Recent ISP Reading Groups
Jack Balkin and Ignacio Cofone
This reading group is a bottom-up take on the broad question of how and when technological change affects our social norms. It does so through the examples of privacy norms and antidiscrimination norms—norms that are long standing but changing along humanity’s history. And it does it for the technological change that has shaken social interactions the most in the last quarter of a century: big data.
This reading group will explore Digital Security and Operations Security concepts within the context of pervasive corporate and government surveillance, a reality exposed most prominently by the 2013 Edward Snowden disclosures. Snowden relied upon a mix of Free/Open-Source Software (FOSS) to communicate extremely sensitive data, despite powerful adversaries, because he simply “couldn’t trust” the proprietary alternatives. The contemporary lawyer and legal scholar may not be hunted daily by a nationstate but, nonetheless, faces a sea of complex software choices that eﬀectively safeguard or undermine her civil liberties or those of her clients. This digital maze is further complicated by the increasing frequency and escalation of cyber attacks, massive data breaches, and the threat of global cyberwar on the horizon.
Sandra Ristovska and Helen Li
The law has long been an institution that considers words to be the best vehicle for transporting its logic. Like many social and political institutions, the law associates words with reason, systematic thinking and deliberation, pushing aside the value of images as tools that work differently from words. When used, the law insists that visuals need words to anchor their legal meaning. Visuals and words, however, facilitate different processes of knowledge acquisition, and now as never before visual exhibits are important feature of the courtroom. This reading group is intended as a broad survey of the various ways in which images intersect with the law on the level of evidence and advocacy, highlighting the critical visual skills needed to assess the legal value of a wide range of visual media. As knowing how to ‘read’ images is closely linked to knowing how to work with images, the reading group will also include workshops on video production, such as storytelling, interviewing, shooting and editing. These workshops (~15 min) will take place during the regularly scheduled meetings following the discussion of the readings. Throughout the semester, scholars, advocates and filmmakers will deliver guest workshops and lectures, allowing students to interact with practitioners in the field.
The increasing globalization of data and the public disclosure of mass surveillance programs have led to culture clashes between the European Union and United Sates, revealing fundamental differences of opinion on the very nature of privacy. This reading group will explore the basics and history of data protection laws in the EU and United States, issues of mass surveillance and transborder data flow in the wake of the Schrems decision, and the right to be forgotten and the Google Spain ruling. We will attempt to finds approaches that reconcile EU and US understandings of privacy and data protection, and consider the role of international law in shaping a common understanding.
New, high-tech weapons are celebrated for their ability to limit troop and civilian casualties, vilified for making war easier, and constantly compared favorably and unfavorably with human beings. They also raise a host of new legal questions, such as when a cyber-attack justifies commencing a war, or who should be held accountable for a war crime committed by a robot. In this reading group, we will discuss these and other novel legal, policy, and ethical issues presented by emerging weapons technologies.
Colin Agur and Asaf Lubin
Much of our international relations revolve around intelligence collection and analysis. From the U-2 spy planes that uncovered the Soviet missile sites in Cuba to modern-day Iranian exiled dissidents claiming evidence of hidden nuclear facilities in Tehran, intelligence plays a major role in guiding world politics. Intercepted transmissions are used to determine the immanency of a threat in peacetime, and strategic reconnaissance serves a vital tool in making military proportionality assessments in wartime. Secret spies and geospatial imagery can offer evidence in managing well-functioning international financial sanctions regimes, or in attributing state responsibility for wrongful acts, or even in assigning individual criminal liability for international crimes. Intelligence plays such a cardinal role in our public world order that one might presume there to be well-established rules of international law, undergirded by a vibrant academic and jurisprudential discourse, that would govern the ways States compile, analyze, verify and promulgate intelligence. Instead, intelligence exits in a legal penumbra, lying at the margins of diverse legal regimes and at the edge of international legitimacy. The dominance of domestic law in intelligence debates forms the basis for a lotus world of action, one in which States may spy on each other – and on each other’s nationals – without restriction. In this reading group, we will explore these contentions further analyzing the complex relationship between international law and intelligence gathering. In doing so, we hope to highlight the origins and evolution of contemporary debates, and provoke discussion about the role international law can play in questions of national security.
BJ Ard, Colin Agur, and Ramesh Subramanian
This reading group will examine telecommunications law- and policy-making in the United States. It will do so by looking at relevant markets, government institutions, debates specific to the media (radio, television, telephony, and the Internet) under FCC jurisdiction, the challenges of law- and policy-making in a period of technological convergence, and the future of telecom law and policy.
Telecommunications regulation is a complex and pressing topic in US public policy, as shown by recent debates over net neutrality, mergers by cable providers, and the perennial issues of access and pricing. In this reading group, we will study a varied set of texts (policy documents, court decisions, technical analyses, and essays) that together provide a historically informed and comprehensive overview of American telecommunications policy and its development. Our discussions will delve into debates in First and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the questions and challenges different media (the telephone, radio, television, and the Internet) pose for regulators, and the role of governments (at all levels) as regulators of the country’s communications networks.
We see this reading group as a complement to courses available to students at YLS, and as a useful preparation for those interested in deepening their knowledge of the policy-making process. We hope to create a set of discussions that help students as they apply for internships and jobs in academia, government, relevant NGOs, law firms, and the private sector.
Misha Guttentag, Ariel Dobkin, and Paul Henderson
The study of technology law involves close examination of the interactions between many prominent and emerging areas of law. These areas range from intellectual property to First Amendment rights to constitutional protections for privacy. This study is made even more interesting by the fact that the pace of technological innovation constantly raises new challenges to existing doctrines and norms. Most importantly, through the lens of technology, we can examine how legal doctrines and social norms respond to fast change that affects large populations.
This intersection of the law and technology deserves study and deliberation. This reading group aims to bring together students from varied backgrounds to discuss these issues and develop their understandings. In so doing, we develop frameworks for how law might respond to future, unforeseen innovations in the 21st century.
The syllabus for this reading group includes required readings from a variety of sources, including U.S. and international court decisions, law journal articles, book chapters, and articles from newspapers and blogs. It is separated into four sections: Access to the Internet, Expression on the Internet, Privacy, and FutureTech.
Colin Agur, Valerie Belair-Gagnon, and Nathana O’Brien
In recent years, with the rapid growth of the Internet, mobile networks, and related technologies, the United States has become home to a vibrant and multifaceted information society. The rise of the information society has implications for our understanding of free speech, privacy, intellectual property, and other elements of national and international law-making and practices. At the same time as we re-think legal concepts, we must also reflect on the changing nature of individual agency, access to information, and democratic participation.
BJ Ard and Kiel Brennan-Marquez
The purpose of this reading group is to think critically about the role that scholarship plays in a networked age. The contemporary legal scholar faces diametrically opposed mandates: her work must be highly context-specific but also, and at once, able to shed light on an increasingly complex bigger picture. Against this backdrop, what makes scholarship successful (or comparatively successful)? The question has analytic, methodological, and stylistic dimensions. We will strive to examine all three. To do so, the group will take up classic articles in the “information society” vein—privacy, intellectual property, law and technology—and ask what about them works well, and what might be improved. We will also incorporate opportunities, as desired, for students to hone and polish their own work.
Colin Agur, Valerie Belair-Gagnon & Kerry Monroe
This interactive and discussion-oriented reading group looks at key debates in media law in a digital context. The group is particularly interested in the current socio-cultural settings of media-related laws that affect issues such as free speech, government accountability, individual and civil rights, media companies and media production. By addressing these issues in the framework of this single course, and through key texts and prominent guest speakers, the reading group will provide its participants with a solid foundation in media law theory and practice to face current challenges in the field. It will outline key theory, concepts and practical cases of media law and policy in the digital age and furnish participants with tools to analyze contemporary media law issues in new media environments.