This is a survey course in how law applies to computers and their users. Topics covered may vary based on recent events, but will typically include jurisdiction, free speech, privacy, cybersecurity, e-commerce, intermediary liability, platform regulation, content moderation, antitrust, network neutrality, and digital property. There are no prerequisites, and the course is suitable for law students without a technical background, as well as for technical students without prior legal training.
Students who complete this course will be able to:
For more information about previous versions of the course, including syllabi and final exams, consult my courses webpage.
Anyone at Cornell Tech can take this course. There are no prerequisites. All are welcome.
Although this is listed as a “law” course and is required for LLM students, it is designed to be useful for and accessible to anyone who is interested in computer technology. Courses based on my casebook have been taught to law students, doctoral students, business students, and undergraduates in fields as diverse as political science and computer science.
If you have previously taken related courses in Internet law, online privacy law, cybersecurity law, digital copyright, or law and technology, please get in touch with me to discuss how much overlap there is with what this course will cover.
Please see the course policies document for information about COVID-19 safety; inclusion; names, titles and pronouns; the history of the site where the course takes place; academic integrity; unauthorized collaboration policy; accessibility and accommodations for disabilities; class recordings; and professionalism.
This syllabus is at http://james.grimmelmann.net/courses/internet2023S.
Huddle: Bloomberg 370
Desk: Bloomberg 3 NW, near the bookshelves
My office hours are whenever I’m free during the workday. You can sign up for a slot using the link on Canvas. We can meet in person in my huddle. If you need to meet via Zoom, there’s a link on Canvas. Just tell me to expect you on Zoom so I know to open my computer.
If none of the available times work for you, send me an email or DM me on the Cornell Tech Slack.
It is also always fine just to swing by to see if I’m free. If I have headphones on, just catch my eye. If my huddle door is closed, it’s closed for a reason (usually a call or a meeting) – send me an email! If it’s open, come on in! If I’m not around, email is generally best.
Most readings will be taken from the casebook I developed teaching this course in previous years: Internet Law: Cases and Problems. You will need the Twelfth Edition. Occasional updates and late-breaking cases will be distributed as PDFs during the course of the semester.
The book is published in two versions: online as a $30 PDF download by Semaphore Press and as a 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. If you purchase a printed copy of the book from Amazon, you should feel free to download a free digital copy of the book from Semaphore Press by using the “freeride” button at the bottom of the book’s payment page. Whichever version you purchase, remember to download the PDF supplement.
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, tablet, 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 are financially able to. If you think the bargain is a fair one, please help us help bring casebook prices down by doing your part.
The following are not required but you may find them useful:
Our class sessions will be devoted almost entirely to discussing the cases, questions, and problems from the casebook. I will call on you in class, for two reasons. First, an interactive conversation is much livelier than me yammering on and on. Second, I want to give each of you the chance to shine.
I will call on a student at random and ask them questions about the current case or other source to get a conversation started. When we reach a logical stopping point, I’ll call on someone else to discuss the next case, or to bring out a different angle on the current one.
Attendance in class is required. Especially in view of the other significant demands on your time and the challenges of a global pandemic, I will be understanding about conflicts and flexible in working with you to make alternative arrangements as needed. That said, consistent unexcused absences are not okay, and may lead to a reduced grade or exclusion from the course (after reasonable written warning).
Please arrive promptly. I promise that we will end on time, but that means we must start on time. Bring the readings with you, either on your computer or in hard copy.
This is a hybrid course. If you are joining by Zoom, please remember to turn on your camera and to mute your microphone except when you are speaking. If you do not have another convenient space, room 276 in the law school is reserved for this course and you are always welcome to join from there. It is possible that due to weather or childcare problems I may sometimes need to switch the entire class to Zoom for a day; I will do my best to give you as much advance notice as I can when this is the case.
Questions are always welcome, even when we are discussing something else. Occasionally I will ask you to hold a question because we are about to answer it in a few minutes when discussing another case, but otherwise I will do my best to answer all questions immediately. If something is unclear to you, it is probably unclear to your classmates – and sometimes it is unclear to me, too.
If this is your first law-school course, some of these types of materials may be unfamiliar to you.
Your work for this class will consist of the following:
First, do the assigned readings and participate in class discussions.
Second, do your best to stay on top of current events in Internet law. Cases and recent developments will often fuel our discussions in class. Your ability to remain current with the news will also be factored into class participation. I recommend some useful sources on my page of resources for students, which includes news outlets, newsletters, blogs, and podcasts.
There will be a short take-home midterm, which will will be available starting on February 24 and due by 11:59 PM on March 6. It will cover material from the first three units: jurisdiction, speech, and privacy.
Finally, there will be a take-home final examination, which will be available starting on May 9 and due by 11:59 PM on May 16. It will be like the midterms, except that I will give you two questions rather than one, and the questions may range over the entire course.
All written work will be blind-graded; I will provide instructions to ensure appropriate anonymity.
Your grades will be determined as follows:
I may adjust grades up or down by one third of a grade (e.g. B+ to A-) for consistently good or poor 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.
The final course grades will conform to Cornell Law School’s grading curve, which require that all courses be curved to a mean grade of 3.35., i.e. very close to B+.
The course will meet in a hybrid format. We will meet in person in room 71 in the Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech and by Zoom for the Ithaca section. If you are in the Cornell Section and are quarantining or traveling or have another good reason to join remotely and have confirmed with me in advance, it is okay to join the Zoom directly.
We will usually meet Mondays and Wednesdays 11:25 to 12:40.
Please note that we follow the university calendar, not the law-school calendar. The first day of class is Monday, January 23, and the last day of class is Monday, May 8. We will not meet on:
There may be a few additional readings, mostly late-breaking cases and other new developments. I will post them to this syllabus.
The following is a tentative schedule of readings. I will post a finalized schedule by the start of the semester.
Access to Computers
Beyond the Internet