Internet Law

Professor Grimmelmann

New York Law School

Spring 2012

About the Course


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:

  1. How regulation changes when it’s 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.


Most readings will be taken from the casebook I developed teaching this course in prior years: Internet Law: Cases and Problems. The book is published online as a PDF download by Semaphore Press. You will need to obtain a copy from their website. I highly recommend printing out a copy and bringing the day’s pages with you to class.

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

The syllabus is broken down into individual assignments. Unless I tell you otherwise, you’re responsible for reading one assignment per class session. I promise to stick closely to this pace. I will update the syllabus with dates as the semester progresses, so you can track what we discussed when.

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.

There will be a few additional readings, mostly late-breaking cases and other new developments. I will post them to this syllabus. I will announce any new additions in class, but it is also your responsibility to check this syllabus before starting your reading for a given session.

Class Meetings

We meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM, in room W420.

I’ll post videos of each class, aslong with my slides, to Blackboard after each class.


There’s 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’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, 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. I may adjust your grade by one third up or down for class and Blackboard participation. I consider good participation to be anything that helps your classmates learn. Asking me for an adjustment is the best way not to get one.


Professor Grimmelmann:

This syllabus is at


Unless otherwise indicated, all readings are taken from the casebook.

Introduction: Technology, and Theory

Computers (January 18)

The Internet (January 23)


Cyberspace (January 25)

Law (January 30)

Code (February 1)

Personal Jurisdiction (February 6)


Free Speech (February 8)

Pornography (February 13)


Fourth Amendment (February 15)

Wiretapping (February 20)

Anonymity (February 22)

Consumer Privacy (February 27)


Contracts (February 29)

CFAA (March 5)

Section 230

Section 230 (March 7)

More Section 230 (March 19)

Trademarks and Domain Names

Trademarks (March 21)

Domain Names (March 26)

The Domain-Name System (March 28)

Exclusive Rights (April 2)

Fair Use (April 9)

Secondary Liability (April 11)

DMCA Section 1201 (April 16)

Section 512 (April 18)


Common Law and the First Amendment (April 23)

Antitrust (April 25)

Network Neutrality (April 30)

Review Session (May 2) (optional)

Final Exam