April 25, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 16

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    Taming the wild, wild Web

    The Internet is giving the world a whole new frontier -- and at least at this point, one as lawless as the Wild West.

    Now Larry Lessig, Professor in the Law School, and two other top cyberspace law scholars have come up with a way to help marshal the World Wide Web.

    Lessig, Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, and David Post, professor at Georgetown University Law Center, are creating a course on cyberspace law issues for nonlawyers. They'll teach it, of course, through the Internet.

    So far, more than 12,500 people around the world have signed up for the free seminar, which will start in May. The professors will "teach" the course by sending prepared lessons to all seminar subscribers.

    Lessig said he wasn't surprised at the popularity of the idea for a cyberspace law seminar for nonlawyers.

    "There is a great demand by people to try to understand issues such as First Amendment freedom and privacy in cyberspace," Lessig said. "People see that this is not a fad -- it's not the CB radio. They see that there is an impact on a wide range of areas."

    Lessig was the faculty adviser of the symposium this fall titled "Law and Cyberspace," presented by the Law School Forum. Lessig participated in the conference, as did Volokh and Post.

    The three are among the country's leading scholars in both constitutional law and cyberspace. Lessig, who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, teaches constitutional law and the law of cyberspace. Post practiced computer law for six years, then clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now teaches constitutional law, copyright law, and the law of cyberspace. Volokh, who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, worked as a computer programmer for 12 years and is still a partner in a software company that sells the software he wrote for the Hewlett-Packard Series 3000. He teaches constitutional law and copyright law.

    The course will inform participants about the basic principles of copyright law, free-speech law, libel, privacy, contracts and trademark law and how they apply on the Internet.

    Volokh said the faculty members -- at their own expense -- will work together to prepare lessons on each topic. Every few days, class members will get a new mini-lecture sent to them via e-mail.

    Lessig said he thought it was important to offer this class to people outside the law-school world.

    "Part of what's wrong with the legal academy is that it often too separate from the public," Lessig said. "Reaching beyond the academy makes the subject more accessible." Trying to make certain that his cyberspace lessons are not in "legalese," he said, has forced him to think about the issues in more practical detail.

    The e-mail course will begin in early May. Those interested in finding out more about the course can follow the instructions given at http://www-law.lib.uchicago.edu/faculty/nonlawyers.html.

    -- Catherine Behan