The Cyberlaw Clinic began in 1999, with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s announcement of a new “Clinical Research Program.” As the program heads into its sixteenth year, we at the Clinic have the opportunity to reflect on the events of 2014. From student work and public events, to changes among the Clinic staff, to new modes of teaching and updates to structure of the program itself, we wanted to share some highlights of the past calendar year as we look ahead to the rest of 2015.
Student Participation and Enrollment
In 2014, the Clinic continued its pattern of growth from previous years, with our largest-ever semester of Clinic enrollment this fall. Across the winter, spring, and fall terms of 2014, the Clinic enrolled more than sixty students. In addition, five full-time interns supported the Clinic’s work during the summer months and participated in the Berkman Center’s vibrant summer internship program.
With more student participation in the Clinic came some changes to the Clinic’s supervisory team as well:
- We were extremely fortunate to have Susan Crawford, Berkman Center Director and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School for the 2014 calendar year, collaborate with the Clinic throughout her visit at HLS. Susan worked directly with several of our students during the spring and fall semesters, focusing on civic innovation initiatives.
- The Clinic hired a new Clinical Instructor, Vivek Krishnamurthy, who joined us from the law firm Foley Hoag to help support the Clinic’s core work and build out our international and human right practices.
- Our good friend and former Clinical Instructional Fellow Kit Walsh moved to the West Coast to join the staff of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And, Andy Sellars – longtime member of the Berkman community, Corydon B. Dunham First Amendment Fellow, and former Assistant Director of Berkman’s Digital Media Law Project – stepped into a Clinical Fellow role. Andy worked primarily on matters relating to copyright and speech.
- Project Coordinator Shannon Walker departed for graduate studies, and Kira Hessekiel joined the staff of the Clinic to help run our day-to-day operations and support our work.
- Clinical Instructor and Lecturer at Law Dalia Topelson Ritvo was named Assistant Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic and continued to help manage the program and handle a wide variety of Clinic projects involving privacy, intellectual property transactions, and corporate social responsibility.
- The Clinic’s Managing Director Christopher Bavitz was appointed a Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and named a Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Along with a surge in student participation came the addition of a dedicated Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar to augment the student experience. Starting last fall semester, students were required to enroll in the Seminar contemporaneous with enrollment in the Clinic.
The new class offered opportunities for teaching about practice and professional responsibility issues that arise when counseling clients on matters relating to technology, intellectual property, privacy, and speech. It also permitted students to participate in skill-building exercises and – perhaps most importantly – regular case rounds sessions in which they shared information about their projects and learned from one and other. We look forward to continuing to refine the Seminar during the upcoming spring term.
The Clinic’s supervisors taught other courses and engaged in other teaching initiatives this year as well, including the following:
- Chris Bavitz taught Music & Digital Media during the spring semester and a new First-Year Reading Group, Fostering Innovation, during the fall semester.
- Susan Crawford taught Communications Law during the spring semester and Law of Surveillance during the fall semester 2014.
- Chris Bavitz and Dalia Topelson Ritvo updated the long-running seminar, Practical Lawyering in Cyberspace, and re-launched it as Counseling & Legal Strategy in the Digital Age during the fall semester 2014.
- Andy Sellars taught Internet & Society: Technology & Politics of Control at the Harvard Extension School during the spring semester 2014.
Chris also participated as a mentor in the inaugural edition of the Harvard Univeristy-wide Digital Problem Solving Initiative during the 2013-14 academic year. Working with Colin Maclay of Harvard Business School’s Digital Initiative, Chris advised a team that examined the phenomenon of “creation spaces.” That team wrapped up its work in spring 2014. Chris worked with a second DPSI team during the fall of 2014, considering issues relating to accessibility of educational materials in the context of online education.
The Clinic has long strived to offer students a broad-based experience, touching on the full range of substantive issue areas and types of practice that characterize the tech law space. This year was no exception, as we saw our students accomplish as wide a variety of work as ever before in the Clinic.
Advocacy – including via participation in administrative proceedings and assistance with amicus filings – remained a core component of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s practice, and 2014 saw its fair share of filings on behalf of clients:
- On behalf of a coalition of medical device researchers, the Clinic filed a petition for an exemption to the United States Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provision to the Copyright Office and Library of Congress. The petition seeks an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for researchers seeking to reverse engineer medical devices, such as pacemakers and continuous glucose monitors, in order to study their security and effectiveness.
- The Clinic filed an amicus letter with the California Supreme Court on behalf of Global Voices Advocacy and the Media Legal Defence Initiative, urging the Court to hear a case involving defamation allegations against an anonymous defendant. Plaintiff sued defendant over critical comments on a website targeting plaintiff, and amici argued that lower courts had not done enough to safeguard defendant’s right to speak anonymously on issues of public concern.
Consistent with past years, the Clinic helped produce work aimed toward educating and informing a wider public audience about important issues:
- With the help of the Cyberlaw Clinic, the Consortium for School Networking created and released the “Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning Toolkit,” an in-depth privacy guide designed to help school system leaders navigate complex federal laws and related issues.
- The Clinic collaborated with WGBH to create the “Digitizing News Archives” flowchart, designed to help news media archivists consider and manage legal risks while striving to maximize the availability of historic footage and other media content online.
- Fall 2014 Clinic student Joe Milner, along with Clinical Instructor Vivek Krishnamurthy, delivered a presentation to the MIT Bitcoin Club about legal issues surrounding bitcoin — from taxes to privacy to currency regulation.
As noted above, Susan Crawford’s involvement with the Clinic this year allowed us to significantly expand our government innovation practice. Students working with Susan helped advise the City of Boston – including the team at the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics – on a wide variety of matters relating to civic technology and government data initiatives.
In addition, the Clinic worked with:
- Harvard initiatives like the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences’ Dataverse platform and the HLS Islamic Legal Studies Program’s SHARIASource project; and
- outside collaborators, old and new, including 100kin10, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, The Mµseum, New York Public Library, Pangyrus, PRX, and Scratch.
Representative projects this year included advising on the use of copyrighted music and images in documentary films, drafting terms of service and privacy policies for mission-oriented startups, and researching intellectual property regimes in countries around the world.
Outreach and Engagement
Members of the Clinic’s teaching team continued to engage with the broader public through writing and interactions with media. Notable examples include:
- Susan Crawford’s latest book, The Responsive City (co-authored with Stephen Goldsmith) received an extraordinary amount of attention throughout the fall, including via City Journal, Harvard Magazine, and a mention from the late Mayor Menino of Boston in the Boston Globe. In addition, Susan wrote frequently about technology and civic innovation, including pieces in Bloomberg View, Medium, and Tech President.
- Andy Sellars helped The Verge identify six lawsuits that shaped the Internet, spoke with CNBC about non-disparagement clauses, talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the Sony hacks, and commented in The Huffington Post about using one’s cell phone to document voting activities.
- Chris Bavitz spoke to Marketplace’s Ben Johnson about the challenges of managing one’s online information.
- Vivek Krishnamurthy wrote a piece for Beta Boston about the United States Supreme Court’s Aereo decision, evaluating its potential adverse impact on innovation.
- Chris Bavitz, Vivek Krishnamurthy, and Andy Sellars all contributed articles to the Internet Monitor’s second annual report, “Reflections on the Digital World,” a unique collection of essays addressing developments in the digitally networked environment. Each one explored current legal issues in the field: the Aereo decision and what it meant for innovators in remote content suppliers; the human rights implications of the extraterritorial expansion of courts; and the ways in which copyright law is being used to reanimate the abandoned SOPA.
- Chris, Dalia, Vivek, and Andy contributed to the Media Law Resource Center‘s 2014 year-end “Copyright Roundtable.” Alongside Andrew Bridges of Fenwick & West LLP and Nancy Wolff of Cowan Debaets Abraham & Sheppard LLP, the Clinic team offered thoughts on major developments in copyright law during 2014.
Events and Speaking Engagements
The Clinic and its staff participated in a wide array of events over the past year, at HLS and beyond. Some highlights included:
- Susan Crawford spoke extensively throughout the year about The Responsive City and more broadly on the topic of government use of technology. At Harvard, Susan took part in a panel discussion with city officials from Boston and Somerville on engaging communities through data smart governance.
- Andy Sellars and Kit Walsh joined other members of the extended Berkman Center community to produce a session on legal issues relevant to coders and others who interact with technology at MIT.
- Dalia Topelson Ritvo participated in Common Sense Media’s School Privacy Zone Summit in Washington, DC, addressing issues relating to privacy and education.
- Dalia also spoke on a panel at the 2014 RightsCon conference on practical issues facing early-stage teach companies.
- The Clinic co-sponsored a panel in conjunction with the Harvard Law Documentary Studio on the use of video and film in gathering evidence and supporting advocacy.
- Chris Bavitz participated in a week-long Internet L@w Summer School course at the University of Geneva and spoke at an event produced by the Harvard Club of Switzerland about the clinical mode of legal education in the US and its application to high-tech practice.
- Chris also spoke about privacy regulation at Suffolk University Law School’s conference, Emerging Issues in Social Media Liability; on the state of the digital music business at the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative’s inaugural Beta Summit; and about contemporary fair use issues at a panel sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.
- Andy Sellars spoke at Vanderbilt University about a variety of Internet law issues, with an emphasis on the law governing research activities in the wake of the tragic death of Aaron Swartz.
- The Clinic helped put on discussions at HLS with EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl on National Security Letters and with Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin on cyberthreats and national security.
Coming off such a tremendous year, we could not be more excited or energized about the future of the Cyberlaw Clinic. Priorities for 2015 include:
- expanding our international practice, with a particular focus on issues relating to technology and human rights;
- engaging more deeply and regularly with our phenomenal Clinic alumni community through dedicated outreach and events;
- continuing efforts to expand public outreach, through our blog and in other fora;
- refining our pedagogy to better support our students throughout the semester and prepare them for law practice.
We appreciate all the support we received over this year – first and foremost from our stellar students, without whom none of this work would be possible. The Berkman Center, our clinical colleagues at HLS, and the greater Harvard Law School community also deserve our thanks. Finally, we want to express our appreciation for our clients and collaborators, large and small, who trust us to assist them in achieving their goals and allow our students to learn and grow through working with them. We look forward to undertaking many more fruitful and exciting projects in 2015.