This is a first course in Internet law. You’ll learn the essentials of computer and network technologies, and how those technologies are challenging settled legal understandings. The sources of Internet law are many, from intellectual property to tort to the First Amendment, but by the end of the course, you should be able to sort through the legal complexities in any given case to identify what’s really at stake. Throughout the semester, we’ll tie the doctrines together with four themes:
How regulation changes when it’s carried out by computers, rather than by people.
Whether going online increases or decreases government control.
The new kinds of power possessed by online intermediaries.
The extraordinary level of innovation and creativity the Internet has unleashed.
Your work for the class will consist of daily readings, in-class discussions, discussions on Blackboard, and a take-home exam.
Almost all of the readings for the class will be taken from a draft of my forthcoming casebook, Internet Law: Cases and Problems. It will be distributed in PDF installments through Blackboard and made available at the copy center.
The questions in the casebook are meant to walk you through the readings. If you’re reading closely enough, you should be able to give at least a tentative answer to all of them. These questions will typically serve as a starting point for class discussion.
The casebook also contains a number of longer “problems.” Most of them are based on actual cases or stories from the news, but with the details tweaked. We’ll discuss the problems in depth in class; I expect you to have thought through them in detail. Although they emphasize the day’s topics, anything in the course—in fact, anything you’ve learned in law school—is fair game.
The bookstore has two books in stock as “recommended” readings for the course. Both are completely optional:
The readings and in-class presentations will contain everything you need to know about Internet technology. If you feel unclear on some topics or want to learn more, How the Internet Works is an illustrated guide. Its coverage is scattershot and its illustrations are frequently distracting, but it is, unfortunately, the best non-techical introduction to the Internet I am aware of.
Blown to Bits is an alternative perspective on controversies in Internet law and policy. It is less formal than the legal materials we will be reading for class. It emphasizes big-picture controversies, compelling examples, and clear explanations of the topics it covers.
We meet Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:00–7:15 in room W420.
Class will start and end promptly at the scheduled times. Our time together is valuable, and so is your out-of-class time.
I expect you to be in class, unless you have a compelling reason to be absent (e.g. illness) and have notified me beforehand. In keeping with the NYLS attendance policy, more than two unexcused absences will be grounds for a reduction in your grade or exclusion from the course.
Bring the day’s readings with you to class, in hard copy.
I’ll call extensively on you in class, mostly at random. I’ll do everything I can to make the experience supportive and unthreatening.
It’s always okay to interrupt me with a question. If something seems unclear to you, it’s likely that others are also wondering the same thing.
In class discussions, you should be respectful of and courteous towards your classmates. One of the skills you are learning as law students is how to be friendly and professional while disagreeing.
I’ll post videos of each class, aslong with my slides, to Blackboard after each class.
There’s a course discussion board on Blackboard. I expect you to post at least three times per week, of which at least one is a response to something one of your classmates has posted. Here are a few good ideas for things to post about:
Recent news stories and an explanation of how they relate to the course.
Answers to questions posed in the casebook.
Your opinion on whether cases we read were correctly decided.
Connections between different cases or parts of the course.
Links to recent opinions and a summary of the case.
It’s more important to be thoughtful and respectful than it is to be right. An informal tone is fine, but keep it professional. You shouldn’t post anything that you would be embarrassed to have your employer read.
There will be a take-home final exam. It will be distributed by Wednesday, May 4 and will be due by 5:00 PM on Thursday, May 12. The exam will be open book and subject to a strict page limit.
The assignments count as follows:
Online discussions: 25%
Final exam: 75%
I may adjust your grade by one third up or down for class participation. I consider good class participation to be anything that helps your classmates learn. Asking me for an adjustment is the best way not to get one.
Office: Room SE941, 40 Worth St.
Phone: (212) 431-2864
Email: james.grimmelmann (at nyls)
Office Hours: Tuesdays 9:00 to 11:00 AM, and by appointment