Software & Internet Law 2008

Northeastern University School of Law


Professor Wendy Seltzer, email
Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law
Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School

Office: 50 Cargill
Office hours: Monday and Wednesday afternoon or by appointment.
Telephone: (617) 373-7331
Feel free to call or email me at any (reasonable) time.

Course Information
Useful Links
Current Assignment

Welcome to Internet Law

The expansion of Internet use brings with it a host of new legal challenges. The globally connected information network at once opens opportunities for communication and commerce and threatens existing practices. As lawyers, we are often asked to mediate these encounters between old and new, to apply "old" rules to new activities and to adapt those rules to the new environment of cyberspace.

This course will dig for core principles that will survive the rush of "Internet time," as we survey some of the current debates raging over law online: filesharing; regulation of e-commerce; freedom of speech and its interfaces with anonymity, privacy, and defamation; protection of intellectual property rights; security and government enforcement; and more. We will consider both law and policy, the "is" and the "ought" of cyberspace. As the field develops, persuasive arguments can make yesterday's "ought" into tomorrow's "is."

Important Course Information

Attendance and participation: Internet Law meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00-1:30 in Cargill 94. You are expected to attend each class prepared to discuss the assigned reading. After the second week, students will be assigned to panels to prepare particular issues for discussion in greater depth. While I will call first on panel members, I will still expect students not on panel to participate. Engaged participation will help you to retain class material; excellent participation can also boost your grade.

Short assignments. The course will include other short assignments using Internet technologies. Excellent participation in these exercises can add as much as one point to your grade, while failure to participate will detract from it.

Evaluation: The course will culminate in a final exam, which will ask you to draw on course readings to respond to hypothetical situations. You should expect both legal and policy questions.

Please see Internet Law 2005 exam for an example.


The course syllabus is posted here. Each week's readings will be linked on a "current" page listed right below the week header, which will include excerpted cases, questions and additional information about the topic, and links to off-site materials. This page is the authoritative source of the week's assignment. Most weeks will also list optional material For further reading, not required but useful sources if you want to pursue a subject further. Any required reading from those pieces will be excerpted or specifically identified.

Wiki Assignment

During the course of the semester, you are responsible for adding to or creating at least one page relating to a topic in Internet Law on another wiki, Wikipedia. Wikipedia describes itself as "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit," and you've probably already encountered it near the top of many of your online searches. It claims more than 2.2 million articles in its English-language version. A Nature study found Wikipedia's accuracy compared favorably to Encyclopedia Britannica, while others complain that its entries on Star Wars Jedi fighters are more developed than those on historical figures.

To begin, browse Wikipedia on topics of interest to learn how the editing process works (check out the "edit" and "history" links at the top of a page). Check a few topics you know well to see how Wikipedia fares.

Then, as the course proceeds, add your developing knowledge to the encyclopedia. Once you have made your changes, you should continue to watch the pages to see if (and why) others try to change what you have written. By the end of the term, you'll document your contributions and your experience in a few paragraphs. You can link to the pages you've edited on Wiki Contributions.

If you are not already familiar with contributing to Wikipedia, you might want to consult some of these:

Last updated: 2/08