Princeton University
Computer Science Dept.

Freshman Seminar 136
The Speech is a Machine

Andrew W. Appel

Spring 2001

General Information | Schedule and Readings | Assignments | Announcements

Note: assigments are due at the beginning of class on the due date.

February 12
3 pages. Describe an example of a (real or hypothetical) writing whose publication should be prohibited. Summarize the argument for banning, and the argument against banning. Draw two conclusions, answering the questions: (1) does U.S. law permit this publication? (2) should the law permit this publication?

In this course, please use 12-point font, double-spaced; text width 6 inches, height 9 inches. This will yield 500 words per page, approximately.

February 19
Technical writing (3 pages). Take a program you have written, or (if necessary) a program you didn't write but you understand thoroughly, and explain it. You should say what the program is supposed to accomplish (what is its specification), and how it accomplishes it. You should convince the reader that the program actually does what it's supposed to. Use whatever mix of English and source code best accomplishes the purpose. You should assume that your reader knows computer programming at your level; you're not explaining how to program, but how and why this program works. The program you describe might be only 20 lines long; if you have a very large program, just describe one component of it.

February 26
Find something interesting. Follow a footnote in Lessig's book (I suggest in chapter 10) and dig up one or two of the articles that he cites. Be prepared to say in class what article (or book, etc.) you found, who wrote it, and what it's about. For this week, you won't need to explain it in any great detail.

March 5
5 pages. This paper will concern the article(s) you found last week; more explanation in class.

March 26
List of arguments. Moglen (and to some extend Mann and Love) say that copyright is dying, the copyright-owning industries had better prepare for a future in which they don't have so much control of content. Lessig (and to some extent Mann and Benkler) say that's not true, it's very possible that copyright owners will have more control than ever.

For April 9, you will be writing a paper that takes one side or the other of this argument. For March 26, prepare a list of the main points, causes, evidence, arguments, etc. that each side is making. Pay particular attention to the arguments on the opposite side of what you will argue for, since your paper must clearly and concisely explain these points so that you can refute them.

Your list should be just one page of brief sentences or phrases. If you're desperate to cram more stuff in, you may use a smaller font or smaller margins. Bring 15 copies to class. Remember, this list should not contain your own original arguments, just summaries of arguments made by your sources.

Your sources, from which you can extract arguments and evidence on one side or the other, include all the readings assigned in this course. You can use other sources as well, although I would guess that won't be necessary.

April 2
Revised paper; 5-7 pages. Revise your paper of March 5th as we have discussed. If the specific revisions add to the length of the paper, then you need not feel constrained by the 5-page limit, within reason.

April 9
Paper; 5-7 pages. Who is right, Lessig or Moglen? In the future, will copyright owners have more or less control of the distribution of their work? Address the claims made by each side (see March 26) above, and you may also use your own original arguments -- although it might suffice to express in your own terms the arguments from the sources. Treat the page limit as flexible, but don't ramble unnecessarily -- extra points for saying what you have to say before the reader gets tired of reading.

April 16
Prepare for oral arguments "Justices:" specify 4 issues on which oral argument will be heard; "Attorneys:" identify strong and weak points in your own and oppenents' briefs.

April 23
Oral arguments Pre-enactment of oral arguments in the appeal of the New York DVD case, to be held today in the Whig Hall Senate Chamber.

April 30
Decision "Judges" announce their decision(s) "from the bench".

May 18
Paper due, on one of the following topics. In each case, I have listed some references to use for a starting point, but you should seek out whatever other sources you think are useful. You might organize your paper approximately as follows: (1) short introduction concluding in a summary of where you will end up; (2) clear explanation of the technology and what it is supposed to do; (3) explanation of the technical, legal, social, economic, or political questions raised by this technology; (4) answers to the questions, with analysis supported by evidence; (5) short discussion of other approaches that might be tried; (6) conclusion.

AHRA technology
Lessig and Benkler, in their amicus brief, claim that the DMCA is more restrictive than necessary to achieve its goals, and that Congress could have passed a law modelled on the Audio Home Recording Act. Analyze this claim from a technical, not a legal, standpoint: can the technology of the AHRA be successfully adapted to serve the antipiracy goals that the DMCA addresses?

Fair Use Infrastructure
Dan Burk and Julie Cohen propose a social/legal/technical organization they call "Fair Use Infrastructure." Analyze their proposal from a technical, economic, and/or political standpoint: could it work?

Secure Digital Music Initiative
What are the applications of watermarking in the music industry? Does the DMCA cover watermarking, and if so, in what ways? Examine the claims of the RIAA in their letter of April 9th to Professor Edward Felten.

Software Patents
Examine the issue of patent protection of computer programs, especially as it relates to free speech and open-source software development. When is it legal to describe how a patented invention works? What is the doctrine of contributory patent infringement? Some references: League for Programming Freedom, Software Patent Institute, CyberLaw, Ladas & Parry Guide.

Write the appellate-court opinion in Universal v. Corley. That is, based on the appeal briefs, our own pre-enactment of the oral arguments, and the real oral arguments (assuming that the transcripts appear on the web in time), write a judicial opinion. As an example of a form to follow, you can use the appellate ruling in the Bernstein case.