Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down a major victory for government transparency in Center for Investigative Reporting v. DOJ (pdf). An amicus brief authored by Cyberlaw Clinic students and staff on behalf of news media organizations and data journalists was cited throughout the court’s decision and has had a major influence on how the court interpreted the Freedom of Information Act.
Access Denied: New White Paper on How US Copyright Policy Negatively Impacts Free Expression Worldwide
The Cyberlaw Clinic was proud to partner with Article 19 Mexico and Central America to author a new white paper, Access Denied: How Journalists and Civil Society Can Respond to Content Takedown Notices (DMCA-digital-english_FINAL) / Acceso Denegado: ¿Cómo pueden responder los y las periodistas y la sociedad civil a las notificaciones de eliminación de contenidos? (DMCA esp-digital_FINAL). The report highlights a growing phenomenon, in Latin America and around the globe, in which US copyright law–in particular, Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, known as the “notice and takedown” provision–is used to target and censor journalists’ legitimate free expression.
The Cyberlaw Clinic is hiring summer interns for 2021! Current U.S. JD candidates with an interest in the intersection of tech, law, and social justice are invited to join our dynamic team! Summer legal interns work on all aspects of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s caseload and, like Fall and Spring semester students, take the lead on the projects they join, supported by the Clinic staff. Although Clinic projects vary from summer to summer, they often include substantive law related to the First Amendment, computer security, digital privacy, intellectual property, civic innovation, emerging technologies, and media and the arts. The Clinic also has a growing practice relating to AI, including with regard to criminal justice, human rights, and creative practice. Interns will be involved in supporting the Clinic’s ongoing docket and in planning decisions about clients, cases, and topic areas to be addressed in the Clinic’s work during the upcoming academic year. Interns are supervised and mentored by the Cyberlaw Clinic instructors, and are provided with feedback and growth opportunities.
The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief [.pdf] last week in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Engine Advocacy, supporting a petition for certiorari in a case that concerns the patent law doctrine of assignor estoppel. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided the case — Minerva v. Hologic (Supreme Court Case No. 20-440) — and adopted an expansive view of the doctrine. Engine is an advocacy organization that represents the interests of startups, and the brief expresses concerns about the ways in which assignor estoppel can stifle innovation and limit employee mobility.
On October 13, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (“HIRC”) submitted a public comment drafted by the Cyberlaw Clinic regarding a rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). The proposed rule would greatly expand DHS and USCIS’s authority to collect biometric data from immigrants, foreign nationals, permanent residents, and citizens involved in the immigration process by making biometric collection mandatory rather than discretionary. It would also expand the types of biometrics to include palm prints, iris scans, and voice prints. Finally, it would remove current biometric exemptions for minors under age fourteen and weaken protections for asylum seekers under the Violence Against Women Act.
On October 9, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) on behalf of client Martin Pfeiffer. Mr. Pfeiffer is a PhD student at the University of New Mexico whose work focuses on nuclear semiotics, information management, secrecy, and history. In January 2020, the Clinic assisted him in filing FOIA requests with the National Nuclear Security Administration (“NNSA”). Relying on Mr. Pfeiffer’s active online presence and long history of publications, talks, and podcast appearances, the Clinic asked that he be classified as an educational or news media requester for fee purposes.
We are excited to announce the release of A Researcher’s Guide to Some Legal Risks of Security Research (pdf), a report authored by Sunoo Park and Kendra Albert, and co-published by the Cyberlaw Clinic and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Just last month, over 75 prominent security researchers signed a letter urging the Supreme Court not to interpret the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking / computer crime statute, in a way that would criminalize swaths of valuable security research. The case in question, Van Buren v. United States, is still pending. Meanwhile, security researchers routinely face legal risks and receive legal threats, with documented chilling effects on their work.
The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) last week in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, on behalf of Upturn, Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates for equity and justice in the design, governance, and use of technology. The brief supports the defendant-movant, Corey Pickett, in an appeal seeking source code access to TrueAllele, a DNA analysis software developed by Cybergenetics. The amicus brief submitted by the Clinic focuses on the necessity of independent and adversarial review of novel technologies like TrueAllele in ensuring proper administration of justice within the criminal legal system.
Over the years, the Cyberlaw Clinic has taken an active interest in cases concerning attempts to use copyright claims to limit access to law. Many of these cases have involved our friends at Public.Resource.org, which actively pushes back in situations where private entities assert that their copyright interests should trump free and open access the text of statutes and related legal documents. Of particular note, the United States Supreme Court ruled last year in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org that the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is ineligible for copyright protection. (The Clinic had filed an amicus brief in the case for the Caselaw Access Project urging that very result.)
Last week, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (.pdf) in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Alasaad v. Wolf, Case Nos. 20-1077, 20-1081. The case addresses the constitutional implications of electronic device searches at the border. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts brought the case against the Department of Homeland Security, asserting claims by travelers whose phones and laptops were searched without warrants. The Clinic submitted the brief on behalf of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, which directly represents individuals applying for U.S. asylum and related protections and advocates on immigration policy issues at the local, national, and international levels. The brief emphasized the chilling effects on speech of warrantless, suspicionless device searches and highlighted the ways in which such government conduct deters the free exercise of expression and association. Spring 2020 Cyberlaw Clinic students Andrew Mettry and Jubilee Cheung and summer 2020 Cyberlaw Clinic interns Priyanka Krishnamurthy and William Walker worked with Clinical Instructor Mason Kortz and with HIRC to draft the brief.