CS Table 2/9: US copyright duration and fair use

While many CS students may be aware of copyleft, DRM, and related issues, there are other interesting aspects of copyright law and practice that should generate vigorous discussion. The readings for this week includes three short articles, along with two brief background papers on fair use and copyright duration.

One good source of background material for our discussion this week is the overview of US copyright law at These brief descriptions of copyright law should be helpful: Duration of Copyrights; Fair Use in Copyright Law.

The primary articles (all short) are available here:

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00-12:45 in JRC 224C. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

Computer Science Table: "Are we free to code the law?"

At this week's Computer Science Table (at noon on Friday, October 4, in Rosenfield 224A), we will consider attempts to write code that reflects the law (e.g., providing legal advice).

Lauritsen, Marc. “Are we free to code the law? ” Communications of the ACM 56 (2013), issue 8, 60–66.

The emergence of interactive online services for legal self-helpers has triggered suppression efforts by the legal profession, as well as by state government officials in the U.S. While couched in terms of consumer protection, and at least partly motivated by such concerns, these efforts are also seen by some as blatant turf management by a profession anxious to avoid further erosion of its monopoly over legal advice and representation.

Often neglected in these discussions is whether restricting the distribution of software is within the legitimate scope of government action. No one would contend that attempts to suppress books, pamphlets, and speeches on how the legal system works and what forms one needs to interact with it would pass constitutional muster. Is providing software that helps people meet their legal needs an activity the state can prohibit under the U.S. Constitution?

Here, I explore ways software-based legal-assistance systems can be understood for purposes of public policy and constitutional analysis. The focus is on circumstances in the U.S., but many other countries face the same issues.

CS Table/CSC 295, Oct. 8: Surveillance & TCP/IP Packet Structure

This Friday at CS Table, Simon and Jeff will present the information contained in packet headers and lead a continued discussion on network surveillance. We suggest the following reading (as much as you have interest or time for):

*ResNet Guidelines and Policies
*Ellen Nakashima, US seeks ways to wiretap the InternetWashington Post, Sept 27, 2010.
*Paul Ohm, When Network Neutrality Met Privacy, CACM 53(4):30-32, April 2010.
*Kristina Irion, International Communications Surveillance, CACM 52(2):26-28, Feb 2009.
*TCP Protocol Layers Explained, Dru Lavigne,, March 14, 2001.
*Capturing TCP Packets, Dru Lavigne,, March 21, 2001.
*IP Packets Revealed, Dru Lavigne,, March 28, 2001.

As usual, we'll meet a little after noon in JRC 224A.

Students who are registered for CSC 295: We'll be doing sign-ups for after fall break. Please bring your calendars!

CS Table/CSC 295, Friday, September 10: Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, SMTP, and Spam

This Friday, Jesse and Shitanshu will be leading a discussion on the SMTP application-level protocol and one of its most popular uses, spam. Please read this article:

For additional background, also read about SMTP.

As usual, we'll be meeting in JRC 224A at noon. Hope to see you there!

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