2009 Cyberspace Law Syllabus and Some Comments

By Eric Goldman

I have posted my syllabus for this semester’s Cyberspace Law course. This blog post describes the changes from my 2008 course reader. For more on my pedagogical approaches to the course, see my Teaching Cyberlaw article.


* Deleted the Tiffany v. eBay case. This is a really rich and fascinating case, but it is really long and I ran out of time to cover it last year. Also, it will be mooted in the not-too-distant future by a Second Circuit opinion.

* Replaced the Playboy v. Netscape and FragranceNet keyword advertising cases with Hearts on Fire v. Blue Nile. The Hearts on Fire case isn’t a perfect teaching case, but it discusses use in commerce, likelihood of consumer confusion/initial interest confusion, and a bit of the policy issues. I suspect a number of my Cyberlaw colleagues are teaching the Rescuecom case, but I chose not to. First, it is doctrinally narrow. Second, it is a confusing opinion. Third, I tried to teach it as a last-minute substitution in my IP survey course last semester and was not satisfied with the results. Finally, it involves the less common fact pattern of keyword sales rather than keyword purchases. So I decided that this year the Hearts on Fire case could cover all the necessary issues adequately.

An interesting note: this is the first time in 15 years that I am not teaching a Playboy case in Cyberlaw. Frankly, I had expected to teach at least one Playboy case in Cyberlaw forevermore!

* Added Google’s trademark policy. I’m a little surprised it never occurred to me before to include this in my reader.

* Updated my all-new keyword advertising slides from my May presentation.


* Deleted the Perfect 10 v. ccBill and Perfect 10 v. Visa cases. I have been struggling with how to teach the Ninth Circuit’s Perfect 10 troika of cases for the last couple of years. The troika was over 100 pages of reading that nevertheless left students befuddled after all that work. But I felt constrained because the troika is the most definitive statement of Ninth Circuit law, and it is insightful to see the cases evolve. Nevertheless, I decided that the Amazon case was the most doctrinally significant, so I kept that and ditched the other 2.

* Added Io v. Veoh. To make up for taking out the Perfect 10 cases, I’ve added this case, which I think is a very clear exposition of a DMCA online safe harbor case.

* Added Parker v. Yahoo. I think this will be a good case to tie together some copyright doctrinal threads as well as provide a nice compare/contrast with the Ticketmaster v. RMG case.

Trespass to Chattels

* Replaced the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act statute with the most recently amended version.

* Included a slide that synthesizes the various trespass to chattel doctrines into a summary format.


* Added the Harris v. Blockbuster case. It’s a short case that efficiently makes several powerful pedagogical points–including perhaps most importantly, the perils of robo-drafting by copying language from other people’s agreements.

Blogs and Social Networking Sites

* Replaced my old materials on blog law and social networking sites law with my most recent talk on both from February.

* Added my Third Wave of Internet Exceptionalism article

* Added the Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel case as an end-of-the-semester review case. As I said when I first blogged on the case, I think “this is one of the most interesting cases I’ve seen in a while,” and I’m really excited about teaching it. I think it will be an excellent issue-spotting opportunity for students as well as a powerful reminder of the power of published words (and how those words can unintentionally affect the people we love).

Change to the Grading Options

My other big change this year is that I am giving students the option to write a wiki entry on a cyberlaw topic as part of their grade. This was inspired by my forthcoming paper on Wikipedia (which you’ll hear more about soon). In connection with that paper, I was researching alternative labor sources that could power Wikipedia, and students working as part of a class assignment was one option I explore in the paper (with some reservations). As part of “eating my own dog food” (a terrible idiom that seems to be prevalent in the Silicon Valley), I figured I should give it a try myself. As you can see, the wiki-drafting is optional, not mandatory, so I’ll be interested to see how many students choose the option. I’ll also be interested to see what happens when the students actually try to submit their work to Wikipedia. I have a mental image of a massive buzzsaw, but perhaps I’m being too cynical.