Technology and the Law

Technology & the Law
Washington University - Spring 2006
Day/Time/Location TBA


Denise Lieberman, Esq Scott Granneman
Dept. of Political Science Dept. of Communications & Journalism
Office: Eliot 317
Office Hours: TBA Office Hours: by appointment
Email: Email:
Phone: 314-935-9010


Course Description

Technology and the law have always been somewhat intertwined, and always with a healthy tension between the values that each area holds dear. For instance, where technology values almost constant leaps of innovation, the law is more deliberate in its progression. In the last decade, with the rapid growth in technology, we have seen the tension between technology and the legal system increase dramatically. In this course, we will look at some of the key conflicts involving technology, the legal system, and civil liberties, including free speech and censorship in cyberspace; national security, ubiquitous surveillance and privacy; genetically modified foods; peer to peer file sharing; and ownership of virtual property.

Taught jointly by a lawyer with expertise in constitutional law, civil liberties and cyberliberties and a technology consultant with expertise in existing and emerging technologies, the class will examine emerging technologies and the ability of the law to respond to those technologies.

Our class meetings will be highly interactive and therefore preparation for each class meeting is very important. Students will learn how to read and understand court decisions, how to "brief" cases, and how precedent and politics affect the courts’ rulings.

Required Text

  1. The GigaLaw: Guide to Internet Law, Isenberg, Random House (2002)

  2. Additional readings that will be accessible on the class website. You are expected to check the course website each week for updated assignments.


1. Class Attendance and participation in discussion (25%):You are expected to attend class prepared to discuss the readings with your fellow classmates. During class we will also discuss current controversies so you should be prepared to extend the readings to new situations and participate in the discussions. Class attendance and active participation is critical to the development and understanding of the issues discussed in class.

2. In-class presentation (20%): You will make a 15-minute presentation to the class corresponding with an issue in the syllabus. Your presentation will be based on the readings for that class date in addition to some additional essays which I will provide to you, as well as additional research you may do on the subject. It should include your perceptions, analysis, and critiques of the readings. In addition, your presentation should include questions to the class designed to facilitate a discussion of the issue. On particular subjects, two students can sign up to present the issue in the form of a debate examining competing perspectives on the topic. A sign up sheet will be distributed in class.

3. Online discussion group (20%): This Web site has a discussion group that we will use for questions, thoughts, and discussions outside of class. Students are expected to comment on class readings prior to, and after, each class. However, students are free to start new discussions related to the topics discussed in class but not necessarily related to our readings. You should try to make 5 posts a week for full credit.

4. Final Paper/Project & Presentation (35%): You will prepare a final paper and presentation on a current issue of technology in law that will serve as your final for the course. It can relate to one of the topics that we have discussed in class, or it may instead cover a topic that we have not covered in class, but which happens to interest you. The paper/project should outline the issue from both a technological and legal standpoint, identifying where tension may exist between the development of the technology and the ability of the law to adequately address concerns that development may raise. Your paper should apply a legal analysis to the conflict areas inherent in the technology and should include an argument for whether you believe existing law can adequately address the legal quandaries raised by the technology, and how you believe the law should apply to the issue. You will be asked to present your findings and conclusions on the issue to the class.


Grades will be based on an average of the above as follows:

100 A+
94-99 A
89-93 A-
86-88 B+
83-85 B
79-82 B-
76-78 C+
73-75 C
69-72 C-
66-68 D+
63-65 D
59-62 D-
0-58 F

Policy regarding academic dishonesty: This course will follow Washington University's policies concerning academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty will result in failure for the assignment in question and/or referral to the college's Academic Integrity Office, which has discretion to impose a stricter penalty. While academic dishonesty includes cheating on exams and quizzes, it also includes plagiarism in written assignments. Plagiarism is not only passing off someone else's work as your own, but also giving your work to someone else to pass off as their own. It also includes submitting work from another course. While I strongly encourage you to discuss your work with each other in and out of class, and while you may research issues together, your writing should be your own. The papers you submit must be your work alone, and must include citations to all references in your work. Please include the url for internet articles.

Accommodation of disabilities
: Washington University is committed to providing accommodations and/or services to students with documented disabilities. Students who are seeking support for a disability or a suspected disability should contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 5-4062 in Gregg Hall. (
). The DRC is responsible for approving and arranging all accommodations for University students.



  1. Free Speech & the Nature of the Internet

  2. Censorship & Regulation of Content: Sex

  3. Censorship & Regulation of Content: Hate Speech

  4. National Security and the First Amendment

  5. Voting


  1. Privacy in Public (surveillance cameras, etc.)

  2. Privacy in the Workplace (employee monitoring, etc.)

  3. Privacy of Data and Information Online

  4. Privacy of Personal Information: Biometrics


  1. Intellectual Property Overview

  2. Intellectual Property: Trademarks

  3. Intellectual Property: Copyright

  4. Intellectual Property: Copyright Controls

  5. Intellectual Property: Peer2Peer File Sharing

  6. Intellectual Property: Patents


  1. The Future, Now: Biotech

  2. The Future, Now: Virtual Worlds, Virtual Property

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