Christopher T. Bavitz

WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law

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

Biography

Christopher T. Bavitz is the WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is also Managing Director of HLS’s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. And, he is a Faculty Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center. Chris teaches the Counseling and Legal Strategy in the Digital Age and Music & Digital Media seminars, and he concentrates his practice activities on intellectual property and media law (particularly in the areas of music, entertainment, and technology). He oversees many of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s projects relating to copyright, speech, advising of startups, and the use of technology to support access to justice, and he serves as the HLS Dean’s Designate to Harvard’s Innovation Lab.

Chris's research and related work at the Berkman Klein Center addresses intermediary liability and online content takedown regimes as well as regulatory, ethical, and governance issues associated with algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Prior to joining the Clinic in 2008, 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 / Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman, where he focused on copyright and trademark matters. Chris received his B.A., cum laude, and Certificate in Peace and Justice Studies 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.
Finale Doshi-Velez, Mason Kortz, Ryan Budish, Christopher Bavitz, Samuel J. Gershman, David O'Brien, Stuart Shieber, Jim Waldo, David Weinberger & Alexandra Wood, Accountability of AI Under the Law: The Role of Explanation (Berkman Klein Ctr. Research Publ'n, Nov. 6, 2017).
Categories:
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
Cyberlaw
,
Information Privacy & Security
,
Networked Society
,
Science & Technology
Type: Other
Abstract
The ubiquity of systems using artificial intelligence or "AI" has brought increasing attention to how those systems should be regulated. The choice of how to regulate AI systems will require care. AI systems have the potential to synthesize large amounts of data, allowing for greater levels of personalization and precision than ever before|applications range from clinical decision support to autonomous driving and predictive policing. That said, common sense reasoning [McCarthy, 1960] remains one of the holy grails of AI, and there exist legitimate concerns about the intentional and unintentional negative consequences of AI systems [Bostrom, 2003, Amodei et al., 2016, Sculley et al., 2014]. There are many ways to hold AI systems accountable. In this work, we focus on one: explanation. Questions about a legal right to explanation from AI systems was recently debated in the EU General Data Protection Regulation [Goodman and Flaxman, 2016, Wachter et al., 2017], and thus thinking carefully about when and how explanation from AI systems might improve accountability is timely. Good choices about when to demand explanation can help prevent negative consequences from AI systems, while poor choices may not only fail to hold AI systems accountable but also hamper the development of much-needed beneficial AI systems. Below, we briefly review current societal, moral, and legal norms around explanation, and then focus on the different contexts under which explanation is currently required under the law. We find that there exists great variation around when explanation is demanded, but there also exists important consistencies: when demanding explanation from humans, what we typically want to know is how and whether certain input factors affected the final decision or outcome. These consistencies allow us to list the technical considerations that must be considered if we desired AI systems that could provide kinds of explanations that are currently required of humans under the law. Contrary to popular wisdom of AI systems as indecipherable black boxes, we find that this level of explanation should often be technically feasible but may sometimes be practically onerous|there are certain aspects of explanation that may be simple for humans to provide but challenging for AI systems, and vice versa. As an interdisciplinary team of legal scholars, computer scientists, and cognitive scientists, we recommend that for the present, AI systems can and should be held to a similar standard of explanation as humans currently are; in the future we may wish to hold an AI to a different standard.
Samantha Bates, Christopher Bavitz & Kira Hessekiel, Zero Rating & Internet Adoption: The Role of Telcos, ISPs & Technology Companies in Expanding Global Internet Access: Workshop Paper & Research Agenda (Berkman Klein Ctr. Research Publ’n No. 2017-9, Oct. 1, 2017).
Categories:
Technology & Law
Sub-Categories:
Cyberlaw
,
Communications Law
,
Networked Society
,
Information Privacy & Security
Type: Other
Abstract
Zero rating, which allows users to access select Internet services and content without incurring mobile data charges, is not a new concept. But it has become an object of debate as mobile carriers and major app providers have used it in the developing world to attract customers, with the goal of increasing Internet access and adoption. While some feel these programs violate net neutrality and create the potential for a two-tiered Internet, others argue that zero rating programs bring the developing world online and could be modified to uphold, rather than violate, net neutrality principles. At the same time, little research evaluating zero rating programs exists, and many different program formulations are lumped under the term “zero rating,” some of which are more compatible with net neutrality than others. In March of 2016, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society gathered a diverse group of stakeholders from academia, the media, the government sector, industry, and the open software community to discuss the use of zero rating as a means to improve Internet adoption in the developing world and how and when it could be an effective tool, if at all. This paper captures the resulting dialogue and recommendations. The workshop summary is followed by a collection of briefing papers representing the viewpoints of many of the workshop participants. Key Findings: Many different models of industry initiatives currently fall into the loose definition of zero rating. Creating a better defined taxonomy of program parameters, technical mechanisms, and impacts may allow for greater nuance and understanding in the field, as well as more targeted regulatory responses. Universal Internet access and adoption is a common goal but one that requires significant investment in global infrastructure. Some assert that zero rating programs may serve as a helpful stopgap measures to increase access, while others argue that these programs contribute to the creation of a tiered Internet ecosystem without providing meaningful benefits to the targeted beneficiaries. Zero rating initiatives may be employed in pursuit of goals other than Internet adoption, such as an emergency services messaging system or security updates. The goals of a particular zero rating program may make it more or less controversial. More empirical research is required to fully assess the impact of specific zero rating initiatives, as well as zero rating generally, on Internet adoption in the developing world. This research will sometimes require access to usage information held by mobile carriers and zero rating service providers that should be handled with user privacy in mind.
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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Education History

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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.