Internet Law

Professor Grimmelmann

University of Maryland

Spring 2016


First Assignment

Read pages 9 to 44 in the casebook. I will lecture on the technical material, but be prepared to discuss the rest.

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 five 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. Whether the Internet reduces offline inequalities or creates new ones.
  5. The extraordinary level of innovation, both creative and destructive, the Internet has unleashed.

Your work for the class will consist of daily readings, in-class discussions, and a take-home exam. Our major topics for the semester will be:

For more information about previous versions of the course, including syllabi and final exams, consult my courses webpage.

Casebook

Most readings will be taken from the casebook I developed teaching this course in previous years: Internet Law: Cases and Problems (5th ed. 2015). You will need the fifth edition.

The book is published in two versions: online as a $30 PDF download by Semaphore Press and as a $64.58 perfect-bound paperback at Amazon. The price of the paperback includes the $30 suggested Semaphore price plus the additional printing costs and commission charged by Amazon. After you purchase a printed copy of the book from Amazon, you should 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.

For class, you will either need to buy the paperback version or to print out the assigned readings yourself.

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 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.” Many 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 and Wednesdays 10:25 to 11:50 in room 302. Note that we will not meet on Monday, January 18, because of the Martin Luther King Jr., Day holiday, and we will not meet on Monday, January 25 or Wednesday, January 27, as I will be away. I will schedule makeup classes later in the semester.

Here are my policies about class:

I want our classroom to be a welcoming space, one where we all learn from the diversity of each others’ experiences and perspectives. If anything in or out of class troubles you in a way that you think might affect your participation or learning, please come and talk to me about it. Not all discomfort is avoidable, but I will do everything I can to help that is consistent with the educational goals of the course. I will also respect any requests for confidentiality as far as my legal and professional duties allow.

In particular, if for any reason your preferred name is not the one that appears on the course roster, please let me know how you would rather be addressed. (For example, I typically have several students a semester who go by their middle names rather than their first names.) It’s a small thing, but one there is no reason I should get wrong.

Grading

There will be a take-home final examination, which will be available from the start of examination 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. I may adjust exmination grades grade up or down by one-third of a grade based on class participation. I consider good class participation to be anything that helps your fellow students learn, and poor participation to be anything that obstructs their learning.

Contact

Office: Room 231
Phone: 410-706-7260
Email: jgrimmelmann at law.umaryland.edu
Office hours: Thursdays, 1:30 to 3:00 PM, or by appointmen

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.

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

Readings

The following schedule of assignments was last updated February 22. Dates in the future are my best estimates; dates in the past are what we actually did. All readings are from the casebook unless otherwise indicated.

Final Examination