Christopher T. Bavitz

WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law

Managing Director, Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Biography

Christopher T. Bavitz is Managing Director of Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He is also a Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at HLS, where he teaches the seminar, Music & Digital Media, and has co-taught the Practical Lawyering in Cyberspace seminar.

Chris has concentrated his law practice and clinical activities on intellectual property and media law, with an emphasis on music, entertainment, and technology.  He oversees many of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s projects relating to copyright, trademark, online speech, and advising of mission-oriented startups and entrepreneurs about their legal, business, and strategic needs.  He also works on issues relating to the use of technology to promote access to justice.

Chris joined the Clinic in September 2008 as a Clinical Fellow.  He was named Assistant Director of the Clinic in 2009 and was promoted to Clinical Instructor at HLS in 2010.

In his nearly six years at the Clinic, Chris has managed a wide range of work for a wide variety of clients.  He has worked closely with Clinic students on matters relating to public media, including collaborations with WBUR’s OpenCourt project (which offered livestreams of court proceedings in Massachusetts) and a long-running association between the Clinic and the Cambridge-based Public Radio Exchange.  Chris has also worked with students and clients to draft amicus briefs addressing legal issues before state and federal courts, including the interplay between defamation law and the First Amendment; the attempted use of trademark law to suppress critical speech; the right of citizens to record police officers carrying out their duties in public; the continuing viability and scope of the hot news misappropriation doctrine; and the propriety of a prior restraint against online publication. And, he has teamed up with students and others to prepare public-facing resources regarding the state of the US music industry; privacy law as it pertains to children’s data; and the legal framework that governs newsgatherers in Massachusetts.

Chris serves as Harvard Law School’s Dean’s Designate to the Harvard Innovation Lab, where he works closely with HLS’s Experts in Residence and attorneys who offer legal services to those who work at the i-Lab.  He is a member of Harvard Law School’s Public Service Venture Fund Seed Grant Selection Committee and served this year as a Preliminary Judge for Harvard University’s President’s Challenge.  He sits on Harvard Law School’s IT Steering Committee.

In addition to his classroom and clinical teaching activities at HLS, Chris has served as a mentor during this, the inaugural year of the Harvard University-wide Digital Problem Solving Initiative.  The Initiative is a cross-disciplinary teaching effort being piloted at the Berkman Center, and Chris’s DPSI team has looked at norms and practices at a variety of creation and innovation spaces.

Chris speaks and appears regularly at events and on panels, addressing topics related to intellectual property and technology before audiences that have included college and law school students, librarians and archivists, computer programmers and software developers, and journalists and media lawyers.  He served as point person on the Berkman Center’s collaboration with Berklee College of Music on a series of “Rethink Music” events in recent years and co-hosted the 2012 Rethink Music conference in Boston.

Prior to joining the Clinic, Chris served as Senior Director of Legal Affairs for EMI Music North America. From 1998-2002, Chris was a litigation associate at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and RubinBaum LLP (previously, Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman), where he focused on copyright and trademark matters. Chris received his B.A., cum laude, from Tufts University in 1995 and his J.D. from University of Michigan Law School in 1998.

Areas of Interest

Dalia T. Ritvo, Christopher T. Bavitz, Ritu Gupta & Irina Oberman, Privacy and Children's Data - An Overview of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Berkman Ctr. for Internet & Soc'y Res. Pub. No. 2013-23, Nov. 14, 2013).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
Education Law
,
Information Privacy & Security
Type: Other
Abstract
Privacy law in the United States is a complicated patchwork of state and federal caselaw and statutes. Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, prepared this briefing document in advance of the Student Privacy Initiative's April 2013 workshop, "Student Privacy in the Cloud Computing Ecosystem," to provide a high-level overview of two of the major federal legal regimes that govern privacy of children’s and students’ data in the United States: the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This guide aims to offer schools, parents, and students alike a sense of some of the laws that may apply as schools begin to use cloud computing tools to help educate students. Both of the relevant statutes – and particularly FERPA – are complex and are the subjects of large bodies of caselaw and extensive third-party commentary, research, and scholarship. This document is not intended to provide a comprehensive summary of these statutes, nor privacy law in general, and it is not a substitute for specific legal advice. Rather, this guide highlights key provisions in these statutes and maps the legal and regulatory landscape.
Christopher T. Bavitz, Jeffrey P. Hermes, Andrew F. Sellars & Jillian Stonecipher, Newsgathering in Massachusetts: an Overview of Legal Protections for Reporters Collecting Facts and Gathering Information in the Commonwealth (Berkman Ctr. for Internet & Soc'y, Cyberlaw Clinic & Digital Media Law Project, May 4, 2013).
Categories:
Technology & Law
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
First Amendment
,
Communications Law
Type: Other
Abstract
A White Paper highlighting several categories of laws relevant to independent journalists and newsgatherers in the Commonwealth, including state statutes governing open meetings and public records, revisions to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19 (which concerns the recording of court proceedings), and federal caselaw interpreting the state wiretap statute as it applies to recording of public officials in public places.
Dalia Topelson Ritvo, Kira Hessekiel & Christopher Bavitz, Challenges & Opportunities Concerning Corporate Formation, Nonprofit Status, & Governance for Open Source Projects (Berkman Klein Ctr. Research Publ’n No. 2017-3, Mar. 2017).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
Business Organizations
,
Nonprofit Organizations
Type: Other
Abstract
This report addresses a number of key considerations that those managing open source software development initiatives should take into account when thinking about structure, organization, and governance. The genesis of this project involved an investigation into anecdotal reports that companies and other institutions developing open source software were facing difficulties obtaining tax exempt nonprofit status under Section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code. Based on conversations with a number of constituents in the open source software development community, the authors have prepared this report to address specific questions about nonprofit status alongside questions about corporate formation and governance models more generally. Nothing in this report should be viewed as a substitute for specific legal advice on the narrow questions facing particular organizations under particular sets of factual circumstances. But, the authors are hopeful the document provides a general overview of the complex issues that open source initiatives face when balancing a need for structure and continuity with the innovative and experimental spirit at the heart of many open source development projects. The report has two primary parts: • First, it addresses some formal organizational considerations that open source software initiatives should weigh, evaluating the benefits of taking on a formal structure and the options for doing so. The report provides information about different types of corporate organization that open source projects may wish to consider. And, it delves into Internal Revenue Service policy and practice and US tax law concerning questions about the tax exemptions referenced above. • In its second half, the authors pull back to consider more broadly questions of organizational structure, offering ideas about governance models that open source organizations may wish to explore, separate from formal corporate structure, as they seek to achieve their missions. Different considerations may inform the choice of formal, legal organizational structures (on the one hand) and governance models (on the other hand). By addressing both, the authors hope that this report will be useful to the broadest possible range of managers of and contributors to open source development initiatives.
Christopher T. Bavitz & Bryan Han, The Information Technology Act and Intermediary Liability in India, in Internet Monitor 2013: Reflections on the Digital World 40 (Urs Gasser, Robert Faris & Rebekah Heacock eds., Berkman Ctr. for Internet & Soc'y Res. Pub. No. 2013-27, 2013).
Categories:
Technology & Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Foreign Law
,
Cyberlaw
,
Communications Law
Type: Book
Abstract
An article discussing India's Information Technology Act, enacted in 2000 which had implications for new media technologies including the security of electronic records and digital signature certificates, and the subsequent amendment to the IT Act in 2008 which allow for government blocking of websites, provides for “safe harbors” available to online intermediaries, and creates several computer-related criminal offenses related to online speech and free expression.
Christine Lepera & Christopher T. Bavitz, Music Plagarism Defendants Win Summary Judgment: Recent Decisions Have Disposed of Cases on Both Originality and 'Access' Grounds, 228 N.Y. L.J., Dec. 2, 2002, at S4.
Categories:
Property Law
,
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
Intellectual Property - Copyright
,
Intellectual Property Law
Type: Article

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Clinic Work

Harvard Law School‘s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, provides high-quality, pro-bono legal services to appropriate clients on issues relating to the Internet, new technology, and intellectual property. Students enhance their preparation for high-tech practice and earn course credit by working on real-world litigation, client counseling, advocacy, and transactional / licensing projects and cases. The Clinic strives to help clients achieve success in their activities online, mindful of (and in response to) existing law. The Clinic also works with clients to shape the law’s development through policy and advocacy efforts. The Cyberlaw Clinic was the first of its kind, and it continues its tradition of innovation in its areas of practice. The Clinic works independently, with law students supervised by experienced and licensed attorneys. In some cases, the Clinic collaborates with counsel throughout the country to take advantage of regional or substantive legal expertise.