General Information |
Schedule and Readings |
The U.S. Constitution and law guarantee freedom of speech, but
regulate traffic in machinery. In the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, this arrangement worked tolerably well, but now that
software is simultaneously speech and a machine, parts of the law
that never clashed before now contradict each other: patent law,
copyright law, munitions export regulations, trade
secrets. Patented inventions may be freely described and explained
by anyone -- not just the patent holder -- but only the patent holder can
license production of the machines. But in computer programming,
the description of the machine is almost the same thing as the
machine. The First Amendment protects your right to describe how a
pipe bomb works, or a computer virus -- but if you distribute the
description of a virus in a form that a machine can understand
(i.e., you unleash the virus!), you break the law. Do you (or
should you) have the right to share music through Napster? Is it
legal to create the Napster program itself?
A related issue is the gradual disappearance of traditional ways
of publishing under the copyright law, and its replacement by
click-through licenses. Can a movie studio that releases a DVD
legally prevent you from fast-forwarding through the commercials?
We will examine these conflicts and see if they can be resolved in
a way consistent with the operation of a free society. We will
read articles, study court cases about cryptography, copyrights,
and DVD cracking. In particular, we will study Bernstein
v. U.S. Department of Justice (cryptography), Junger v. Daley
(cryptography), and Universal Studios v. Reimerdes (DVD movies).
Students will write short papers every week, perhaps in the form
of court briefs arguing a position in a real or hypothetical case.
We will not do any computer programming in this course, but some
of the issues will involve a modest understanding of how computer
programs work. COS 111, COS 126, or any prior programming
experience (whether sophisticated or not) would be helpful
preparation for this seminar.
Seminar: Monday 1:30-4:20, Rockefeller College
Professor: Andrew W. Appel,
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