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.
On September 28, 2016, the First Circuit issued its opinion in Rideout v. Gardner, holding that New Hampshire’s prohibition on sharing photos of marked ballots (or “ballot selfies”) — N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659:35 (as amended in 2014) — is unconstitutional. The district court had found that that the law was a content-based restriction on speech and that it failed strict scrutiny under the First Amendment. The First Circuit opinion authored by Judge Lynch upheld the district court’s decision on narrower grounds, finding that — whether or not the law was content-based — it could not survive even the lower threshold of intermediate scrutiny. Previous blog posts provide more information about the amicus brief filed by the Cyberlaw Clinic in the case (on behalf of the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Keene Sentinel) and about the oral argument, which took place on September 13th before Judges Lipez, Lynch, and Thompson.
Last week, the First Circuit heard oral argument in Rideout v. Gardner. The case concerns the constitutionality of a New Hampshire statute — N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659:35 (as amended in 2014) — which prohibits voters from sharing photos of their marked ballots on social media. Specifically, the statute bars (among other things) “taking a digital image or photograph of [one’s] marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media.” It has become known as New Hampshire’s “ballot selfie” law.
We are excited to report that the Access to Justice Lab has gone live at Harvard Law School. HLS Professor Jim Greiner, who serves as Faculty Director of the Lab, is a pioneer in the use of rigorous research methodologies to evaluate of outcomes for those with legal needs. The Lab will carry on that work — developing evidence-based approaches to help courts and legal services providers understand what works in improving access to justice.
As often happens during the heat of the New England summer, we on the Cyberlaw Clinic team find ourselves thinking about the past academic year and looking ahead to the next. It is a great time to pause and reflect on the work of our students and the overall state of our program, which has now served the HLS student body and the broader technology law and policy community for more than sixteen years. This post serves as something of an “academic year in review” for the 2015-16 school year and a preview of things to come.
The Cyberlaw Clinic supported Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in filing an amicus brief (pdf) today in the case, Small Justice LLC v. Xcentric Ventures LLC, Case No. 15-1506, pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The case raises important questions about the interplay between copyright law and laws protecting free expression, including the immunity granted to platforms that host content uploaded by users pursuant to Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act. Paul Levy of Public Citizen and Kit Walsh of EFF wrote detailed posts about the brief.