Internet Law

Professor Grimmelmann

University of Maryland

Fall 2012


First Assignment

Please read chapter 1 in the casebook. Be prepared to discuss sections I-III; I will lecture on the material in section IV.

About the Course

Overview

This is a first course in Internet law. You will 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 will tie the doctrines together with four themes:

  1. How regulation changes when it is carried out by computers, rather than by people.
  2. Whether going online increases or decreases government control.
  3. The new kinds of power possessed by online intermediaries.
  4. 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.

Casebook

Most readings will be taken from the casebook I developed teaching this course in previous years: Internet Law: Cases and Problems (2nd ed. 2012). You will need the second edition.

The book is published online as a PDF download by Semaphore Press. I chose to publish with Semaphore because of their fairer business model. By publishing online, they are able to keep costs much lower: the suggested price is $30, instead of the $150 or more you might pay for a comparable casebook from a major publisher. You receive a PDF that you can read on your computer, iPad, or smartphone. You can print out as much, or as little, as you need. If the copy you printed is damaged, you can print the missing pages again, as often as you need.

There is an important bargain here. The success of this business model depends on you. We are trusting you not to buy one copy and share it with all your friends. We are also asking you to pay the suggested price. If you think the bargain is a fair one, please help us help bring casebook prices down by doing your part.

The casebook is also available in a perfect-bound paperback print version through Lulu. Here is an explanation of the pricing from the Semaphore Press website:

The price of this bound version is $57. This price includes LuLu’s cost of printing ($19.48), LuLu’s 20% “cut” of any amount charged above the printing cost ($7.51) and the base price ($30) that Semaphore Press suggests be paid for the digital copy of the book. Because the LuLu price has the $30 suggested price built in, after you purchase a printed copy of the book from LuLu, you should absolutely feel free to download a digital copy of the book from Semaphore Press using the “freeride” button at the bottom of the book’s payment page. …

Before you print a copy or order a bound version, please consider the environmental advantages of using the electronic version.

The questions in the casebook are meant to walk you through the readings. If you are 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 some longer “problems.” Most of them are based on actual cases or stories from the news, but with the details tweaked. We will discuss the problems in class in as much depth as the cases; I expect you to have thought them through beforehand. Although they emphasize the day’s topics, anything in the course—in fact, anything you’ve learned in law school—is fair game.

There may be a few additional readings, mostly late-breaking cases and other new developments. I will post them to this syllabus.

Class Meetings

We meet Mondays 9:50 to 11:50 and Wednesday 9:50 to 10:45 in room 108. Note that the meeting times are uneven: 120 minutes on Monday and 55 minutes on Wednesday. There will be a break in the middle of the Monday class so we can all stretch, use the restroom, etc.

Here are my policies about class:

Discussion

There will be a course discussion board on Blackboard. Participation is optional but encouraged. I will read the board actively and engage with anything you would like to discuss. Here are a few thoughts about interesting topics:

It is more important to be thoughtful and respectful than it is to be right. An informal tone is fine, but keep it professional. You should not post anything that you would be embarrassed to have employers read.

Grading

There will be a take-home final exam, which will be available from the start of exam period and due at the end. It will be open book and subject to a strict page limit. Your grade will be based principally on the final examination.

Contact

Office: Room 380
Phone: 212-431-2864
Email: jgrimmelmann at law.umaryland.edu
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 2:30 to 4:00

Email is the best way to reach me and will generally lead to the fastest response.

My office hours are the times I reserve for student meetings, not the only times I am available. Appointments are recommended but not required. If my office hours are inconvenient for you, email me to set up another time or just drop by. If the door to my office is open, please feel free to come in.

Assignments

Over the course of the semester, we will read most of the casebook, in order. There will be a few exceptions (e.g., we will omit the trespass to chattels materials in chapter 5 and some of the copyright materials in chapter 8).

I will generally ask you to read each section (typically 15-20 pages) as a unit so that you have a clearer idea of where we are going. Because of the unven allocation of class time on Mondays and Wednesdays, there will be some days when I ask you to read two sections and some days when there is no new reading.

I will do my best to post specific assignments here a few days in advance. Please be patient if the schedule requires revisions as we go. As of now, please read:

Final Exam