Watch this space for links to Seminars in Electronic Commerce and
Digitial Intellectual Property
Law and the Internet Fall 1998
Tue, Wed & Thurs
Room F108 3:30 - 4:20
There is no casebook for this class.
Course materials will generally be available in the Distribution Center
Daily assignments are available in a separate
Please do two things before the first class
To subscribe to the mailing list send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave the subject line of the e-mail blank. The first line of your message
should read: subscribe intnet98
Acquire the first set of materials from the Distribution Center.
Read the "General Information" and the first case.
Join the class mailing list.
You should get a message back confirming your subscription. Once you
are subscribed, to send e-mail to the list, address the e-mail to:
Anything you send to the list will be distributed to the entire class.
In the past I have taught this class as a seminar. Taught as a
with 15 people or fewer, the class was anarchic -- in the Internet sense
of the term.
The larger the class, the harder this gets; As a result, I will lecture a
little, but I hope that most of the class will proceed by discussion.
I tend to lead discussions with a lot of questions. Some of them are
leading questions, some of them are misleading questions, but oftentimes
they are just plain questions as I am curious as to your views, or I have
no idea what the answer is either.
How to contact me.
I urge you to contact me if you have questions, comments, or suggestions
about the class. I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to
come and see me early in the semester if you think you need help
understanding something. If you are doing the reading but still feel lost
or confused, don't wait until the last three weeks of class. I can help.
But not at the last minute.
You can call me at 284-4285. Most days, I am in and out of the office.
If you get my voice mail, leave a number and state when is the best time
to call back.
You can come by my office, Rm. 382, any time, but since I'm in and out
erratically, I advise you to call ahead and make an appointment.
I sometimes get busy and may have to ask you to come back later.
My office hours are Tuesday 10:30-12:00 for walk-in. I'm
sure to be free then, so if you are able to come on Tuesday please do;
other times can be reserved by appointment.
Probably the easiest way to contact me is to send me e-mail at email@example.com.
Include a telephone number if you prefer a more human response.
Attendance. I will take not take formal attendance in this class,
but I can't help but notice who is missing sometimes. Any student who skips
often enough for it to become noticeable may suffer some deduction from
class participation credit. If you are consistently absent I will contact
the Dean of Students office and ask them to drop you from the class.
Safe harbor: if you skip three or fewer classes I guarantee you will not
suffer any deduction from class participation credit, so there's no need
to even bother with excuses for the rare and inevitable absence. Please
make every effort to come on time. If you can't make it on time, it's still
better to come late than not at all.
Taping. No classes may be taped without my specific permission,
which will not be given for reasons other than verified medical emergencies,
or to students with particular disabilities. Tapes make me nervous.
Disabilities. This class, like most law
school classes, is heavily oriented toward reading a large quantity of
difficult material in a small amount of time. If you are aware that you
have a learning disability, or if you just think that it takes you twice
as long to learn things by reading as other people, please talk to the
Disabilities Issues Coordinator, Assistant Dean Marnie Lennon who can tell
you about resources here that you may find valuable. All discussions will
be totally confidential. Any student who believe (s)he suffers from acute
"stage fright" and underperforms in public should see me early in the semester
to see if we can work out special arrangements in which you e-mail some
answers rather than giving them orally.
Exam. Grades will be based primarily on an open book
take-home final exam. As the Law School is in the process of revising its
rules and recommendations for take-home exams, the time for the exam remains
to be determined. In no event will the time be more than 24 hours or less
than six hours. Please stay tuned for exact details as to when the
exam will be administered and in what format. Please do not contact
me to discuss exam conflicts as this undermines the blind grading system.
Contact the Dean of Students office for all exam conflict issues.
Class participation. Extraordinarily good class participation ("two
stars") will raise your final grade by one level (e.g. from a B+ to an
A); good class participation ("one star") will raise your grade by one
level if you are close to the line between two grades; very poor class
participation will lower your grade by one level if you are close to the
line between two grades ("minus one star" -- this almost never happens);
outrageously bad class participation (i.e. disruptive or offensive behavior)
will lower your grade one level. [For your information, I have never yet
had to resort to giving "minus two stars".] Very poor attendance may contribute
to a diagnosis of very poor class participation. At some fairly extreme
point, if you cut too many classes I will contact the Dean of Students'
office to suggest you have withdrawn yourself from the class. [I have done
this, alas.] In general, you will find it to your advantage to volunteer,
and not to your advantage to pretend to be prepared when I call on you.
You will find it highly costly to disrupt class by talking or acting
in a manner that disturbs your neighbors (my pet peeve). Unless it's
your day to be a "natural resource" you may pass if called on as long as
you don't make a habit of it. I urge you not to pass -- admit you are not
prepared, and we will just take it from there. Please note that participation
in the class mailing lists counts towards class participation credit (both
positive and negative).
Mechanics of Grading. Consistent with the law school's rules,
I grade all exams "blind" -- I see only the blind grading number, not your
name. I do not curve grades in this class; the chips fall where they
may: in theory there could be all A's, or none, although reality tends
to fall between these extremes. After I turn in the exam grades to
the Registrar's office, the Registrar's office produces a list of names
and blind grading numbers so I can factor in class participation.
However, I ask my secretary not to show me this list, and instead I am
given a list of blind grading numbers sorted by the class participation
grades (one star or two stars) I have already given to my secretary.
I then compute the final grade. I make it a point to not know the
names that go with an exam until after the final grade has been turned
into the Registrar's office. Once grades are turned into the Registrar's
office, the law school's rules prohibit me from changing a grade for ANY
reason other than clerical error. These are rare.
Your chance to be a natural resource. A small number of students
will be selected in advance to serve as "resources" for each class (the
exact number depends on class size). These are the people I will turn to
if no one volunteers to answer a question and the people I call on are
passing in droves. You are not required to recite, and indeed may not have
to do anything if the class is lively. On the other hand, you may be busy.
A "resource person" may volunteer at any time. Your performance as "resource
person" will be a part, but by no means all, of your class participation.
Early in the semester I will hand out a list of class dates and resource
person responsibilities. You are welcome to trade dates among yourself
if the dates I assign you happen to be inconvenient, but you must inform
me of the trades before the start of the relevant class. Failure to
attend class when you are a resource person without a serious medical problem
or the equivalent will be deeply prejudicial to class performance.
Alas, this has happened in the past...
Electronic Mailing List. I will
operate an electronic mailing list for this class. Any message sent to
the list will be transmitted to me, and to all other members of the list,
as will replies. I hope this will provide a convenient way for you to share
questions and answers about the course. Participation in the list is like
class participation: providing good answers to your colleagues' questions
is another way to rack up class participation credit. You are required
to join this mailing list. Some assignments require you send messages to
the list. Reading and using the list is an important part of this class.
You may select either of two paper options. In OPTION 1 you get the same
three credits, and instead of taking the exam your grade is based
predominantly on your production
of a World Wide Web (WWW) page or pages that discusses an Internet-related
legal subject. I am more interested in the content of your legal analysis
and the depth of your research than I am in your snazzy graphics or cute
Netscape tricks...although those are nice too. Your grade will also include
a substantial class participation component. I expect everyone to do the
reading and to be prepared for class. Class participation includes taking
part in assignments to do something and report to the class mailing list
in a timely way. In OPTION 2 you get four (!) credits for writing the paper,
and also satisfy the writing requirement, but you are required to turn
in a rough draft shortly after midterm. I'll mark it up extensively and
return it to you for a full re-draft. Whether you pick option 1 or option
2, you need to get my approval of your two-page summary of you paper topic
before the end of the third week of classes. Since this is neither easy
nor automatic, you need to meet with me right away to discuss your potential
In either case, the writing project should be the intellectual equivalent
of a 25+ page paper (30+ for option 2), but must be in a format that can
be read on the World Wide Web by a standard browser. You are not
required to jazz up the paper with fancy WWW tricks, but you may if you
want. Content and quality of legal analysis will be the critical
factors affecting your grade, although I will give some credit for projects
that use WWW technology in an appropriate and useful manner. (Please
don't overdo it!) The paper must in HTML or in another format that
is readable with free tools available on the Internet: no proprietary formats
are allowed. This means, for example, that written work submitted
on "dead trees" (paper) or in WordPerfect, or Microsoft Word, is not acceptable.
You may select any topic related to the subject of the course.
I will be happy to help you pick a topic if you have a general area of
interest, although experience has shown that the best writing tends to
result from topics that students choose themselves. Please turn in
a two page memo (on paper) on your proposed paper topic, listing
the issues you intend to address and (perhaps) your first guess as to what
you will say about them no later than our fourth class; based on this memo
I will either approve the topic or propose modifications. If you
have selected option 2, we will discuss the due date for the rough draft
when I approve your topic. I will return the rough draft with comments
as soon as I can, on a first-come, first-served basis. You will not
be graded on your rough draft -- the comments are entirely for your benefit
with no strings attached. The final draft is due on
the last day of class. In addition to posting the final draft on your web
site and sending me an email containing information on how to access it,
please turn in a floppy disk containing the full project to my secretary,
Rosalia Lliraldi, who sits near room 382 in the library.
How to subscribe to the mailing list
To subscribe to the mailing list:
Send an email message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
from the account you wish to subscribe to the list
Leave the subject line of the e-mail blank.
The first (and only) line of your message should read:
You should get a message back confirming your subscription within a
few minutes; if you have not received one within an hour or more, please
Once you are subscribed, to send e-mail to the list, address the e-mail
Mail will be distributed to each subscriber. If all goes well, the
mail will be archived on the Web as of August 18, 1998.
Sending anonymous messages to the class mailing list
here to send an anonymous message to the class list. Note, however,
that you don't get class participation credit for sending anonymous messages!
[Temporarily disabled -- should be back in operation soon]
Answers to frequently asked questions:
How long should I be spending on homework each
A long time. This stuff is not easy and there is quite a lot of it. The
average law school class ratio is 3-5 hours of reading for each class hour.
I aim to stay within these norms, but to err is human.
Where can I look things up if I'm confused?
The World Wide Web is a good place to look for information, although there's
always reason to doubt the accuracy of what you find. If you are confused
about something - or if you find something that sorts out your confusion
- please send a note to the class mailing list. I'll be watching the list
and will try to answer questions posted there. If you are too shy to post
to the list, you can email anonymously, or you can send me a note and I'll
strip off your name before replying to the list. Please note in your email
that you wish your identity kept out of any public response.
Should I buy a commercial outline or hornbook?
If you hear of a good one for this stuff, please let me know.
Will this be on the exam?
Anything we discuss in class, on the e-mail mailing list (so long as it's
relevant to the class, of course), or that appears in the assigned portions
of the casebook, the supplement, or any additional photocopied readings
that I assign is fair game for the exam, unless I specifically say otherwise.
What can I do to get a better grade on the
The number one most common error on law school exams is a failure to read
the question carefully. Students tend to prepare by subject, e.g. "the
Erie doctrine". When they see a question with the word "Erie" in it, they
take it as a cue to write down everything they remember about the Erie
doctrine and the Erie line of cases regardless of its relevance to the
question. This is rarely a good move, if only because you waste time you
could have spent writing something relevant, and it's usually a particularly
BAD move on open-book exam, where the premium is on analysis and application,
not rote memory. Read the question. Try to figure out what the point of
it is. Stick to the point in your answer. My questions are rarely as simple
as "tell me everything you remember about the Erie doctrine". And I do
not give partial credit for correct but irrelevant information. (I do sometimes
give partial credit for correct but misplaced analysis of a complex problem
caused by a "wrong turn" at an earlier stage of the analysis, but that's
a different scenario.) Having said all that, you should of course make
full use of relevant cases, citing them by name. Cases are important. But
so are other things.
The number two most common error on law school exams consists of misunderstanding
the nature of legal writing. Good legal writing is clear, precise, and
well-organized. It is written in plain, simple English, with as few long
words as possible. (Yes, many judges do not write well.) There is no point
in trying to be clever or funny. At all costs avoid using fancy words if
you are not absolutely certain what they mean. You are being graded on
substance, not style. Resist the temptation to use slang ("Get real!" and
"Strike three!" are unfortunate examples from past exams). Resist the temptation
to use legal or Latin terms if a simple English word will do. Don't quote
rules at length (they are being given to you as part of the exam). But
do be sure to cite rules and cases where relevant, and to explain the relevance.
A related, and also frequent, error on law school exams is a failure
to be sufficiently specific. Legal writing is a form of technical writing.
It thrives on precision and often on detail. I suggest that you always
avoid the passive voice because it allows you to neglect to specify the
identity of the actor in your sentence. It's far better to use a boring
writing style "Subject, verb, predicate" over and over again than to be
confusing or to leave out something important.
A third, surprisingly frequent, error is forgetting the point of view
you are supposed to take in answering a question. Some questions ask you
to be the judge; others ask you to be the advocate for a party; still others
may require that you step back from the fray and adopt a policy perspective.
There are differences between these roles. For example, a judge is quite
likely to be concerned about judicial economy. A litigant is only going
to urge a course of action that furthers judicial economy if it furthers
her interests; otherwise, a litigant is going to try to explain to the
court why a particular outcome is just even though it is not the most efficient.
On the other hand, just because you are a litigant does not mean that you
ignore authority contrary to your position. The best arguments are those
that take full account of the strongest possible argument on the other
side and demolish it; the worst arguments are those that sound like the
author never heard of the other side ... and if there is authority for
the other side, the author of the weak argument may be facing Rule 11 sanctions.
If a question asks for an argument, make one; if it asks for both sides,
make two arguments and be sure you label which is which.
My grades have been disappointing. What can
I do to improve?
The first thing to do is to make an appointment with the professors who
gave you the disappointing grades in order to discuss the exam. Although
your professor cannot change the grade, you should find out what went wrong
so that you can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
I never did much writing in college, where
I can I get writing help now?
If you have reason to believe that you need additional help, feel free
to talk to me. Also, you should watch for announcements about the U.M.
Writing Center. Note, however, that the kind of help you are likely to
be offered from me will probably mean extra work for you, such as writing
additional practice essays.
What can I do to help me become a better lawyer?
One of the best things you can do is become well-informed about the world
around you. Subscribe to a national newspaper such as the
New York Times.
You may be looking for last year's
You are visitor number
since Aug 12, 1998.
Version 1.01 Last modified: August 17, 1998