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SIE 525 - Information Systems Law Muenster

Information Systems Law

Course number: 146010, Muenster

Professor Harlan Onsrud, University of Maine, US

Course Objectives

This course reviews the current status of information systems law in regard to rights of privacy, freedom of information, confidentiality, work product protection, copyright, security, legal liability, and a range of additional legal and information policy topics. We will investigate the legal difficulties that technological innovations are causing in all of these areas. We will focus particularly on these issues in regard to their impact on the use of digital data work products and databases. Legal options for dealing with the conflicts caused by technological change and likely adaptations of the law over time in response to societal changes will be explored.


A. Class Sessions

  • Lecture 1 (4 hours): Friday, May 25 (i.e. 90 minutes + break + 90 minutes)
  • Friday, June 1 – no class (Pentecost vacation week)
  • Lecture 2 (4 hours): Friday June 8, 10:00-1:00+ through teleconference (See Communications section below)
  • Lecture 3 (4 hours): Friday June 15 (i.e. 90 minutes + break + 90 minutes)
  • Lecture 4 (4 hours): Friday June 22 (i.e. 90 minutes + break + 90 minutes)
  • Lecture 5 (4 hours): Friday June 29 (i.e. 90 minutes + break + 90 minutes)
  • Lecture 6 (6 hours): Friday July 6 – Learning from Each Other through Student Presentations (i.e. 90 minutes + break + 90 minutes + break + 90 minutes)

The course syllabus including lecture topics and student reading and writing assignments is at


B. Course Materials

  • Note that this is a graduate course in information systems law and ethical issues for non-law students. The typical enrolled student is pursuing a graduate degree in engineering, information systems, geospatial science and technology, computer science or other other domains where a knowledge of cyberlaw issues may be of value. As such, substantial time is spent on introductory legal concepts. Further, we will focus on overview books and articles for most of the readings rather than use the text of case law or legislation. (For materials appropriate for a law school course, see for instance, Jessica Littman’s Index to Cyberlaw Courses.)
  • Required readings include several books, chapters of books and articles. The reading assignments are heavier than experienced normally in engineering or science courses so you should begin them immediately and pace yourself to ensure their completion. Course lectures will NOT correspond exactly with the readings.
  • For this offering of the course, only materials downloadable for free or at minimal are required. If links to readings are dead, check The password is Muenster.
  • Due to the international nature of this offering, we are likely to focus more on underlying policies of different legal approaches rather than the black letter law of any specific nation. The instructor will often present U.S. and international perspectives and students may often be assigned to explore home country or European perspectives on the same issues.


C. Communications

  • You will typically deliver assignment responses to a Moodle web site at You will receive an email from the instructor informing you of your username and password. You will be required to change your password immediately.
  • Discussion Session on Friday June 8 (10:00-1:00): This session will make use of distance technologies with the instructor in Italy. Simply go to at the appropriate time and enter as a guest. Please try to locate yourself in a quiet place and you MUST use earbuds or headphones if you plan to speak to the rest of the group. Otherwise the rest of us will hear feedback. Put your microphone on mute when you are not talking (Click the microphone icon at the top of the screen so that it is green and has a bar through it.) There is also a written chat capability so you can use that as an option. NOTE: ConnectPro may fail due to the server being across the Atlantic. I’ll try to have a backup such as, or  If you don’t have a Skype account you might want to get one and place ten Euros or less in the account. This will allow you to call phone numbers and most conference web sites across the globe at only a few cents per minute. (see
  • Recorded Class Sessions: Students should attend all sessions in person. However, I will also attempt to record all sessions at so you can view the class live if you are ill (microphoning of other students may not work well). I’ll also provide links of the recordings on the web syllabus after each session.


D. Notices

Copyright Notice for Materials Accessible through this Website:

Term Paper Formatting:


E. Instructor Contact Information

For one-on-one discussions, E-mail to is often the simplest way to get a message through and a response. Send me a phone number if you want to talk. You are also welcome to call me on Skype if you see me online (Skype username of harlan.onsrud and Skype Phone Number: +1-202-657-4786).


F. Reading Materials

You will read selected chapters out of several books for this course as well as numerous articles. Books 2 though 5 are openly available online as well as available by purchase. These books and all the supplemental readings may also be downloaded from the folder mentioned above in the event that any links below are broken. Again, the password is Muenster.


Book 1. Cyberlaw Text and Cases, 3rd Edition (highly recommended) [Not required for the course in Muenster]

Ferrera, Reder, Bird, Darrow, Aresty, Klosek, Lichtenstein (2012)
This covers basic cyberlaw issues from traditional or conventional legal perspectives. Purchase online.

Book 2. Code Version 2.0

Lawrence Lessig (2008)

Book 3. Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy

Lawrence Lessig (2008) or see Course Material Backups

Book 4. The Wealth of Networks

Benkler, Yochai (2006)
full book pdf:
chapter pdfs:

Book 5. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

James Boyle (2008)


Sample of Some Additional On-line References:

Center for Geospatial Law and Policy: (particularly articles at and news at

Legal Aspects of Computing (wikipedia):

Copyright on the Internet:

Legal Encyclopedia:


G. Grading

33% Responses to All Questions (i.e. the Course Journal)

33% Class Participation, Attendance and Performance as Moderator

34% Final Presentation & Final Term Paper  (both on same topic) See Final Term Paper


Note: To aid my ability to learn your face, if possible, please send me the url of your current web page that has your photo. If possible, do NOT give me a reference such as Facebook or Linked In where we all need to be members or friends to see your profile.


H. Approximate Schedule of Lectures and Assignments

Date Topic Reading Assignments Module
25 May 2012 Introductory Materials  [SlidesIntro] Video Module A
Liability [SlidesLiability] Video Liability in the Use of GIS

Module B

Module C
8 June 2012 Intellectual Property Basics [SlidesIPBasics] Copyright [Video] Caseiro, Intellectual Property: The Basics

Intellectual Property: Book 2: Ch 10
Module D

Module E
Patents, Trademark, and Trade Secrets Patent: Read – Intro, 1. Definition, 3. Law Effects, Enforcement, and Governing Laws and 4. Economics)

Trademark: Read – Intro, 1. Fundamental Concepts, 5. Registration, 11. International Law)

Trade Secret: Read (particularly – Intro and sections 1 through 5)
Module F

Module G
15 June 2012 Database Legislation & Academic Research [SlidesDtbsPrtctn][Video: Module A Discussion] [Video: Module B-E Discussion] What if the Web Really Worked for Science? Video Part I & Video Part II

Module H
Self-help Technologies: Contracts & Information Commons Concepts [SlidesCrCommons][SlidesDataCommons] Book 3: Ch 6&8

Module I
22 June 2012 Public Information[SlidesFOIA][SlidesBorders] [Video of Class Session]
Read Pluijmers/Weiss Borders in Cyberspace or read Weiss summary

Read Exploiting the Potential of Europe’s Public Sector Information

Boyle, A Natural Experiment (Financial Times, Nov 22, 2004) & Two Data Base Cheers for the EU (Financial Times, Jan 2, 2006)
Module J
Jurisdiction and the Internet [SlidesJuris] Jurisdiction: Read

Book 2: Ch 7, 14 &15
Module K
29 June 2012 Ethics [SlidesEthics] Implementing G I Technologies Ethically Module L
Privacy [SlidesPrivacy]Privacy [SlidesPrivacyPlusFreeSpeech][Slides: Ubiq Loc Trcking] Book 2: Ch 11 (Privacy) and Ch 12 (Free Speech)

View Cory Doctorow Video

Pomfret, 2012, Summary of Location Privacy in the US (posted with permission of author: see password protected backup materials)

Colette Cuijpers and Martin Pekárek, 2011, The Regulation of Location Based Services: Challenges to the European Union Data Protection Regime (posted with permission of author: see password protected backup materials)

New Biggest Spy Center in US (see password protected backup materials)
Module M


6 July 2012 Student Presentations  See Info Systems Law Term Paper Assignment


Class Process and Assignments

1. Post Your Module Reponses: Each module assignment below requires each student to respond to all of the questions posed and post the responses in their Moodle folder by Thursday noon. This will give Moderators time to review all of the responses prior to the discussions the next day. That is, posting is required prior to the class period in which the material will be discussed. Label each and every posting with your last name followed by the module number (e.g. Smith – Module A). Within your submission list the question before providing your response for each question (e.g. A1, A2, etc.)

Be concise and use complete sentences. A hundred-words in one or two paragraphs as a response to a question will often be adequate. In other instances a half page may be more appropriate. You will be able to see the responses from all other students at noon on the day before the class session.

2. Moderator Responsibilities:  Two or three students will be assigned to moderate the class discussion for each modules. You should read all of your peers’ responses prior to class and be familiar with them. The responses of all students will appear shortly after noon on the Moodle site on the due date for the assignment. I highly recommend that one of you compile (i.e. cut and paste) all student responses into a single document and upload it for the entire class. You may be given anywhere from 0 minutes to 75 minutes to discuss the questions depending on other ground to be covered during the class period. As moderator your role is not to give a lecture on what you or other people have stated in their written responses but to engage as many other members of class as possible in a discussion of their responses and affiliated issues raised in the readings. In most instances moderators may have time to call on only two or three classmates to discuss their responses but certainly your goal should be to engage as many classmates as possible.

3. Submitting Your Journal: Your journal consists of the compilation of all your personal module assignment responses prepared and submitted throughout the sessions. I suggest that you keep a running Word, rtf, or similar document adding on your submissions as we proceed through the semester. Responses to all modules must be included in the Journal even if you miss responding on time for a specific class due to illness or otherwise. You may want to review and edit your journal entries prior to final submission but no response for a module should exceed 500 words or a single page, whichever is shorter. The journal is due on July 5 and should be posted as follows: <your last name> – COURSE JOURNAL

4. Term Paper and Presentation Assignment: The last class period will be taken up by short student presentations covering topics largely selected by students in researching course topics in further depth. See Term Paper and Presentation Assignment. Each student is likely to have only eight minutes for their slide presentation on the last day so please practice and deliver your slides in advance. Deliver your Powerpoint slides on or before noon on July 5. Deliver your completed term paper on or before <to be determined>.


Session 1 May 25

Module A – Introduction
Moderator and/or Discussant: Harlan Onsrud
A-1 After reviewing the syllabus and considering your own career aspirations, which information systems law issue do you think is most critical for you to understand thoroughly by the end of the course?

Session 2 May 25

Module B – Liability
Moderators and/or Discussants: AbdelMouty, Appel
B-1 Considering the article on Liability in the Use of GIS, how can you best minimize your liability exposure in the future in your delivery of information software, products and services to others?
B-2 Under what circumstances should you be held responsible for damages to others if they are led astray by inaccurate or incomplete digital information that you provided? Assuming that always and never are inappropriate responses, what is the test you would recommend by which active navigation guidance systems should be held responsible for damages caused by wrong or unreasonable instructions to users?

Module C – Liability
Moderators and/or Discussants: Arndt, Autermann
C-1 Raise, discuss and reflect on one or more questions or issues related to the paper on liability issues surrounding GEOSS that you would most like to discuss with the rest of the class.

All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on Thursday May 31 (no penalty if up to a week late).

Session 1 June 8 (lecture presented at a distance but the discussions may need to wait until my return depending on quality of communications)

Module D – Intellectual Property Basics
Moderators and/or Discussants: Belay, De Wall
Read Intellectual Property: The Basics by Chris Caseiro. As a review and another perspective, view the six-minute video on Intellectual Property Explained found at This video briefly explains the primary differences between the protections offered by trademark, copyright, patent and trade secret. Book 2 Chapter 10 presents yet anther perspective from the perspective of cyberspace.
D-1 Raise and discuss one or more things you learned or thought was interesting.
All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on the Thursday before class.

Module E – Copyright
Moderators and/or Discussants: Dixit, Dueren
Consider the Wikipedia reading assignment on copyright.
E-1 What ownership assumptions should one make when copying material off of the Internet? Do the assumptions of the law agree with what studies show or what you think are efficient for the economy and the well being of society generally?
E-2 Numerous graphics and photos were used in the comic book titled Bound by Law? by Aoki, Boyle and Jenkins (2006) found at This material was used without asking permission of authors or publishers of the original works. Is this extraction without permission legal? Why? Is this ethical? Why? What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned from the comic book? Examples of some fair use case law summaries

Session 2 June 8 (lecture presented at a distance but the discussions may need to wait until my return depending on quality of communications)

Module F – Patents
Moderators and/or Discussants: Edvardsson, Hopmann
F-1 Raise, discuss and reflect on one or more questions or issues related to the reading on patents that you would most like to discuss with the rest of the class.

Module G – Trademarks and Trade Secrets
Moderators and/or Discussants: Kruse, Paluschek
G-1 Raise, discuss and reflect on one or more questions or issues related to the reading on trademarks that you would most like to discuss with the rest of the class.
G-2 Raise, discuss and reflect on one or more questions or issues related to the reading on trade secrets that you would most like to discuss with the rest of the class.

All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on Thursday June 7 .

Session 1 June 15

Module H – Value of the Public Domain and Science Commons
Moderators: Rieffel , Rohrbach
H-1 View the video by James Boyle on What if the Web Really Worked for Science? (Note: Question and answer covers the last quarter of the video which you may skip.). List three key ppoints from his presentation that you think are interesting or important.
H-2 Read the article by Pollock or the article by Nelson. List three key points, ideas or concepts from one of these works that you think are interesting or important.
H-3 Moglen states: “The free sharing of scientific information is the essence of Western science. And without the concept of the free sharing of information …. the advance of knowledge would be either impossible or impossibly burdened.” “If you could feed everyone on earth at the cost of baking one loaf and pressing a button, what would be the moral case for charging more for bread than some people could afford to pay?” Reflect on or respond to these statements in the context of the distribution of digital knowledge works.
All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on the Thursday before class.

Session 2 June 15

Module I – Commons and Contract/License Self Help Approaches
Moderators: Ross, Sanchez
I-1 Investigating on your own, what are the greatest challenges to ensuring the validity of on-line contracts? Under what circumstances are “click wrap” licenses enforceable legally?
I-2 Read either Book 3 Chapters 6&8 on Commercial and Sharing Economies or read Book 4 Chapters 3&4 on Peer Production. Raise, discuss and reflect on three key points, ideas or concepts from one of these works that you think are interesting or important.
I-3 Read the Legal Interoperability paper. What is meant by the term and is legal interoperability among data sources on the Internet a goal worth pursuing? Why?

All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on Thursday June 14 .

Session 1 June 22

Module J – Public Information
Moderators: Tilahun, Tresselt
J-1 Read the final sections of Borders in Cyberspace. The report arrives at conclusions and recommendations regarding government public access policies. Assess these results and recommendations. To what extent are the “conclusions” supportable by the evidence? Do they make sense?
J-2 Are the “recommendations” supportable in terms of good public policy? Why?
J-3 Which side of the debate in the Financial Times is more convincing? Why?

Session 2 June 22

Module K – Jurisdiction and the Internet
Moderators: Tschorn, Voss
K-1 Considering the Jurisdiction overview Wikipedia reading, what practical and legal problems are you likely to encounter in gaining jurisdiction over those who may have harmed you from a distance over the Internet?
K-2 According to Lessig in Chapter 7 of Book 2, what are the core methods for regulating the Internet? Spinello argues that morals should be used additionally to guide and control the net. Do core ethical principles exist that are or should be universal and applicable across all jurisdictions?

All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on Thursday June 21.

Session 1 June 29

Module L – Ethics
Moderators: Weiss, Westermann
L-1 Reflect on differences between legal and ethical conduct within the context of the use and creation of digital data, products and services. Provide some examples where following an approach, although legal, would not be ethical as assessed by philosophical understanding.

Session 2 June 29

Module M – Privacy
Moderators: Winkler
M-1 What core rights in privacy did you have in your home country? Are they sufficient in the Internet age? Why?
M-2 Raise, discuss and reflect on one or more questions or issues related to the readings that you most would like to discuss with the rest of the class.

All students respond to these questions on the Moodle web site before noon on Thursday June 28 .


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