2014 Cyberlaw Clinic Year in Review

2014 ImageOverview

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.

Staff

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.

Teaching

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.

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.

Clinic Projects

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:

  • 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:

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:

  • 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.

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

Conclusion

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.

Image courtesy of Pixbay user Geralt, CC0.

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