eCommerce Law and Regulation (46-840)


Mini 4 (MSEC Mini 6) 2002


Course Description

This course is a broad survey of the rapidly emerging field of eCommerce law.  It is not a law school course and does not attempt to teach legal advocacy or other forensic skills.  Its goal is to familiarize the student with legal issues in a wide variety of eCommerce topics.


Michael I. Shamos is Distinguished Career Professor in the School of Computer Science at CMU, Director of the Universal Library and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Electronic Commerce degree program at GSIA.  He is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar and the Bar of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is Special Counsel to the law firm of Reed Smith LLP.

Office: 4515 Newell Simon Hall. Telephone: 268-8193.


Class Meeting Times

Mondays and Fridays, 8:30 - 10:20.  Location: Posner 146, GSIA


Ferrera, et al.  Cyberlaw: Text and Cases.  Thompson Learning (2001).  ISBN 0324012977 (Hardcover).  Check   Amazon is quoting 3-5 days; Barnes & Noble 24 hours.  This is a very recent and readable book.


Assigned readings for a particular lecture are to be completed before the corresponding lecture.

Course Format

14 lectures, readings, two homeworks and final exam. The basis for the course is the lectures. The reading assignments provide important background information. Because no textbook exists that presents all the necessary course material, you should make frequent reference to the LIST OF LINKS, which contains numerous links for every topic in the course.  All homework assignments will be linked to this web page and thus can be obtained on-line.  Paper copies will not be handed out in class.


There are two homeworks and a final.  The homeworks and the final each count for 30% of the final grade. Class participation counts for 10% of the final grade.  There will be no midterm examination.

Submitting Work

All exams must be submitted electronically by emailing them as attachments (preferably Microsoft Word, but plain ASCII and WordPerfect are ok) to  Handwritten work is not acceptable.

Policy on Joint Work

The MSEC program encourages teamwork.  However, we must evaluate each student's progress individually.  Therefore, you may work together on homework assignments provided that (1) each person's written submission is his or hers alone; and (2) you identify on the homework each person with whom you worked in connection with that assignment.  For example, you may work in pairs or groups to research, discuss and debate the homework, but then each person must go off and write their own paper.   Violations of these rules will be dealt with harshly to the fullest extent of University policy.


If you are having any problems with this course or the MSEC program in general, please see the instructor during after class, during office hours or make an appointment. We are all committed to a successful program. If problems are not addressed quickly you may find the course at an end before any remedial action can be taken.

Detailed Syllabus

Lecture 1 - LEGAL ISSUES IN ELECTRONIC COMMERCE (Monday, March 11, 2002) – Judicial systems of the United States. Courts and parties.  Statutory interpretation.  Judgments and enforcement.   Regulatory powers.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapters 1 and 2.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL LECTURE: "Electronic Privacy in an Insecure Age," by Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).  Monday, March 11, 2002, McConomy Auditorium, University Center, 12:30-2:00.  This material relates critically to Lectures 11 and 12.

Lecture 2 - JURISDICTION (NOTE: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13, 2002).  The central issue in ecommerce law: when and over whom may a court exercise its powers?  Jurisdiction and territoriality. Constitutional dimensions.  International jurisdiction.  View SLIDES.  Homework 1 available.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 13.

ADDITIONAL EVENT THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2002: "What Are the Hot Issues in Assessing the Challenges and Opportunities for eCommerce?"  InSITeS panel discussion by Karen Clay, Michael Johnson, Michael Shamos, Michael Smith, 12:30-2:00 Hamburg Hall 2503.

Lecture 3 - COPYRIGHT I (Friday, March 15, 2002) – The nature of copyright. Infringement.  Remedies and enforcement. Fair use, public performances, compulsory licensing.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 4.

Lecture 4 - COPYRIGHT II (Monday, March 18, 2002).  The Tasini case.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). DeCSS, Pollstar and Napster cases.  Copy protection devices, digital watermarking. MP3, video. Linking rights, liability of ISPs.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 11.



Lecture 4a - COPYRIGHT II, continued (Monday, April 11, 2002). 

Lecture 5 - INTERNET PATENTS I (Wednesday April 13, 2002) – The nature of patent protection.   Obtaining patents.  Infringement and remedies.  Patents on methods of doing business.  View SLIDES.

Readings:  Patent Law: Basics (read the first two articles only), Patent Law Basics for University of Utah Researchers (read all sections)

Lecture 6 - INTERNET PATENTS II (Monday, April 15, 2002). v. (1Click), Amazon’s affiliate program patent.  Policy questions and international protection.  View slides from Lecture 5.  Homework 1 returned.  Homework 2 available.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Business Method Patents Online, Internet Patents: Will They Hinder the Development of E-Commerce?

Lecture 7 - TRADEMARK I (NOTE: TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2002) – The nature and role of trademarks. Distinctiveness, genericness, infringement, confusion, palming off, counterfeiting, dilution. Relation between trademarks and domain names. The domain name registration system. Warehousing and speculation in trademarks, the Anticybersquatting Act.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 3.

Lecture 8 - TRADEMARK II (NOTE: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2002) - The domain name registration system. Warehousing and speculation in trademarks, the Anticybersquatting Act.  View slides from Lecture 7.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 3.


Lecture 9 - ADVERTISING AND CONSUMER PROTECTION (Monday, April 22, 2002) – Role of the Federal Trade Commission. Comparative advertising, deceptive practices, banner ads.  Self-policing.  View SLIDES.

Readings: To be announced.

Lecture 10 - COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS (NOTE: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2002) – The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and its electronic versions: the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act, Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Clickwrap and browsewrap licenses. Digital signature legislation. Auctions.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 5.

Lecture 11 - PRIVACY I (Friday, April 26, 2002) – Constitutional problems.  Data privacy.  The Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  Web privacy, role of the FTC, financial privacy.  Employer surveillance.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 8.

April 24, 2002.  Homework 2 due

Lecture 12 - PRIVACY II (Monday, April 29, 2002) – Technological threats to privacy.   Web bugs, email wiretaps, DoubleClick, Windows Media Player.  Anonymity: the Tattered Cover case.   International approaches: EU directives,  the US-EU Safe Harbor.  View slides from Lecture 11.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 8.

Lecture 13 - TAXATION AND ANTITRUST (NOTE: WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2002) – Sales, use, income and value-added taxes. Interstate taxation principles: sales, software and services. The Quill and National Bellas Hess cases. Internet Tax Freedom Act. Bit tax.  Antitrust principles: combinations, market power. The Sherman and Clayton Acts. Per se violations, price-fixing, tying. Remedies. U.S. v. Microsoft.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 6.

Lecture 14 - CRIME (Friday, May 3, 2002) – Jurisdictional principles. Strict construction of criminal statutes. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Economic Espionage Act, extortion.  Homework 2 returned.  View SLIDES.

Readings: Ferrera Chapter 12.