Last week, I headed into Cambridge for the afternoon to catch Nate Mathias (@natematias) presenting the weekly seminar at the Computer Lab. Nate is currently a PhD student at MIT Media Lab, and was presenting alongside Peter Cahill, who is involved in running legal clinics at QMUL (@qLegal_).
Their session was entitled “Freedom to innovate: Addressing student legal risks at MIT and Queen Mary’s entrepreneurship and cyberlaw clinics”; although cyberlaw isn’t something I’m familiar with, I was interested in hearing about their experiences for two main reasons.
First, in terms of the relationship between the internet and Higher Education; I haven’t got any facts to hand at the moment but I’d say there is a perception in Higher Education that entrepreneurship is highly valued and desirable as an outcome. Hence, how this relationship works out in practice (and the attending legal complications – of which Nate gave several key examples) is of interest.
Secondly, whether legal knowledge is a type of digital literacy – or, if legal expertise and processes are so formalised that it isn’t something which can be devolved to individuals in different fields and interdisciplinary ventures such as cyberlaw clinics will be the way forward (or a combination of both, to some extent).
The cases which Nate referred to included:
- Tidbit. A team of MIT students won the node.js competition in 2013, and then received a letter from the Attorney General of New Jersey for committing computer fraud. MIT lawyers couldn’t help, due to potential for conflict of interest with the institution. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) provided help.
- MIT and the prosecution of Aaron Swartz.
- Anatomy of a subway hack.
- Bunnie Huang – hacking the xBox.
- Star Simpson – her work on wearable technology drew suspicion from Homeland Security. MIT would not support her and she was unable to complete her studies.
- Biohacking and DNA work as emerging areas for legal risks.