Tom Rubin comes to the Berkman Center and Practical Lawyering class

The chief copyright, trademark and trade secret lawyer for Microsoft, Tom Rubin, has been a consistent contributor to our teaching program at the Berkman Center for the past three years. He’s been enormously generous with his time, meeting with Berkman-related students, faculty and fellows over several years. We’ve learned a great deal from Tom and his colleagues, like Ira Rubinstein and Jason Matusow and Annmarie Levins during their respective visits.

One of the topics for class today (Practical Lawyering in Cyberspace at HLS) is what it took for Tom and his colleagues to arrange for Creative Commons licenses to be built into the next release of Microsoft Office. Tom’s leadership was essential to making this integration possible. The importance of this move is that it enables people to apply Creative Commons licenses very simply to Word documents. As Lawrence Lessig put it at the time of the announcement earlier this year, “This is important to us because a huge amount of creative work is created inside the Office platform. Having a simple way to add Creative Commons licenses obviously helps us spread those licenses much more broadly.”

This class, which I’m co-teaching with my colleagues Jeffrey Cunard and Phil Malone, is a ton of fun to participate in — certainly as one of the teachers, anyway. The idea is to use real-world examples of cyberlaw matters as a means of teaching also the procedure, strategy, and tactics that go into the practice of law in this field. Jeff, who is a partner at Debevoise (and in fact the managing partner of their DC office), seems to have worked on every major matter in our field over the past two decades. Phil was one of the lead lawyers who brought the DOJ’s protracted action against Microsoft (and Tom still talks to Phil when they are at Berkman together!). We’ve also has Scott Harshbarger here in class last week to do the HP case and some of the spyware matters from the perspective of a government lawyer. It’s a highly applied means of teaching and not the usual HLS fare, which has good and challenging aspects to it. But fun, to be sure.

A few new firsts at the Berkman Center

Charlie Nesson and his daughter Rebecca Nesson are hosting the Tuesday lunchtime session at the Berkman Center today.

– One first is that this is the first video webcast lunch event. We’ve regularly webcast these lunches audio-only. This week, with the help of Indigo Tabor, we are offering a live feed with video as well as audio. (The real-time webcast is 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EDT today, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006.) So, too, is it being offered in Second Life, where 24 people are tuning in at the moment from Berkman Island, we’re told.

– The other first (actually, I’m certain there are more than two, since Becca and Charlie are involved) is that the class that they are talking about, Cyberone: Law in the Court of Public Opinion, is being taught IN Second Life, a first for Harvard Law School and Harvard Extension School, anyway. If you haven’t seen the promo video for it yet, it’s a must.

It remains to be seen if these firsts will stick. It remains to be seen if these firsts will lead to other good things, as the establishment of Creative Commons by Prof. Lessig or the first podcast series hosted here by a combination of Dave Winer, Chris Lydon, and Bob Doyle. But it’s fun to be sure. Charlie and Becca keep the Berkman Center young and just a bit hip, and the likes of Rodica, Dean, Gene, and John Lester from Linden Labs keep giving things like these experiments life.

(John Bracken called this first first, way before me, and added more about a Berkeley example.)