The Internet has initiated a series of fundamental shifts in our information ecosystem. First, anyone with a computer and Internet access can create a message, while the costs of production have dramatically decreased in the digital age. Second, the message network of the Internet enables global and real-time transmission of information at marginal costs close to zero. Third, the Internet leads to an unprecedented level of access both to information infrastructure and content. Fourth, the Internet has shaped what users do with information. These four shifts have in turn permitted the emergence of new businesses and business models: Wikipedia and YouTube illustrate the power of user-created content. RapidShare and Soundcloud are two examples of new forms of content distribution. Search engines like Google or projects such as the Digital Public Library of America are the symbols of new ways to access information. And sites like YouTube or Facebook illustrate the increased levels of interactivity among users on the one hand and content on the other.
In this seminar, Urs Gasser will work with a small group of students to gain a deeper understanding of the legal implications of these seismic shifts at the intersection of law, technology, and new business models. The seminar takes a phenomenological approach: Instead of dividing topics along the lines of traditional areas of law (such as, e.g., competition law, privacy, IP, etc.), we will discuss the multi-faceted legal questions in their respective context, based on studies of recent cases and developments. The seminar also takes into account that online businesses operate in a global environment. While addressing key questions such as, for example, the liability of online intermediaries, we will be discussing statutory and case law from both the U.S. and from Europe. Urs Gasser will invite a small group of outside speakers to participate in a subset of class meetings.
The course has three main objectives. First, it seeks to familarize the students with important and enduring changes in the information economy. Second, it analyzes – focusing on online businesses – the key legal and regulatory problems faced by decision-makers in the private (and public) sector. Third, it aims to introduce a set of frameworks and analytical tools that might be helpful to lawyers when dealing with future shifts triggered by the Internet.