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    Welcome to the Berkman Center's Openlaw site.

    Openlaw is an experiment in crafting legal argument in an open forum. With your assistance, we will develop arguments, draft pleadings, and edit briefs in public, online. Non-lawyers and lawyers alike are invited to join the process by adding thoughts to the "brainstorm" outlines, drafting and commenting on drafts in progress, and suggesting reference sources.

    Building on the model of open source software, we are working from the hypothesis that an open development process best harnesses the distributed resources of the Internet community. By using the Internet, we hope to enable the public interest to speak as loudly as the interests of corporations. Openlaw is therefore a large project built through the coordinated effort of many small (and not so small) contributions.

    Openlaw continues to experiment with various collaboration tools to connect its participants.

    [ Cases: Eldred v. Ashcroft | DVD/DeCSS | Open Access | Microsoft | Archive ]

    Our first Openlaw case, Eldred v. Reno (now Eldred v. Ashcroft), challenged the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act -- Congress's recent 20 year extension of the term of copyright protection -- on behalf of publishers and users of public domain works. After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's judgment against us on appeal, with Judge Sentelle dissenting in part, two judges dissented from denial of rehearing en banc. The Supreme Court heard argument court October 9, 2002, and issued its 7-2 decision rejecting our challenge to the extension's constitutionality January 15, 2003.
    See for further news and documents from the fight for balanced copyright.

    In a second fight against copyright term extensions, Golan v. Ashcroft, the Government has filed a motion to dismiss, and plaintiffs -- conductors, musicians, and other artists -- have replied. The case is stayed pending decision of Eldred v. Ashcroft.

    Support our fight for the public domain by joining Copyright's Commons, a coalition against the copyright extension or by marking your works with a Creative Commons license.

    Open DVD: Does digitizing content effectively remove it from public discourse?
    That may be the result if commercial Hollywood succeeds in "the DVD cases." The DVD Copy Control Association (DVDCCA) and members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are suing Web site operators who posted DeCSS--a software program that can decrypt and read the data encoded on commercial DVDs. We are helping the defendants assert the public's right to comment, criticize, discuss, and build upon DVD technology and the video it contains, fighting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's overextension of content control. In Universal v. Reimerdes, the injunction against posting of DeCSS has now been affirmed by the Second Circuit.

    Read the amicus brief we filed in opposition to plaintiffs' motion to enjoin 2600 Magazine from linking to DeCSS.

    In our next case, open access, we will assist four Massachusetts communities in an ongoing legal battle with AT&T over open access. The communities filed a request with the Commonwealth's Department of Telecommunications and Energy's (DTE) Cable Television Division for full hearings on whether open access is in the public interest. The communities earlier refused to allow transfer of cable licenses from MediaOne to AT&T unless AT&T agreed to offer Internet Service Providers non-discriminatory access to the broadband network.
    The Microsoft Remedy invites readers to join us in examining court documents, analyzing commentary by legal experts on the issues involved, and developing a considered rationale for the appropriate remedy to the Microsoft antitrust case. We hope to enlist technical and legal thinking in the search for a long-term solution from both legal and technological standpoints.
    Archived: Intel v. Hamidi: Free Speech or Trespass? Berkman Center clinical student Bill McSwain wrote an amicus brief for Ken Hamidi on appeal of an injunction barring him from sending emails to Intel employees at their work addresses.

    To join the Openlaw process, follow any of the links above, or register here to gain access to some of the forums, and then join in our brainstorming.


    Valenti v. Lessig: A Debate on the Future of Intellectual Property, Oct. 1, 2000

    MPAA head Jack Valenti and Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig faced off in a debate on the future of intellectual property online. Will content control or the public commons prevail?

    See background materials or the archived webcast now online.

    Oral Arguments in DeCSS Appeal, May 1, 2001

    Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan argued on behalf of 2600 Magazine in its appeal to the Second Circuit of Universal v. Reimerdes. 2600 argued that posting of DeCSS code is protected by the First Amendment and necessary to preserve fair use of digital media. An unofficial transcript of the argument is now available.

    The case will be the first appellate ruling on the scope of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anticircumvention provisions. Openlaw participants submitted an amicus brief supporting 2600 in the district court and assisted amici in the appeals briefing.

    Openlaw at Ars Electronica, Sept. 1-5, 2001

    Berkman Center Fellow Wendy Seltzer traveled to Linz, Austria, to discuss the Openlaw project at the Ars Electronica festival.

    Oral Argument in the Supreme Court on Eldred v. Ashcroft, Oct. 9, 2002

    Lawrence Lessig argues before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of petitioners Eric Eldred et al., challenging the latest extension of copyright terms.

    Wendy Seltzer
    Berkman Center for Internet & Society