COS 491: Information Technology and the Law

Princeton University

Spring 2005

Instructor: (419 Computer Science; ext. 8-5906); office hours: by arrangement

Teaching Assistant: (413 Computer Science); office hours: by arrangement

Class weblog

Schedule and reading list

Enrollment Limit

Enrollment is limited, and the course is currently full. Prof. Felten is keeping a waiting list of students who want to enroll.

Course Summary

Information technology raises many interesting legal questions. This course considers a series of questions at the intersection of law and technology. Students will read articles and court opinions, participate in class discussions, and write a term paper. Students from all disciplines are welcome, and no technical or legal background is required.


Location: 112 Friend Center
Time: Monday/Wednesday, 1:30-2:50.

Weekly Writing

Each week, you will be expected to write a short essay of 400-500 words on some topic related to the course. Your weekly writing might discuss an issue raised in class discussion, in the reading, or in another student's weekly writing. If you like, you can raise a new issue that you think was missed elsewhere. Any topic you like is fine, as long as it relates to the subject matter of the course.

You will publish your weekly reading on a web site. The site will be readable by the instructors, other students, and the public. The site takes the form of a weblog: a sequence of entries organized by date. You'll receive an email with instructions on how to publish things on the site.

Because the weekly writing site will be available to the public, when you write on the site you'll have the option to use your real name or a pseudonym. If you choose a pseudonym, it must be known to the instructors, but it will be your choice whether to reveal it to the other members of the class or to the public.

You are required to submit one essay to the site each week, except for Week 1 (and the break week). We hope to have a constant flow of essays through the week. Therefore, each student has been assigned a random day of the week on which his or her essays are due. However, you are welcome to post your essay earlier in the week. If you want to reflect on a class discussion, for instance, it makes sense to do so right away, because your memory of the discussion, and your ideas about it, may tend to fade with time. Furthermore, you may swap due dates with another member of the class, provided both students email the instructor and preceptor to let us know.

Because the web site will be organized like a discussion, we hope you will take a relatively informal, conversational tone in your essays. This doesn't mean we will ignore sloppy thinking or sloppy writing. But it does mean that we won't reward you for taking a formal tone, and we won't punish you for speaking frankly or for writing in the first person.

We will grade your weekly essays and give you brief feedback on them. We'll send you these grades and comments by email. They won't appear on the public website.


Class participation: 40%
Weekly writing: 40%
Term paper: 20%