CBS v. ABC: Reality TV Drama Unfolds at Court (No, Really) – by “Varoon B – YLT2012”



Majority Opinion: ABC is not guilty of copyright infringement 

CBS, the company that films and produces “Big Brother” filed a lawsuit against ABC for creating an allegedly rip-off show, “The Glass House,” which—CBS claims—violates its copyrights in June 2012.  In case you haven’t watched “Big Brother” before, check out some season highlights.

You get the idea—hot people, inevitable drama, fierce competition (contestants compete for a six-figure cash prize) all packed into one big house isolated from the rest of the world for a couple months makes for American reality television par excellence, especially with camera crews recording contestants’ every gesture 24/7.  The moment the contestants enter the house and the door is closed, they are left to their own devices.  Producers and camera crews provide no input to the contestants but instead act as invisible observers for the show’s audience.  There are no scripts or prescribed plots, though there are “challenges” during the show just in case cast members aren’t meshing well for the show or to stir up more drama just for fun.  “Big Brother” has run for thirteen seasons and counting.

“The Glass House” is quite similar: about a dozen contestants of mixed gender and ethnic backgrounds live together and compete for a large sum of cash.  Camera crews record everything, and—like in Big Brother—the public can interact with contestants and influence the show through online media.

Okay, so the shows are similar.  But how do we determine if ABC infringed copyright?

Now the legal stuff begins.  Luckily, these sorts of allegations aren’t new, and past court decisions have arrived at certain conclusions regarding evaluating copyright that can help inform our decision here.  In particular, Rice v. Fox Broadcasting Co., from 2003 cited the “substantial similarity” comparison established in a 1994 lawsuit used to assess copyright violation.  The comparison has two parts: an intrinsic test and an extrinsic test.  The intrinsic test is softer and more intuitive.  It basically tests whether any reasonable audience would find the two pieces under question similar with respect to their underlying ideas and concepts.  The extrinsic test, on the other hand, is harder and more specific.  The extrinsic test is an impartial, evidence-based comparison of the “‘articulable similarities between the plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events’” (Kouf v. Walt Disney Pictures & Television, 16 F. 3d 1042, 1045 (9th Cir. 1994)).  Both the intrinsic and extrinsic tests must favor “substantial similarities” between the two pieces under consideration in order to establish true copyright infringement.

The intrinsic test is easy.  Clearly, the two shows are pretty similar, and any ordinary viewer would recognize these them.  The extrinsic test is more tricky, but still rather straightforward, as we shall soon discover.  It will help to review the extent and scope of copyright protection.  As per federal copyright law, 17 U.S.C. § 102(b) states, “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”  Given that the extrinsic test explicitly requires a comparison of the plots, themes, moods, settings, etc. of “Big Brother” and “The Glass House,” the only way in which the extrinsic test will favor “substantial similarity” between the two works is if the similarities that emerge from the aforementioned components of the show are articulable, concrete, and specific.  This is where “Big Brother” fails.  To understand why, we need to do recap some details.

1)    In its statement against ABC, CBS underscores that “Big Brother” is the result of years of trial and error with regard to the selection of contestants, filming, editing, and generally structuring the show.  In particular, CBS claims that ABC has stolen its “trade secrets” and basically blames ABC of stealing them and using them in “The Glass House.”

2)    CBS seems to pride itself on the manner in which it has learned to create a show out of something entirely unpredictable.  Because there are no scripts and set plots, nothing is predetermined ahead of time, but their “trade secrets” and other strategic decisions—the house with an attached pool/spa, character choices, etc.—enable them to create a product that sells.

CBS failed to demonstrate copyright infringement on both of these counts.  First, the trade secrets it has developed are apparently pretty standard practices in the industry.  Filming people 24/7 isn’t a new idea; in fact, the idea was first introduced to the media in Amsterdam during the early 1990s.  And the other technical feats that CBS claims to have developed are not copyright protected.  Moreover, there simply fail to exist any specific, articulable similarities between the shows.  Let’s take, for instance, an argument CBS made against ABC.  CBS claimed that ABC’s character choice too closely resembled theirs in the way character dynamics played out.  If producers from CBS had told contestants in “Big Brother” to act in a well-defined, specific way, and if these same behaviors were present in “The Glass House,” there might be some evidence of specific, articulable similarities between the two shows.  However, because there is no plot in “Big Brother” and because the creators and producers of the show have no influence over these interpersonal dynamics the moment the doors to the “Big Brother” house are closed, CBS can’t blame ABC for violating their copyright.  The lack of plot, scripts, and other such specific features of the show doesn’t permit CBS to fault ABC for their own related events in “The Glass House.”  Thus, the “substantial similarity” comparison fails the extrinsic test, and ABC has not been found guilty of copyright infringement.

Dissenting Opinion: ABC has committed copyright infringement 

While a lot of people think that CBS’s lawsuit against ABC was anti-competitive and merely a sign that CBS was upset another network was trying to steal their audience, I – or at least, in my incarnation as Justice Herz-Roiphe – was inclined to see the situation differently.  It’s true that CBS did include a lot of fluff in its complaint alleging copyright infringement against ABC – things like claiming that ABC was infringing because it was using the same camera angles as CBS did in Big Brother.  However, putting aside all the fluff, it turns out that CBS has a legitimate gripe.

The logic used by Judge Feess in denying CBS’s application for a temporary restraining order was flawed.  Judge Feess wrote that “CBS contends that the key ‘articulable similarities’ between the two shows are the ‘plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequences of events’…Big Brother does not, as a concept, readily exhibit any of these elements.”  Judge Feess argued that, because Big Brother was an unscripted reality show where all of those elements were determined by the contestants on the show, he could not find infringement.  On this count, Judge Feess is clearly wrong: the producers decide which parts of the “story” are included in the episodes that air on television.  With thousands of hours of footage available to them, it is easy for the producers to selectively edit the show in order to create compelling narratives.  These narratives may be exaggerated versions of conflicts that do actually take place in the house, but they may also be wholly fictional, made clear to the viewer by selective editing and using music to cue emotions to the viewer.  In this manner, Big Brother exhibits – and the producers have control over – a plot, specific themes, and a specific mood.

Is this a reality show or a work of fiction?

The characters who appear on our televisions are not the same as the people who are filmed on the set – anyone who has been on a reality show can tell you as much.  The characters who appear on television are fictional, and by virtue of extensive editing, they are entirely creations of the producers.  As such, it falls to us to determine if the fiction that the producers of Glass House created was “substantially similar” – to use the legal jargon – to that created by the producers of Big Brother.  We must determine that it is substantially similar both extrinsically (in terms of overall concept, mood, and feel) and intrinsically (in terms of plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequences of events).  Extrinsically, there is no doubt that the two shows are substantially similar.  The concepts – putting strangers together in a house wired with cameras where they compete, strategize, and have romantic relations – and the attendant “feels” of the show are essentially identical.  Intrinsically, the shows have many substantial similarities as well.  The characters – not the actual recruited to be on the show, but the fictional characters that the producers make out the footage of them – are very much alike, as are the settings (houses with many cameras), themes (backstabbing, romance, competition), and sequences of events (competition, vote for elimination, reaction to that vote).

Imagine that we were presented with a series of books about a British wizard who attended a school of magic with a wise headmaster and a suspicious potions teacher and had to fight off a dark evil wizard.  There is little question that we would be very inclined to find copyright infringement on the Harry Potter series.  It is the same here.  The fact that the works of fiction in question were created by using “reality” techniques makes no difference at all.


Finding My Friends – by “Kojiro M – YLT2012”

Keeping track of friends

When people find out about Apple’s Find My Friends app for the iPhone, they usually say, “That’s pretty creepy.”  They then immediately download the app onto their phone.

Find My Friends takes location sharing to its inevitable conclusion.  You know how it’s always such a pain to have to update your location manually (on Foursquare, Facebook, or Twitter) whenever you arrive somewhere in order to let your online friends know where you are?  Well, Find My Friends solves this problem with a simple solution: it shares your location with your friends, all the time.  That is, if you add a follower on Find My Friends, he will be able to look up where you are at any time of the day, without alerting you that he’s checking up on you.  (I think Google Latitude does the same thing as Find My Friends, but does anybody actually use that?)

The implications of this app are incredible.  To be honest, over the course of the month that I’ve had it, I’ve really enjoyed this app.  I don’t have to text friends about getting to lunch or class at the same time, because I can see if they’re already there.  And no longer can friends just mutter an excuse about “attending to some business” and sneak out of the door on a Thursday night.  Sometimes, I don’t even bother looking up from my phone to see if a friend is sitting across the room from me.  I just look it up on Find My Friends.

All of this sounds like Big Brother’s wet dream.  Who would have thought that people would be not only able, but also willing to share their every movement with others?  Who would have thought that locational privacy would be a commodity that we prize so little?  Will our GPS data really only be used by us?  The sum of our privacy is probably a combination of where we are, what we are doing, and what we are thinking.  Find My Friends makes it seem normal to have people always knowing where you are, and perhaps even, by extension, what you are doing.

To point out the madness, I tried to think up a way to tangibly demonstrate the problem of oversharing.  The result is this video.

To make this video, I followed two of my friends on Find My Friends over the course of 48 hours (Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1) by taking regular screenshots on my iPhone.  Then, using Google Street View, I basically made a stop-motion video retracing their steps through New Haven.  In essence, I recreated their day (or at least the time they spent outside) through the information I gleaned from Find My Friends.  You’ll see that I also threw in a few Facebook pictures to illustrate that using other social media, I can add context to their locations as well.

It’s worth noting that Find My Friends doesn’t keep a log of users’ movements, so I had to manually take screenshots in order to keep track of my friends.  If you’re curious, both of the friends are sophomores, one in JE and the other in Saybrook.  I’m not revealing information beyond that, but you can probably infer a few more personal details from their various destinations.

I hope that people come away from this video a bit troubled by how easy it is nowadays to knowingly overshare and make your every movement a public affair.  I certainly came away from this project with that impression.  I also came away from this video with a newfound respect for the editors of stop-motion videos and a lasting hatred of screenshots.

So many screenshots...

The video’s production was hampered by a number of technical limitations.  Google Street View does not cover all of the streets in New Haven, so I had to choose my source material carefully to make sure that nobody had to, for instance, walk all the way down High Street.  In addition, my original intention had been to retrace my friends’ movements over two or three weeks, but I cut it down to two days when it became apparent how impractical that task would have been.  I had also originally intended to follow four of my friends instead of two, but iMovie had no option for a four-way split screen (this says as much about the problems with appliancization as it does about my technical ineptitude).    Finally, the compression artifacts and graininess of the video is due the fact that it was apparently necessary to convert the format of screenshots several times before I could import them into my video.

Finally, it might be worth making note of the blatant copyright infringement in the musical accompaniment of my video.  It seems to me that this video could qualify for fair use on the grounds that it is educational and has no effect on the song’s market value, but we all know that YouTube doesn’t care about fair use.  I’ll just write “No Copyright Infringement Intended” right here.  That should keep those DMCA complaints away.

Porn in the Closet: A Tribute to CPSC 183 – by “Jennifer S – YLT2012”

Say you wake up in the morning, after a hard night of partying, surrounded by empty bottles, your hungover girlfriend, and your laptop—with windows open to kiddie porn. How the hell did that get there? What the hell is wrong with you? And what legal conundrum will you find yourself in should the police discover your hoards of mysteriously downloaded child pornography? And if, by chance, you like making fannish vids of The Land Before Time set to Prince music, can you legally claim fair use? Yes.

This is the situation that our hero faces in our magnum opus, “Porn in the Closet,” a musical tribute to the great lyrical prodigy R. Kelly. Check out the original R. Kelly song here. “Porn in the Closet” is a scandalous synthesis of modern legal code and case law governing the legality of internet activity, privacy, and free speech in the United States today.

Allow us to explain the twisted tale of our “Porn in the Closet” protagonist. Poor P. Kelly (the “P” of course stands for “Porn”) wakes up to discover child pornography–for decency’s sake, here represented by Sesame Street characters with censored chests. Police officers who thermo-scanned the house, thinking P.Kelly had a marijuana growing operation, enter P. Kelly’s place with a warrant. Their warrant was unlawfully obtained, however, according to the 2001 Supreme Court Ruling in Kyllo v. United States, which found that thermo-scanning violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure. P. Kelly lets the officers in, and they discover the laptop full of kiddie porn hidden in the closet. The laptop was given away by the sound of a Skype call, which we may legally use in our video because this is created for educational purposes and is therefore not a copyright violation, but rather fair use!

While the officers, P. Kelly, and his girlfriend Polly ponder what do about the kiddie porn situation, two DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) Agents walk in. While DMCA agents typically issue take-down requests online, the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince is particularly vengeful with protecting his music online. P. Kelly had created fannish vids, splicing footage from The Land Before Time movies with Prince songs. Thankfully, Judge Pierre Leval is on hand to clear up any confusion about transformative work and fair use. Judge Leval is in midget form, an homage to Chapter 9 of the original “Trapped in the Closet.” Our song is, of course, a parody and therefore fair use. Fannish vids are also, in fact, fair use, according to Section 107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code.

Another knock comes on the door. P. Kelly questions what else he could have possibly done… Did they eat Roger Whitmore, the cannibalized cave explorer in The Speluncean Explorers? Did they hack into SendMail and create a virus, like the worm that wrought havoc in 1990, created by bored college student Robert Tappan Morris? No, we will never know what other internet crimes or gaffes P. Kelly has committed, because our favorite deus ex machina saves the day. Brad Rosen, in all of his glory, brings our tale to a close.
Follow along with our lyrics:
Seven o’clock in the morning
And the rays from the sun wakes me
I’m stretchin’ and yawnin’
My laptop is there right beside me
And I hear her retching from the bathroom
Then along comes Polly, she kisses me
And unsurprisingly she’s hungover, skank.

Now I’ve got this dumb look on my face
Like, what have we done?
How could I be so stupid to have downloaded all this kiddie porn?
Must have blacked out last night
Oh, what was on my mind?
Met on 4chan, took her home
Didn’t plan to sing this song
Knock on the door hearin, “Police, open up!”
My girlfag looks at me
Tells me to delete the kiddie porn
Keep trying to close windows
“Kiddie porn move out my way”
Police said “We have a warrant”
“Open up sometime today!”
“Shit think, shit think,  shit quick: put it in the closet.”

“Smelled weed last night,
Got a warrant to search your place.
Thermo-scanned your house,
Think you have a growing space.”
“Grow weed? What, we don’t do that.
That was just my tanning bed.”

You’re not gonna believe it, but things get deeper as the story goes on
Next thing you know they hear my laptop with the kiddie porn

“This is child pornography
We’re going to have to take you in”
“Whoa, this isn’t our kiddie porn
Someone else must have put that there.
We’re not into that
We only watch porn between legally-consenting, and unionized disease-free adults”

I’m telling you now, I wish this was the worst part of my day
But then another knock
In walks an agent of the DMCA
We’re by the closet, like man, what the fuck is happenin’?
“We have a takedown request”
From the artist formerly known as Prince
Is this about my fannish vids?  Those were transformative
Land Before Time needed a bit of Prince
Fair use from section 107 of Title 17 of the US Code
A midget said, “Vidding is fair use.”
“Oh I didn’t watch it”
And I’m like, “God it’s Judge Pierre Leval from the second circuit!”

“Why is he a midget?”
“We needed a midget.”
She says, “Baby, we’re in deep shit.”
Another knock on the door.
We stop, all look at each other
Like, Who the hell is that
We say, “What else did we do?”
We need a jailbreak IRL
Did we eat Roger Whitmore?
Did we hack into mail?
The knocking gets louder
I pull out my Baretta
They pull out their Tasers
Said “Don’t tase me bro!”
Midget opens the door
I can’t believe it’s Brad Rosen…

Final Project: YourPrivaSee – by “Misbah U”

Perhaps the most important role in both analyzing the present and crafting out a future for privacy policies lie in determining where social norms for privacy stand. Clear objective norms create a community where service providers and service receivers can establish clear, mutually beneficial relationships.

Much of what we understand about norms comes to us subconsciously–things simply ‘seem’ as though they should be a certain way. While this usually serves its purpose rather well, our norms don’t function so hotly when our social environment is in flux or drastic change. The amount of change we’ve all seen within our own lifetimes is staggering, in terms both technological and otherwise. As far as privacy goes, this transition is not one that has favored the interests of the average citizen.

To combat this, users must become consciously aware of how their old norms function in a new environment – that is the goal of! Privacy policies are often long, drawn-out and intended to mislead. In fact, one recent study found that to simply read every privacy policy encountered on a daily basis, it would take approximately 30 workdays per year. With YourPrivaSee we wanted to see how a diverse group, of varying levels of age and education, would respond to certain Privacy Policy terms if they were presented separated from the policy as a whole, observing generational trends all along the way.

The project serves the dual function of informing users and data-collecting companies about privacy norms and of making privacy policies as they exist now more transparent and comprehensible. We hope you enjoy it!
Please feel free to comment and add to the discussion, a healthy dialogue is the best way to nurture general understanding of privacy.

Visit the website here:


Misbah Uraizee, Vlad Chituc, and Colby Brown

What Your Web History Says About You – by “Will P”

I’ve written a Chrome extension (Download) that has a little fun with your web history.  The plugin will attempt to guess four websites that it thinks you are likely to visit next.  It does this with the aid of your web history.

Below, the plugin thinks that from my Gmail inbox, I’m likely to visit:

1.  This app on the Chrome web store

2.  This Yale Law & Technology site

3.  Facebook

4.  Add a payment method to your Google account

As you can see, the plugin is influenced both by recent activity and larger trends (e.g. Facebook has been visited 7253 times).

You should try it — it’s quite quick to download.

Final Project: Privacy, Simplified – by “MNQ”

Not everyone can read legalese. Websites ought to have clearer, more transparent, and simpler privacy policies.

One important step in this direction is a simple way of summarizing a privacy policy’s features, to make it easy to see how a website will use and protect user data.

Enter Privacy Simplified.

Inspired by Creative Commons and the Mozilla Privacy Icon Project, for our final project we have designed a set of icons, as well as simple descriptions, to describe common features of privacy policies.

Additionally, we have built a generator to make it easy for websites to add these icons to their own sites. To further encourage awareness, we have reviewed several popular websites’ privacy policies, so that users can see for themselves how they fare, including Google, Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, and even Yale, among others.

We hope that this will prove useful, and both empower users to really think about the kinds of services they use, as well as encourage the development of a Creative Commons-like standard for describing privacy features, confusions, and pitfalls.

Paulina Haduong
Machisté N. Quintana
Anthony Tordillos


UPDATE: Featured on Boing Boing, Macleans, the Creative Commons wiki, and the Yale Facebook page! This is all unexpected, but awesome.

Fun to Stay at The DMCA! – by “Misbah U” 

Have you ever been excited to watch a video online only to click it and realize that it’s been taken down for copyright issues? Us too, which is why we decided to do our project on the topic of the DMCA and fair use circumvention. Conveniently, the song “YMCA” by the Village People was ripe for a parody on the topic. The goal in creating the “DMCA” song, music video, and website was to present the DMCA and certain safe-harbor law in an easily digestible format. Too many videos are taken down without true cause, and understanding of fair use arguments as well the the word and intent of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act could lead to more counter-notices and hence a greater pool of video entertainment available to the public.

While the video is not necessarily a parody of the YMCA, per say – it doesn’t comment on the source material itself – we believe the the creation is significantly transformative. In addition to this, we created it for non-commercial purposes and as an educational tool, which makes the fair use argument fairly easy.

Hopefully this website and video will spread awareness of fair use rights. The website and the information and links on there aim to teach viewers the specifics of the law–and fair use, specifically since it’s a concept that is often confused. As Brad proved this semester in our class, often humor is the best way to make learning effective and fun. While our video is certainly a bit silly, we believe the overall message is an important one worth addressing.

The lyrics for the video are as follows (they can also be found on the website):

Young man, I see your video’s down.
I said, young man, there’s no reason to frown.
I said, young man, there are tricks all around
To help get your vid reposted.

Young man, there’s a place you can turn.
I said, young man, there’s no need for concern.
I said, young man, there are loopholes to learn
You can fight that takedown notice.

Well have you heard of the D-M-C-A?
Have you heard of the D-M-C-A.
If you want your work back, well you know there’s a way
In the O-C-I-L-L-A
Have you heard of the D-M-C-A.
If you think in good faith, that their actions were wrong
Listen up to our awesome song

Young man, there’s a problem at hand,
I said young man, you could get yourself banned
So let’s face it, why don’t you take a stand
And just send that counter notice

Young man, you’ll be mocked by your friends,
I said, young man, be like Stephanie Lenz,
And just sue them, then they’ll make their amends
And you’ll be a web sensation

You’ve got to study the D-M-C-A (x2)
If you’re stealing the work, just to sell it yourself
Then your venture won’t turn out well.
You’ve got to study the D-M-C-A (x2)

Just make sure that your use still remarks on the source,
Or the takedown could  be enforced

[Music cuts out and video shows a DMCA takedown notice by the Village People]

[Music comes back with a counter-notice on the grounds of non-profit, transformative, educational use!]

Good thing we knew of the D-M-C-A!
Good thing we knew of the D-M-C-A!
Now our work’s back online for the public to see
But there’s problems ahead for me

Too bad we knew of the D-M-C-A
Cause this video sucks, and I know it will stay
On my digital dossier

Group: Misbah Uraizee SM’13, Jerome Luo TD’13, Nick Letizio TD’13, Michael Holkesvik TD’13

How Do You Feel About Privacy? An Implicit Association Test with the Online World – by “Bobby D”

When Justice Scalia got wind of the online dossier a Fordham Law class had compiled about his personal life using information found online, he was not pleased. “Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly,” he had previously scoffed. But his tone after the class had done its work was quite different. “This exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since [the professor] was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any,” he remarked after the fact. Harsh, Scalia. Embarrassed?

This change in point of view seems pretty drastic. Whether compiling the dossier was appropriate is an interesting issue, but we took something different away from this incident. Scalia’s heated response posits a question: is what we think about our privacy different from how we actually feel about our privacy?

To investigate further, we designed an Implicit Association Test to examine the implicit and subconscious associations between elements of the online world. Other IATs have yielded controversial results (tl;dr, you’re more racist than you think). The test works by timing subjects’ reaction times in sorting words into two different control categories. The control categories are then combined with two target categories to see which category is more readily associated with which control word. In the case of our experiment, the control words were “safe” and “dangerous.” In the first test, we compared them to “Internet” and “Physical World,” and in the second, “Facebook” and “Google.”

Our experiment produced some interesting results. Most notably, the results highlight the Americans’ widespread wariness of the Internet’s dangers. We hope the results of our experiment will be a useful insight into the minds of Internet users and participants as we continue to forge policy that shapes how we interact with the virtual world. !


Take the test or view our results and analysis at!


Ric Best PC ’14

Bobby Dresser PC ’14

Zack Reneau-Wedeen TC ’14

Ike Silver BK ’14

Final Project: Stop SOPA at Yale – by “Mollie D”



       Our project was to plan and implement an advocacy and awareness campaign concerning the Stop Online Piracy Act. This piece of legislation, currently being debated in Congress, would place severe restrictions on Internet activities and free speech. The act also restricts Americans’ ability to obtain affordable prescription drugs from abroad. SOPA is the culmination of entertainment and pharmaceutical industry pressure on Washington to place stringent protections on intellectual property, and the resulting draconian measures threaten to undermine the fundamental principles of Internet freedom. The Internet has grown at such an astonishing rate because it has largely rejected harsh restrictions on user activity. SOPA violates the theoretical pillars necessary to the Internet’s functionality, and breaking the Internet in such a fashion would bear negative consequences for individuals and businesses that rely on the Internet’s facilitation of free information exchange.

       In formulating our project, we decided that a campaign aimed at students and tailored to their concerns would maximize the effectiveness of our efforts. We thus chose to use Internet and social media based methods of communication, and we concentrated our substantive content on issues most relevant to college students. We did not limit our coverage to these issues though, as we aimed to provide a breadth of information about the bill’s negative consequences. By using social media platforms, traditional media outlets, and two different blogging platforms, we were able to spread our message to many Yale students and provide valuable information about SOPA’s Internet-breaking policies to the campus. We hope the lasting impact of this campaign will not only be to facilitate continuing interest in SOPA’s progress, but also to engender a general sense of vigilance in the form of participatory democracy concerning free speech and Internet regulation that resonates well into the future.

Part 1: Launching a Campaign

       Our primary goal of this project was to spread awareness of SOPA and hopefully rally others around opposing it. In order to do this, we tried to appeal to many different groups by using a variety of platforms (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress). We also attempted to broaden our appeal by using satire and humor in addition to more pointed intellectual critique of the legislation. We tried to tap into the very things that SOPA would likely cut into: user-generated content, memes and places where you can share links. While we created a lot of our own content, we also tried to post relevant and interesting articles and sites that others had made. One particularly enjoyable and interesting story involved “The Megaupload Song” that received a takedown request, presumably automated, from some RIAA-related entity (Universal Music Group) because it featured many RIAA artists even though Megaupload (a major file-sharing site) owned all the rights to the video. If you’re curious, the (quite catchy) song can be found on Youtube, and there’s more information here. Also, if you’re into remixes, check out this link.

       A major challenge for our group in promoting the anti-SOPA movement was fighting the general Yale apathy and our generation’s apathy that comes with having people constantly inviting you to do things (spamming you). This challenge was exacerbated by finals period, and consequently, we weren’t able to get an Op-ed published in the YDN (as they stop publishing early in December). However, we were able to raise a good amount of awareness as many Yalies hadn’t even heard of SOPA prior to our outreach. Through explaining SOPA’s specific relevance to college students as well as posting some of the amazing articles and content available around the web, we were able to educate (and hopefully inspire) a lot of people.

       As of this writing, our Facebook page has 130 likes which is equivalent to about 3 percent of the Yale Undergraduate population.  While this number is fewer than we would have liked, we speculate that many people for political reasons and/or page like accumulation effects were reluctant to like our page. However, our Facebook page insights seem to indicate that many people still benefited from and engaged with our content. As we see below, our weekly total reach (the number of unique viewers who saw our content from 12/8/11 to 12/14/11) was 3,303 and peaked at 5,191 for the weak ending 12/12/11. Thus, a large percentage of Yale undergraduates likely read something we posted and learned more about SOPA.


       To complement our Facebook and WordPress, we created a Twitter account, @StopSopaYale, to complete our social media approach. The Twitter was useful in that it let us keep a small but interested group completely up to date on every #sopa happening. Additionally, the Twitter account was useful because it let us retweet other people’s views and comments on the SOPA debate. This allowed us to combine other people’s opinions with our own and give a lot of different viewpoints on the topic. The Twitter page was also an interesting foray into trending topics and extremely concise posts, a nice contrast to the more drawn out and in depth arguments of our WordPress blog.  Currently, we have 20 Twitter followers and we are on the list of one anti-SOPA advocate.

       In our opposition to SOPA we took both the pragmatic path into what specifically the SOPA legislation said and would do immediately (and why their is concern about intellectual property protection) as well as the somewhat hyperbolic path, wherein we demonstrated the absurdity of how broadly SOPA is written and speculated on the potential consequences that SOPA could have. In this way, we provided our audience both with a quick draw in (the two line memes and absurd scenarios depicted in videos) as well as further information if they were interested in understanding the issue on a deeper level.

Part 2: A Creative Approach

       In raising awareness within the Yale community about the flaws of SOPA, we aimed to create original content which would specifically appeal to Yale students, both in addressing issues relevant to our audience and by presenting this material in an entertaining form.  Thus, we created internet memes, videos, an op-ed for the Yale Daily News, and a blog.  Additionally, we wrote an anti-SOPA form letter for Yale students to send to their members of Congress which was tailored to reflect a Yale student’s perspective.  Finally, to make all of this content easier to access, we either linked the material to the Stop SOPA at Yale Facebook page or we created static HTML pages for the material with corresponding tabs to our Facebook page.

Internet Memes:

       The use of internet memes provided an effective and engaging way to point out the ridiculous elements of SOPA.  In generating our anti-SOPA memes, we drew from internet memes which were already popular and recognizable, such as the Lazy College Senior or Futurama Fry.  Thus, Yale students would be able to easily recognize the humor which we aimed to convey. Plus, internet memes can be easily shared and transformed.  Consequently, we hoped that our fans would not only share our anti-SOPA memes, but would also craft similar memes themselves.  Some topics which our memes addressed were the possible end to interactive websites such as Facebook and Wikipedia, the end to fair use online, and the halting of future innovative online start-ups.

Video Posts:

       Similar to the internet memes, the videos which we created aimed to point out insensible aspects of SOPA in a humorous way.  However, through videos we could portray these aspects in a more in-depth form to help our audience gain a better understanding of the problems created by SOPA.  For instance, the video entitled SOPA Courtroom Battle illustrates the extreme changes SOPA will make in criminalizing copyright infringement.

Form Letter:

       By creating an anti-SOPA form letter, we hoped to encourage students to be active participants in the Stop SOPA at Yale campaign, rather than just passive followers.  While creating awareness on campus about SOPA is important, it was equally important to us to inspire a response to the bill.  As mentioned above, we tailored the form letter to address the concerns of Yale students.  This form letter, with instructions on how to send it, was posted both on our Facebook page and our blog so that it could be easily accessed.


       As another form of outreach on campus, our group wrote an op-ed piece to be published in the Yale Daily News.  Unfortunately, it was too late in the semester for the op-ed to be published immediately, but it can currently be found on our blog and an updated version will be posted in the YDN early next semester.  Like our other creative content, the op-ed piece exemplifies many of the problems with SOPA and the article’s sarcastic, comical tone aims to keep our readers engaged and entertained.  Also, the op-ed piece directs our readers to visit our Facebook page,, and Wired for Change.


       The Stop SOPA at Yale blog provides a forum for our group to express our opinions about SOPA extensively and provides a space for our followers to contribute their own viewpoints.  Similar to the op-ed, the blogs are written with the goal of being both informative and compelling.  Our blog posts touch on a variety of topics, ranging from the different camps of anti-SOPA supporters to the effect SOPA can have on healthcare.  In addition, three of our members held a live blog session to cover Congress’ markup debate of SOPA.  Through the blog, our group elevates our position in the anti-SOPA movement: not only do we provide a channel of information to Yale students, but we are also contributing to the online voices against SOPA.

Part 3: Becoming a Part of the Action

       One of the more interactive aspects that we integrated into Stop SOPA at Yale was our creation and operation of a live blog. After learning that there would be Congressional debate held to discuss the SOPA legislation on Thursday, December 15 (which just so happened to fall in the middle of our SOPA campaign), we realized it presented a great opportunity to add very direct and significant value to our campaign efforts. We would have been foolish not to somehow take advantage of the fortuitous timing of the most defining event to take place regarding SOPA to date. Sooo, we decided to conduct a continuous live blog during the House of Representatives’ Full Committee Markup. For the sake of clarification or if you are not really sure what a markup is, it is “The process by which congressional committees and subcommittees debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation.”

       Up to that point, the majority of our campaign’s content was based upon content published online, in the news, by political commentators, activists, etc. We had yet to really dig deep into the real diplomatic activity and reality of what was actually happening with SOPA on Capitol Hill, or among the politicians who will ultimately dictate the bill’s fate. We knew that by monitoring and providing commentary on the live debate IN CONGRESS, it would add a heightened level of authentic value to our campaign.

The very nature and benefits of maintaining a live blog carried unique advantages that fundamentally differed from the other aspects of our campaign (Facebook page, normal blog, memes, creative scenes, op-ed, etc)….

       Live blogging gave us a channel to portray not only our opinions about SOPA and why people should take a stand against it, but also the ability to present a discussion based on the statements made by representatives in Congress to support our previously published content. Furthermore, as proactive “Anti-SOPAs,” conducting this event forced us to seriously pay attention to what is ACTUALLY going on with SOPA in the political sphere. When participating in a public protest, it is very easy to get caught up in the overwhelming flood of public opinion online and in the media. Blogging live on the congressional hearing during which political figures delivered their positions helped us stay grounded.

       The main goal of our campaign was to engage Yale students in a compelling way. We believed that a live blog would be (relatively) more captivating (to the extent that a live blog really can be) than other forms of content. Our idea was that a live blog on the Congressional markup would attract more attention to the issues we were trying to convey to the student body. We also realized this would make the substance of the debate more accessible. Essentially, we sought to accomplish two campaign goals: 1) more exposure for our campaign, 2) heightened attention and knowledge to students about the bill itself.

       We believe we were able to bring the experience of the House debate in an appealing way to those who may not have followed it live, but wanted to have a taste of what went on. The live blog was an aspect of our campaign that probably linked closest with the “real-life” implications surrounding SOPA. The most fitting conclusion I could provide about this endeavor would be – POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AT ITS FINEST!

Part 4: A Rewarding Experience

       Ultimately, we deemed our advocacy campaign a success. As is discussed above, our data shows that our Facebook page reached a large number of individuals, both those inside and out of the Yale community.  We believe that we helped further the anti-SOPA cause and exposed the weak points of the legislation. It was especially exciting to be involved with the anti-SOPA activity at this particular stage, when the bill is one of its most hotly debated points. This allowed us to piggyback off of other anti-SOPA campaigns’ publicity and allowed us to run a live-blog of the bill’s mark-up in Congress.

       It was an extremely rewarding experience for us all, both in terms of educating others about the dangers of SOPA and learning ourselves about the controversial bill, as well as about other related debates regarding the freedom of the Internet. The project also allowed us to gather (or hone) many different skills using technology that we might have never been exposed to, including creating and running a blog (and live blog), creating memes and other internet videos, writing simple HTML, and using and linking Twitter, Facebook, and blog pages. The project was therefore a perfect culmination of our semester in Introduction to Law and Technology, reinforcing and combining new technological skills with knowledge about current Internet debates that in the future will allow us to be better informed and more active citizens of the Internet world.

Mollie DiBrell
Charles Gyer
Sam Helfaer
Nicholas Makarov
Zachary Tobolowsky
Will Kirkland

Final Project: Defamed (Part 1) – by “John G”

As a suite, we decided to write a rap as an educational piece, lecturing small children about the risks involved in hateful speech and defamatory claims against an individual/others. The introduction begins with a terse explanation of defamation in U.S. law and common defenses in court. Transitioning into the topic of defamation per se, the rap speaks about the difference of defamation per se as compared to regular defamation, specifically, that damages are assumed for defamation per se.

Utilizing celebrity cameos, the rap introduces the four specific instances of defamation per se and continues to provide detailed circumstances under which each could be found applicable or a notable exception. Explicitly, the four categories are allegations or imputations injurious to one’s profession, of criminal activity, of loathsome disease, and of unchastity, which is duly noted in the rap’s chorus.

In addition to the four instances of defamation per se, Internet libel laws are also discussed as a means of exhibiting the relevance of defamation laws in modern culture and technology.

We aptly decided to construct this project as a rap song in order to cast the subject matter of defamation into the medium of aggressive hip-hop, a genre which is often plagued with defamation within its context, thus creating a parody of the genre and of defamation itself – allowing us to discuss and commit speech acts that might otherwise be construed as defamatory.

With much serendipity, we invited many famous artists from the hip-hop industry to spit their game on this track. In a surprising turnout, we were able to have featured performances by The Ying Yang Twins, Chris Ludacris Bridges, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Eminem, T-Pain, Dr. Dre, Jamarius Brahamz, Gangreeeeeeen, and Notorious B.I.G. (posthumously). Unfortunately we could not produce a promotional video due to scheduling conflicts and the fact that one individual is currently deceased. Much to our surprise, our producers have signed a contract for another track to be released in the near future. Follow us on twitter

Here is the link to the song:

Jamar Bromley
Matthew Prewitt
John Greenawalt