On January 24, 2017, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in the case, Steinmetz v. Coyle & Caron Inc., First Circuit No. 16-1996. The brief supports defendant-appellee in the case, and the Court granted leave to file the brief this week (over the objections of plaintiff-appellant). RCFP was joined on the brief by The Associated Press, Gannett Co., Inc., the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the New England Newspaper & Press Association, Inc. RCFP has summarized the brief on its website.
Efforts to create more space for free expression in Africa have been strengthened by the Kenyan Judiciary. In the case of Jacqueline Okuta & Anor vs. AG & Others, the High Court of Kenya on 6 of February 2017 annulled section 194 of the Penal Code that provides for the offence of criminal defamation. This decision is significant in safeguarding the fundamental rights of Kenyans, particularly in light of the forthcoming general elections. It curtails the misuse of criminal law provisions by political figures to curtail speech they consider unfavorable. Journalists especially have been victims of criminal defamation sanctions for exposing corruption and unlawful activities of public officials.
We are excited to kick off the spring 2017 semester at Harvard Law School this week with a brand new member of the Cyberlaw Clinic teaching team, as Mason Kortz joins us as a Clinical Fellow. Mason comes to the Clinic after clerking in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and working as a legal fellow with our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (as part of ACLUM’s Technology for Liberty Project). Mason will be involved in a wide variety of projects at the Clinic, addressing issues that include online speech, privacy, and the use of data products to advance social justice. Mason attended Harvard Law School, where he spent a semester as a student in the Cyberlaw Clinic. Prior to law school, he worked as a data manager for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. We are thrilled to welcome Mason back into the Clinic fold and look forward to getting him fully immersed in our practice and teaching activities over the coming months. Welcome, Mason!
In December, the United States Copyright Office released a report on software-enabled consumer products. Prepared pursuant to a request from Senate Judiciary Committee members Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the report clarifies how existing copyright law applies to everyday consumer items, from cameras to pickup trucks, that are sold pre-loaded with software essential to their operation. Copyright is not the only area of law implicated by now-ubiquitous software, and simultaneous work is being undertaken by the FTC, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Commerce.
This week, PBS‘s “Independent Lens” is airing a remarkable documentary entitled Containment. Produced by Redacted Pictures and directed by Peter Galison and Robb Moss (working with co-producer and editor Chyld King), the film examines the challenges associated with disposal and storage of the byproducts of nuclear energy production and with conveying risk across generations. We in the Cyberlaw Clinic had the great pleasure of providing legal support to the the team behind Containment during the film’s production.
On 8 November 2016, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights handed down a much-anticipated judgment on the right of access to information. While the Court was clearer and firmer than it had ever been before on the status of the right to access information as part of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention, it stopped short of acknowledging access to information as a fully-fledged right under the provision.
Drawing from their experience studying trends in internet services pricing across the country, a team of researchers, including Berkman Klein Center Research Director Rob Faris, Cyberlaw Clinic project coordinator Kira Hessekiel, Berkman Klein fellow David Talbot, and HLS ’18 student Danielle Kehl, submitted a comment to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and National Science Foundation to advocate for more comprehensive public information on the price of internet access services.
For students from the law school and beyond who are interested in entrepreneurship, we invite you to take this opportunity to meet with one (or more!) of the law school’s Experts-in-Residence, Sridhar Prasad and Dennis Berman. With a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise, the EiRs have volunteered their time to help students succeed in entrepreneurial ventures with career and business advice drawn from their years of experience. You can sign up for a meeting with the EiRs here – please note that all meetings will take place at the i-Lab, and meetings must be scheduled by 5pm the day prior.
We could not be more excited to announce that Jessica Fjeld has joined us as a Clinical Instructor in the Cyberlaw Clinic! Jess graduated from Columbia University and Columbia Law School and has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts. She was an associate at Skadden and most recently worked with our good friends and frequent collaborators on the Business & Legal Affairs team at WGBH Educational Foundation, which owns and operates WGBH-TV (our local public television station in the Boston area and developer of programming seen on PBS stations nationwide) and WGBH-FM (which broadcasts on 89.7 FM in Boston and is an National Public Radio member station). We expect that Jess will work with Clinic students on a wide range of matters relating to intellectual property, media and entertainment, and freedom of expression and will be more broadly integrated into the research community at our the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Welcome, Jessica!
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this week issued its decision in Commonwealth v. White, SJC–1197 (Sept 28, 2016). The case concerned the circumstances in which law enforcement officers may seize a cell phone to advance a criminal investigation. The SJC held that probable cause to seize a phone “may not be based solely on an officer’s opinion that the device is likely to contain evidence of the crime under investigation.” The Court also ruled that the Commonwealth had not met the burden of demonstrating that the delay between seizure of the phone and application for a search warrant — a delay of sixty-eight days — was reasonable.