May 23, 2005  ·  Lessig

So the Berkman Center is sponsoring its annual iLaw program in Cambridge, MA, June 22-24. The program is great fun, and you even get to live in the dorms! Registration is here. I’m hoping we move these programs overseas, exclusively. But I’m just (one of) the teachers. There are scholarships and group rates, so ask.

NOTE: Reservations for rooms are required. Dorm rooms are available but you must check in with Wendy Koslow at the Berkman Center about availability.

May 18, 2005  ·  Lessig

William Patry has a new blog on copyright, which has covered a range of interesting issue. He’s got an interesting link to the case Kathleen Sullivan recently won in the Supreme Court, Granholm v. Heald, finding that state limits on the sale of out of state wine violated the dormant commerce clause, the 21st Amendment notwithstanding. Patry suggests a link to database legislation, which seems to me a bit of a stretch (I think his view of database legislation is correct, but not sure it follows from Granholm.) He’s also got a very interesting review of the anti-bootlegging statute, informed by his experience on the Hill when these were passed.

May 6, 2005  ·  Lessig

So it’s Saturday morning here in Australia, and I’m reading my email in reverse order. First the fantastic news about PublicKnowledge. Now this: The Stanford Center for Internet and Society has won an important case about anonymous speech. An anonymous participant in an online chat posted comments critical of Ampex and its chairman. They sued for defamation. The poster sued under the California anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. Ampex tried to dismiss and run away. The Court of Appeals ruled at first that there remeained anti-SLAPP jurisdiction. The District Court then refused to award fees. The Court of Appeals has now reversed the District Court and ordered fees. The case was argued by a law student. It will have an important effect in stopping the abuse of process against online critics.

April 5, 2005  ·  Lessig

The Stanford Center for Internet and Society is hosting a conference on April 30, reviewing the cyberlaw day in the Supreme Court. Sign up here. Here’s their announcement.

On March 29, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases that together will greatly determine how government can and will regulate the Internet in the future, and the impact that the public interest will have on the development of cyberlaw over the next decade.

In MGM v. Grokster, the Court will decide whether copyright holders can veto consumer electronics and computing innovations that upset the content industries’ prevailing business models, even where the technology’s non-infringing uses provide substantial benefits to consumers. The question is whether consumer demand for new and better products will drive technological development, or copyright owners’ demand for control will retard it.

In Brand X v. FCC, the Court will decide whether the FCC should retain the option to regulate cable modem services to promote open access to broadband lines, universal service and network neutrality, as it did in the early days of the Internet when most people connected over common-carrier telephone lines. The question is whether tomorrow’s communications services will be defined by citizen choices or by the business interests of a handful of cable broadband companies.

At Cyberlaw in the Supreme Court, the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society will convene a discussion of these cases, their broader implications, and what effect the pending Supreme Court decisions could have on the public interest. Panels of attorneys litigating and arguing these cases, the parties affected by them, the policy advocates whose work will begin once the Judges rule, and the people thinking about what the legal landscape will look like for the next ten years will discuss both cases and the impact the decisions will have on the future.

January 28, 2005  ·  Lessig


I walked out of my constitutional law class, climbed into a car to go to a plane to fly to Chicago to fly to Sao Paolo to fly to Porto Alegre to get into a car to come to this. Brazil is hosting the World Social Forum, and Barlow and I will be on a panel with Manuel Castells and Gilberto Gil on Saturday. But Thursday night, we visited the Youth Camp, which in part this year is devoted to demonstrating and developing tools to support free software and free culture.

We arrived in the middle of a concert. Gil was asked to speak. As he went to the mic, the tent fell silent. Hundreds were packed into a tiny space. Gil began to describe the work of the Lula government to support free software, and free culture, when a debate broke out. I don’t speak Portuguese, but a Brazilian who spoke English translated for Barlow and me. The kid was arguing with Gil about free radio. Two minutes into the exchange, about 8 masked protesters climbed onto chairs on one side of the tent, and held posters demanding free radio. A huge argument exploded, with the Minister (Gil) engaging many people directly, and others stepping in to add other perspectives. After about 20 minutes, the argument stopped. The band played again, and then Gil was asked to perform. For about another twenty minutes, this most extraordinary performer sang the music he’s been writing since the 1960s, while the whole audience (save Barlow and I) sang along. When the concert was over, Barlow, Gil and I were led out of the tent. It was practically impossible to move, as hundreds begged Gil for autographs, or posed for pictures. At each step, someone had an argument. At each step, Gil stopped to engage. Even after Gil was in the car, some kid rapped on the window, yelling yet another abusive argument. Gil, with the patience of a saint, opened the window, and argued some more.

This was a scene that was astonishing on a million levels. I’ve seen rallies for free software in many placed around the world. I’ve never seen anything like this. There were geeks, to be sure. But not many. The mix was broad-based and young. They cheered free software as if it were a candidate for President.

But more striking still was just the dynamic of this democracy. Barlow captured the picture at the top, which in a sense captures it all. Here’s a Minister of the government, face to face with supporters, and opponents. He speaks, people protest, and he engages their protest. Passionately and directly, he stands at their level. There is no distance. There is no “free speech zone.” Or rather, Brazil is the free speech zone. Gil practices zone rules.

Even after the speech was over, the argument continues. At no point is there “protection”; at every point, there is just connection. This is the rockstar who became a politician, who became a politician as a rockstar.

I remember reading about Jefferson’s complaints about the early White House. Ordinary people would knock on the door, and demand to see the President. Often they did. The presumption of that democracy lives in a sense here. And you never quite see how far from that presumption our democracy has become until you see it, live, here. “This is what democracy looks like.” Or at least, a democracy where the leaders can stand packed in the middle of a crowd, with protesters yelling angry criticism yet without “security” silencing the noise. No guns, no men in black uniform, no panic, and plenty of press. Just imagine.

December 13, 2004  ·  Lessig


So in the spirit of the times (sussing great gift ideas), I’ve convinced an old friend, and my former Dean, to spend a couple days in this space talking about his new book, In Perilous Times. Starting Wednesday, Geof Stone will be blogging here about the book. It is a great and amazing history, both optimistic and depressing. It will be Geof’s first time blogging, so please make him welcome.

And were I to use this space to self-promote, I might point to Businessweek‘s pick of the top ten books of the year. But I won’t waste your time with that.