The Patience of Job(s)
Your Grandfather's Bar Association, 1971 Edition

Tragedy Gives Rise to Innovative Collaboration

864px-Aaron_Swartz_profile A new Boston University School of Law Entrepreneurship & Intellectual Property Law Clinic offers MIT student-entrepreneurs free advice on a broad range of legal matters related to entrepreneurship and cyber law, from basic issues associated with the founding of startup companies to novel questions about the application of laws and regulations to students’ innovation-related activities. The advice is provided by BU’s law students under the direction of experienced law instructors. 

Nate Matias, a doctoral student at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media, explains how the death of Internet entrepreneur and activist Aaron Swartz gave rise to the clinic:

Each year, hundreds of MIT students make everyday legal decisions about establishing new organizations and managing IP. We also sometimes face much more serious risks. In recent years, MIT students have faced legal challenges for groundbreaking and creative work: an MIT student arrested by homeland security for wearing e-textiles who eventually dropped out; MIT researchers who found security flaws in public transportation systems; and a gradstudent whose research helped hobbyists extend the capabilities of their gaming hardware.  Prompted by Hal Abelson's report to the president on the role of MIT in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz (see Ethan's post about the report), I convened a group of concerned Media Lab gradstudents to meet with others at MIT and figure out our response. Upon learning the history of MIT students and community members who had faced prosecution, it became clear that one of the most urgent issues was to address the lack of support at MIT for students who were doing innovative work at the edge of the law. I worked with Kate Darling, Wendy Seltzer, Kit Walsh, and Andy Sellars to create a "Coders Know Your Rights" seminar to inform students about the legal dimensions of their work. Together with Erhardt Graeff, Jason Haas, and Chris Peterson, I co-authored a proposal for a "legal triage advisor" at MIT -- essentially a legal clinic for MIT students.

Matias invites those interested in similar initiatives to the Freedom 2 Innovate conference at MIT, hosted by the Center for Civic Media and the EFF on October 10th and 11th.

Photo of Aaron Swartz by Fred Benenson

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