The Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. What, you don’t know about the Berkman Center?
Well, if you don’t know about the Berkman Center itself, you almost certainly know about some of the major technology initiatives that have sprung from the center, such as Creative Commons and Chilling Effects. And there’s also a good chance that you know of some of their noted alumni and current staff, including Lawrence Lessig and Jonathan Zittrain.
I recently had a chance to speak with John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center, a law professor at the Harvard Law School and himself a noted cyber-law expert (Palfrey is currently finishing up a book on digital natives or what is also called the millennial generation).
We had a chance to speak about some of the past accomplishments of the center and also look forward to what they think the key issues of the Internet will be in the next 10 years.
Creative Commons has changed the way many people look at intellectual property, making it possible for content creators to protect their work while also making it very open to the community at large. Chilling Effects has helped to expose the aggressive use of cease-and-desist orders to try to bully Web sites and others into compliance by both showing and archiving these orders and providing information on good legal recourse for those facing these orders. And stopbadware.org has provided a valuable and balanced resource for those looking to stop the spread of adware and malicious spyware.
Palfrey said that though the Berkman Center is often philosophically aligned with groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, they themselves are not an advocacy group. He said the center is mainly focused on openness, law and the Internet and finding the truth in the major issues facing the Internet today. Of course, when a group is focused on openness and the truth, it makes sense that they won’t be seen as on the same side as those looking to control the Internet and hide the truth of their activities.
When I asked Palfrey about some of the challenges in coming years, he mentioned a few key areas (all of which are the subject of books by Berkman Center members). One area is the fear that as the need to secure and protect the Internet and Internet-connected devices increases, we will eventually end up with a closed and tightly regulated Internet that bears little resemblance to the vibrant and open one we have today. Another area to watch is the effect that those born after 1980, i.e. digital natives, will have on technology and the Internet.
The Berkman Center will be celebrating its 10th birthday with events at Harvard in mid-May. For more information go to http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/berkmanat10#.