Crawford writes about why small companies are supporting the T-Mobile/Sprint merger and what the consequences are for consumers if the merger occurs:

Last month, Reuters reported that T-Mobile was asking the small operators that resell T-Mobile’s excess network capacity to write letters and opinion pieces in support of the company’s proposed $36 billion merger with Sprint.

T-Mobile’s request wasn’t unusual. Trumping up support for deals that aren’t actually in the public interest is common practice in the swamp we know as US telecom policy. When Comcast was working on its merger with NBCU at the beginning of this decade, supportive comments poured into the FCC from companies across the country who had an interest in keeping Comcast happy. By helpfully suggesting talking points to resellers—or MVNOs, for Mobile Virtual Network Operators—including Mint Mobile, Republic Wireless, and Ting, all of which lease access from the Big Four network operators (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) in order to sell phone and data services to customers, T-Mobile is following the usual “air of inevitability” merger playbook.

What’s so troubling about T-Mobile’s get-out-the-vote campaign is who is aiding the company’s lobbying. MVNOs, who don’t own their own infrastructure but collectively account for about 10 percent of the consumer wireless market in the US, primarily target “value” consumers, otherwise known as low- and medium-income Americans. These small companies, who are utterly dependent on the goodwill of the Big Four, are serving Americans who are making barely enough to survive.

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Cyberlaw Clinic Welcomes (Back) HLS Students, Preps for AY 2018-19

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

The Cyberlaw Clinic is pleased to welcome back returning 2Ls and 3Ls and welcome new 1Ls and LLMs to Cambridge for the start of the 2018-19 academic year! We hope that everyone had a restful and reinvigorating summer. As we ramp up for the fall semester, we offer some announcements about the program and thoughts on the coming year.

First, on a bittersweet note, we bid farewell to our dear friend and colleague Vivek Krishnamurthy. Vivek is returning to private practice at the law firm, Foley Hoag LLP, after four years working with us in the Clinic. Vivek joined us from Foley back in 2014, and his practice and teaching activities in the Clinic have focused on international human rights and civil liberties issues. Vivek will be sorely missed, but we are happy to report that he will remain involved at Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center—co-teaching the Counseling and Legal Strategy in the Digital Age seminar at HLS this fall with Chris Bavitz.  Vivek also joins our our illustrious roster of Clinic Advisors, with whom we regularly collaborate. We wish Vivek success in his new endeavors and expect that we will continue to work closely together in the months and years to come.

We are delighted to report that Jessica Fjeld has been promoted to Assistant Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic and will assume a central role in managing our program. Jess has done tremendous work over the past two years in the Clinic, helping to lead our copyright practice and working with students to advise a wide range of individuals and startups with an emphasis on clients in media, arts, and the creative industries. Jess joins the board of the Global Network Initiative and is also a Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at HLS.  She will be co-teaching the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar this falland spring.

The Clinic is also thrilled to announce that Mason Kortz, who has been with us for almost two years as a Clinical Fellow, has assumed the role of Clinical Instructor. Mason has deep expertise with civil liberties and privacy issues, and he brings his strong technical background in data science to bear on many of our projects. He is also a key member of the Berkman Klein Center’s research team, contributing to the Center’s Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative and producing valuable scholarship on the role of explanation in law and AI.

Kendra Albert begins their second year with us as a Clinical Fellow, managing projects that related to computer security research, vulnerability disclosure, circumvention, and a host of related issues. Kendra was instrumental this past year in overseeing the Clinic’s involvement in the Copyright Office’s Section 1201 triennial rulemaking proceedings, leading a student team that represented the Software Preservation Network in filing comments and testifying before the Library of Congress about the need for exemptions from liability to promote archival activities.  Kendra has also been the Clinic’s point person in managing work relating to voting technology and election security in the runup to the November 2018 midterms. In the spring, Kendra will be co-teaching Advanced Constitutional Law: New Issues in Speech, Press, and Religion with Professor Martha Minow.

Project Coordinator Hannah Hilligoss will continue to keep the Clinic’s trains running on time while contributing to BKC research efforts on topics ranging from telecommunications policy to the human rights implications of AI technologies. Hannah has also played a major role in the launch of Harvard’s new “Techtopia” initiative, which promises to connect faculty and students across Harvard with an interest in the ethical, social, political, and legal implications of emerging digital technology.

Susan Crawford and Chris Bavitz round out the Clinic team, managing student projects and teaching courses about law and regulation as they relate to communicationsmusic and digital mediaautonomous vehicles, and the Internet.

We kept projects afloat this summer with an all-star cast of law school interns, and we expect more than thirty students to join us for the fall term (including three advanced clinical students, returning after working with us this past spring). The Clinic’s substantive docket will cover our usual wide variety of projects, with a few practice areas being especially active. Those include:

  • answering questions about bias in the use of algorithms and machine learning technologies by companies and government actors;
  • addressing legal issues raised by existing and future art-generating AI technologies, as we consider the interaction between algorithmic tech, the human creative process, and our system of intellectual property laws;
  • supporting efforts to promote government transparency and accountability through targeted use of freedom of information laws and broader open government initiatives; and
  • advising digital archives on questions surrounding online access to materials, particularly around IP issues that arise in connection with cross-border operations.

We could not be more excited to welcome our incoming students next week.  Best wishes to all for a fruitful 2018-19 academic year!

Ninth Circuit Holds Cross-Border Killing Violated Victim’s 4th Amendment Rights

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

The Ninth Circuit issued an important decision last week in Rodriguez v. Swartz, allowing a Mexican mother to sue a United States government official over a cross-border shooting. The Court held that the defendant — Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz — violated the Fourth Amendment rights of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez when Swartz shot and killed Rodriguez. The shooting took place while Rodriguez was in Nogales, Mexico and Swartz was on the US side of the border.

The Cyberlaw Clinic and attorney Mahesha Subbaraman of Subbaraman PLLC submitted an amicus brief in the case on behalf of civil liberties advocacy organization, Restore the Fourth. Although the case did not directly concern cyber- or tech-related issues, the court’s reasoning may have long-term implications with respect to government activities in a wide range of contexts where actions occur on US soil but have extraterritorial effects.

 

Former Clinic Students Present Harvard Law Review Student Notes

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Of the four students whose work is represented in the Harvard Law Review’s April 2018 “Developments in the Law” issue, three are former students in the Cyberlaw Clinic and all have taken classes with our staff. The issue of the Law Review focuses on challenges posed by the vast amount of personal information that individuals now store digitally and with third party technology companies. The student authors, Audrey Adu-Appiah, Chloe Goodwin, Vinitra Rangan, and Ariel Teshuva, presented on their work to a packed room on Thursday, April 18, at the Law School, followed by a conversation moderated by Chris Bavitz.

Adu-Appiah presented on her Note, “The Video Privacy Protection Act as a Model Intellectual Privacy Statute,” arguing that while the VPPA is often seen as niche legislation and has been somewhat compromised by recent amendments, as originally passed it could be a strong model for a more general intellectual privacy regime which would apply to written materials as well as audio-visual ones.

Summarizing her Note, “Cooperation or Resistance? The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance,” Goodwin argued that the two narratives that dominate discussion of tech companies’ involvement in government surveillance — that they are either doormats or bulwarks, depending on your perspective — is a vast oversimplification. Goodwin calls for new regulation that will align these companies’ incentives with those of their users.

Teshuva presented on a related topic to Goodwin’s, but focused particularly on the issue of standing to challenge legitimate surveillance of foreign individuals that sweeps up the communication of people located in the U.S., which would otherwise require a warrant from law enforcement. Her Note, “Standing, Surveillance, and Technology Companies,” points out that the present state of the law makes it extremely difficult for individuals to gain standing to challenge these practices, and vests the protection of their interests largely in the tech companies whose platforms they are using.

In what she described as a “hard right turn,” Rangan looked at how trusts and estates law is being impacted by these same developments. In her Note “What is an ‘Electronic Will’?” she argued that state legislatures need to parse the various types of electronic wills in order to instruct probate courts on how to properly evaluate this evidence of testators’ intent.

Following the students’ presentations, Professor Bavitz led an engaging discussion, highlighting issues such as the role of individuals in effecting change that drew connections between all four of the Notes presented.

Cyberlaw Clinic Year in Review: 2017

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

We in the Cyberlaw Clinic believe that the statute of limitations on year-in-review blog posts expires at the end of the first quarter of the following year. (If you require evidence for this claim, we’ll kindly point you to Orin Kerr’s “Theory of Law.”) With that in mind — as we dig into our newest batch of projects during the Harvard Law School spring term — it seems like a good time to look back and reflect on the past year.  It was — to say the least — an eventful one here in the Cyberlaw Clinic, for students and staff alike.

Students

We had two students enrolled in the Clinic during winter 2017, thirty-four in the spring, and 31 in the fall. Three summer interns ably helped to keep our docket of projects afloat during the summer months. We continued in the mode in which we’ve operated in recent years, with a Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar in the spring and fall complementing the day-to-day work of the Clinic and offering students an opportunity for discussions about substantive and procedural aspects of technology law, including through case rounds focused on our own ongoing projects. We are thrilled that we have been able to scale the program, actively engaging our students and zealously representing our clients as the program has continued to expand.

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The Cyberlaw Guide to Protest Art

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

In the wake of Trump’s election and the resurgence of political art inspired by movements like the Women’s March, the Cyberlaw Clinic was approached by artists seeking clarification of their rights and responsibilities as creators and activists online. In response, a team of Berkman Klein staff, Clinic students, and allied creative folks created this Guide. It’s in plain language, meant to be accessible and helpful for folks across the political spectrum who are using art to engage in civic dialogue, to minimize their risks and maximize their impact.

We took on this project because art plays a significant role in American democracy. Across the political spectrum, protest art — posters, songs, poems, memes, and more —inspires us, gives us a sense of community, and provides insight into how others think and feel about important and often controversial issues.

While protest art has been part of our culture for a very long time, the Internet and social media have changed the available media and the visibility of protest artists. Digital technologies make it easy to find existing works and incorporate them into your own, and art that goes viral online spreads faster than was ever possible in the analog world. Many artists find the law that governs all of this unclear in the physical world, and even murkier online.

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Cyberlaw Clinic Assists with Amicus Effort in Byrd v. U.S.

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Tuesday, January 9th, in Byrd v. United States, Case No. No. 16-1371.  The case concerns the question of whether a person can assert Fourth Amendment protections in connection with a search of a rental car in which that person was not an authorized driver.  The case raises important questions about privacy in response to law enforcement, including about standing to assert defenses under the Fourth Amendment and about the interplay between private contracts (such as the contract between one renting a car and the rental car company) and Fourth Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court has posted a transcript and audio recording of the oral argument. Helpful reports about the case and argument include:

The Cyberlaw Clinic was pleased to have had the opportunity to support our friends and regular collaborators Restore the Fourth with the drafting of an amicus brief, filed in support of petitioner Terrence Byrd.  The brief focuses on the interplay between contracts and Constitutional protections, arguing that private agreements should not limit Fourth Amendment rights.  Fall 2017 Cyberlaw Clinic students Chloe Goodwin, Matthew Sacco, Devony Schmidt, and Brian Yost worked on the brief alongside Kendra Albert and Vivek Krishnamurthy on the Clinic’s teaching team, and Mahesha Subbaraman, Restore the Fourth’s counsel.

Cyberlaw Clinic files amicus briefs in patent and online privacy cases

Via Harvard Law Today

The Berkman Klein Center’s Cyberlaw Clinic, which provides pro-bono legal services to clients on issues relating to the internet, technology and intellectual property, has written in support of a number of technology cases in recent weeks.

In December, the Clinic filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy Joseph Cannataci in the case United States v. Microsoft, Case No. 17-2. The case—commonly known as the “Microsoft Ireland case”—presents the question of whether a search warrant can compel Microsoft to produce to the US government the contents of an email account stored on Microsoft servers in Ireland.

Also in December they filed an opening comment on behalf of the Software Preservation Network and the Library Copyright Alliance, asking the Library of Congress to grant an exemption for libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to circumvent technology protection measures in order to preserve software and software-dependent materials (digital files that require on software access to be readable).

Last week they helped file an amicus brief with Professor Bernard Chao of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law on behalf of eighteen intellectual property law professors, supporting petitioners’ request that the Supreme Court review a decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  That decision—Mentor Graphics v. Eve-USA, (Fed. Cir. March 16, 2017)—awarded patent damages against petitioners. But, as amici argue in the brief, the Federal Circuit failed to properly apportion those damages when assessing respondent’s lost profits.

For more information on these and other Cyberlaw Clinic endeavors, visit their blog.

Cyberlaw Clinic Supports Supreme Court Amicus Effort on Patent Damages

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Clinic was pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Professor Bernard Chao of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law on an amicus brief that Professor Chao filed in the United States Supreme Court this week.  The brief, submitted on behalf of eighteen intellectual property law professors, supports petitioners’ request that the Supreme Court review a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  That decision – Mentor Graphics v. Eve-USA, (Fed. Cir. March 16, 2017) – awarded patent damages against petitioners.  But, as amici argue in the brief, the Federal Circuit failed to properly apportion those damages when assessing respondent’s lost profits. 

The brief points to a long line of precedent describing how patent damages should be apportioned – evaluating “the profits that the patent holder would have made but for the defendant’s infringement” and then “apportion[ing] the calculated profits between those attributable to the infringing features of the product, and those attributable to other, non-infringing, features.”  Amici argue that the Federal Circuit’s decision below is legally deficient (insofar as it fails to follow this precedent) and represents bad patent policy (insofar as it may adversely impact high-tech defendants, which develop products covered by hundreds or thousands of patents, and improperly overcompensate patentees).

Fall term Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic students Brian Lebow and Ben Shiroma worked with Chris Bavitz in the Clinic, and with Professor Chao, on the brief.

Cyberlaw Clinic Files Brief for UN Special Rapporteur in Microsoft Ireland Case

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

On December 13, 2017, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy Joseph Cannataci in the case United States v. Microsoft, Case No. 17-2.  The case – commonly known as the “Microsoft Ireland case”– presents the question of whether a search warrant issued in the United States pursuant to a U.S. statute (the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2703) can compel Microsoft to produce to the U.S. government the contents of an email account stored on Microsoft servers in Ireland.  The Supreme Court is hearing the case this term on appeal from a decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which held that the U.S. could not enforce a warrant seeking digital information stored on overseas servers.

The Clinic’s brief on behalf of Special Rapporteur Cannataci supports neither party with respect to the question of domestic law at the heart of the case.  But, it offers important context about Internet jurisdiction and places the right to privacy in its proper context against the backdrop of global human rights laws and norms.  Specifically, the brief urges the Supreme Court “to recognize the universality of the right to privacy, as first recognized in New York on December 10, 1948 when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The brief goes on to note that, because of the complexities associated with applying traditional international law principles of territoriality to online privacy, there are no easy answers to the questions raised in this case.  Moreover, a sweeping ruling from the Court could have significant repercussions on international efforts–including those already underway–to develop streamlined processes that balance competing interests in scenarios like the one presented by this case.  In light of those efforts, we argue on behalf of Special Rapporteur Cannataci, the Court should rule narrowly and thereby “respect the privacy interests of other nations and foster international cooperation.”

Mason Kortz and Vivek Krishnamurthy on the Cyberlaw Clinic team worked with fall 2017 Clinic students Osvaldo Galeano-Gamera, Devony Schmidt, Jon-Paul Berexa, and Levi Barry – along with Special Rapporteur Cannataci – on the brief.

Software Preservation Comments Filed in 1201 Rulemaking

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

image of blurred, close up code running on a computerBack in December, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an opening comment in the seventh triennial proceeding for exemptions to the anti-circumvention clause. The comment, on behalf of the Software Preservation Network and the Library Copyright Alliance, asks the Library of Congress to grant an exemption for libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to circumvent technology protection measures in order to preserve software and software-dependent materials (digital files that require on software access to be readable).

As software becomes the default method of production for more and more artistic and cultural works, preserving it gains vital importance, both for the continued longevity of cultural objects, and for the study of software itself. Existing legal alternatives, such as seeking licenses or permissions from rightsholders, have proved insufficient to tackle the substantial problems of preserving software and software dependent materials. To put it simply, digital preservationists need an exemption to anti-circumvention law in order to ensure that software is available to future generations.

Students Evelyn Chang, Jillian Goodman, and Anderson Grossman researched and drafted the comments. As discussed previously on the blog, the digital preservation petition is one of 22 new exemptions being requested in the 2018 rulemaking petition. Opposition comments will be due in February 2018, and the Library of Congress’s final rule is likely be released by next fall.

You can read the full comment, as well as user stories from digital preservationists, here.

My Experiences in the Cyberlaw Clinic: Expectations Met and Exceeded

By Niklas Andree LL.M. ’18

Participating in the Cyberlaw Clinic was one of the great opportunities that attracted me to pursue my LL.M. degree here at HLS. Upon finishing law school in my home country of Germany, I figured the best way to enhance my academic experience abroad would be to not only focus on the areas of law that I am most interested in — legal education in Germany follows a very broad approach, with wide-ranging basic knowledge being taught rather than specializations in certain fields — but also gain practical real-world experience. The Cyberlaw Clinic promised to offer exactly that, the chance to work on cutting-edge legal matters related to the Internet and technology, as well as learn about today’s major issues of tech advocacy and policy in the accompanying seminar.

The projects I worked on range from very specific questions of copyright law to contributions in a large-scale undertaking of software preservation. As a result, I’ve learned about problems people face in today’s digital age that I had never heard of before. For example, librarians, archivists and academics are being confronted with the issue that their valued digital records may be inaccessible because of outdated software programs, raising the need to preserve such software for future generations. In this project, I had the opportunity to contribute my own ideas and solutions and play a part in an important initiative.

Working in the Cyberlaw Clinic has been a fun and interesting experience. Through my involvement in projects I’ve been able to gain deeper insights into the substantive areas of the law and develop new skills, not only by collaborating and communicating with my team but also by managing tasks independently.  Being self-reliant and able to schedule working hours and deadlines independently is important and something I expected to hone during the semester. Beyond that, the most valuable skill I’ve gained is handling projects and clients on my own. The Cyberlaw Clinic gave me the opportunity to take increasingly more responsibilities in the development of the case/project. This is true for all clinic students: after working closely with supervisors at the beginning, they soon get to communicate with clients and later set up meetings and lead discussions with clients by themselves – valuable opportunities certainly not many internships or even first-year contracts would offer.

Update on the 2018 Triennial 1201 Rule-Making

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Copyright Office has once again opened its triennial rulemaking proceedings for exemptions to the anti-circumvention clauses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). This will be the seventh iteration of the rulemaking proceedings for the Copyright Office since Congress enacted 17 U.S.C. § 1201 in 1998 to reinforce copyright protection against an envisioned increase in piracy due to technological advancement. The anti-circumvention law prohibits the use of technology to bypass technology protection measures (“TPM”) that copyright owners implement, such as encryption tools that prevent consumers from copying movies or songs off a disk or simple password systems for website content or software “locking” mechanisms that prevent copying. Unfortunately, the broad reach of 17 U.S.C. § 1201 also jeopardized many otherwise non-infringing and publicly-beneficial activities that may require circumventing TPMs.

St Jude Medical pacemaker in hand

An artificial pacemaker (serial number 1723182) from St. Jude Medical, with electrode. By Steven Fruitsmaak, via Wikimedia Commons.

In an effort to rescue circumvention for lawful purposes, Congress identified certain classes of permanent exemptions to the anti-circumvention law, allowing, for example, reverse engineering research and security testing to be valid reasons for circumventing technological protections measures. In addition to the permanent exemptions, Congress also created the triennial rulemaking mechanism which creates 3-year temporary exemptions as a catch-all to prevent the anti-circumvention law from prohibiting lawful practices.

For the upcoming 2018 rulemaking proceedings, the Cyberlaw Clinic has submitted an anti-circumvention exemption request on behalf of the Software Preservation Network (“SPN”) and a renewal request on behalf of a coalition of medical device patients and researchers (“Medical Device Coalition”) for the Copyright Office’s seventh triennial rulemaking proceedings for anti-circumvention exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). SPN seeks an exemption for libraries and archival institutions to circumvent technology protection mechanisms for the preservation of software for future research or usage. The Medical Device Coalition seeks a renewal for an exemption that the Cyberlaw Clinic successfully helped to secure in the 2015 rulemaking proceedings, which permits patients and security researchers to circumvent technological measures in medical devices to access output data. The SPN petition and medical device renewal request join 22 other new exemption petitions and 38 other exemption renewal requests submitted for the 2018 rulemaking proceedings.

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Massachusetts Considers Digital Right to Repair

By Alex Noonan J.D. ’19

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

On September 26, 2017, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure heard testimony on proposed digital “right to repair” bills H.143 and S.96. The two proposed bills would require manufacturers of digital devices to provide diagnostic, repair, and service information to independent technicians and owners of devices, information that is currently only available to technicians selected and authorized by the manufacturers. The bills would further require manufacturers allow independent technicians and owners to purchase replacement parts and service tools at a reasonable price. The bills by their terms relieve manufacturers of the obligation to reveal any trade secret; however, they do not address the practicality of providing service manuals and diagnostic information without exposing trade secrets, particularly for manufacturers who rely heavily on trade secret protection.

Massachusetts has tackled right to repair before. In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state to pass right to repair legislation for motor vehicles. Rather than face future legislation from other states, auto manufacturers agreed to make the Massachusetts law their national standard.

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Clinic Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Members of Congress in Support of Access to Law

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

image of a courthouseOn September 25, 2017, the Cyberlaw Clinic and local counsel Catherine Gellis filed an amicus brief on behalf of members of Congress Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19th District) and Darrell Issa (R-CA 49th District) in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The brief supports defendant-appellant Public.Resource.org (Public Resource) in the case American Society of Testing Engineers (ASTM) et. al. v. Public.Resource.org, Case No. 17-7035 (D.C. Cir.). The appeal — a consolidation of two district court cases, both filed by standard developing organizations (SDOs) — addresses the copyrightability of the law and standards incorporated therein. The crux of the case is whether the text of applicable law may be shared freely by non-profit organizations like Public Resource. 

When model codes and standards become part of federal, state, or local regulations, the text is often not reproduced in the location where the law is published. Rather, citizens interested in reading the content of enacted statutes and regs must access the incorporated materials via the SDOs’ publication channels. These may come with high access fees or remain incompatible with online accessibility tools for the disabled. Public Resource acquired copies of a number of standards and codes, made them public, and was sued for copyright and trademark infringement by the SDOs.

The Clinic previously filed amicus briefs on behalf of legal scholars in support of Public Resource in both cases brought in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.  The district court ruled in favor of both sets of plaintiffs-appellees, the “ASTM Plaintiffs”—ASTMNational Fire Protection Association, Inc. (NFPA), and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)—and the “AERA Plaintiffs”—American Education Resource Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), finding copyright and trademark infringement in the publication on Public Resource’s website of model codes and standards incorporated into law.

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Welcoming Kendra Albert and Kicking Off the 2017-18 Academic Year!

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

With September just around the corner, we here in the Cyberlaw Clinic are eager to get the fall semester underway. And, we are especially excited to announce that the start of the new term comes with a new addition to our practice and teaching team in the form of the one and only Kendra Albert! Kendra is a familiar face around Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center, having worked at Berkman before attending law school at HLS. Kendra was a student in the Cyberlaw Clinic during the spring term of their third year, back in 2016. Kendra spent a year in private practice at Zeitgeist Law in San Francisco from 2016-17 before rejoining us as a Clinical Instructional Fellow this week.  We are delighted to have Kendra on board and anticipate that they will contribute to a wide variety of our projects involving privacy, copyright, and related issues.

Portrait photo of Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructional Fellow, Cyberlaw Clinic

Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructional Fellow, Cyberlaw Clinic

Kendra’s arrival comes in the midst of some additional staff changes at the Clinic. We are delighted to report that Jessica Fjeld has assumed the role of Acting Assistant Director of the Clinic and has been appointed a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. In that capacity, Jess will co-teach the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar along with Clinical Professor Chris Bavitz this fall. Vivek Krishnamurthy will take on the role of Clinic Attorney, splitting his time between Clinic projects concerning technology and human rights and Berkman Klein Center research initiatives (primarily from his new homebase on the west coast).

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