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Mike Shapiro hasn’t even earned his J.D. yet, but he’s venturing into territory where few lawyers have gone before. Tuesday, in a Contra Costa County, Calif., courtroom, Shapiro and two fellow students from Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society took on Ampex Corp. on behalf of a former employee who criticized the Redwood City, Calif.-based company on a Yahoo financial message board. Ampex sued the poster for defamation. The case may help break new legal ground concerning privacy and First Amendment rights on the Internet, and for students it’s a hands-on opportunity to learn litigation without years of writing briefs, watching trials from the sidelines, and learning oratory skills from seasoned partners. “For us, it’s a fantastic experience,” Shapiro said. “Most attorneys don’t get to argue a case in court until their third or fourth year. We’re not even licensed attorneys, and we get to argue a case.” The Ampex case is one of a cluster of projects at IP law clinics at Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and the University of San Francisco School of Law. Projects range from defense of peer-to-peer file sharing services to advocating for access to affordable HIV drugs in Sri Lanka. All launched in the past 18 months, the clinics give students hands-on legal experience while helping to shape case law and policy in the Internet era. The clinics have a definite point of view — arguing for consumer privacy and the rights of individuals to gain access to information that content owners may seek to restrict. That usually pits them against big corporations and industry interest groups. “The classic service law clinics provide is serving underrepresented populations,” said Jennifer Granick, litigation director for Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. “Here they are serving an underrepresented issue.” “Consumers don’t get a seat at the table in a lot of these debates,” added Jennifer Urban, a fellow at the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at Boalt. “Intellectual property, as all property, is an economic thing and a lot of policy is shaped by companies and their interest.” PUBLIC VS. CORPORATE RIGHTS Stanford students are involved in one of the biggest IP battles pitting big companies against public interest groups. Lawrence Lessig, who founded Stanford’s clinic, challenged a 1998 law that added 20 years to the length of existing copyrights. Representing Web site operator Eric Eldred, Lessig argued that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act is inconsistent with the constitutional requirement that copyright be secured for “limited times.” Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 that Congress had acted within the bounds of the Constitution in passing the law. The U.S. Supreme Court announced in February that it would review the matter. Among other cases, the Stanford clinic is serving as co-counsel for Grokster Ltd., a company that provides peer-to-peer file-sharing software. Eight movie studios and 20 record labels sued Grokster and two other software providers for infringement. The case, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 01-8541 is scheduled for trial in Los Angeles district court Oct. 1. Students at Boalt’s clinic, which was named after Boalt IP Professor Pamela Samuelson, are also playing a behind-the-scenes role in a variety of hot-button IP issues. One group is helping to set standards for GPS (global positioning satellite) technology. As participants in an Internet Engineering Task Force, they are trying to assure that such technology does not impinge on consumer privacy. “We are mapping out privacy issues in different location-based systems and what rules are needed to protect privacy,” said Deirdre Mulligan, director of the Samuelson Clinic. In another project, Boalt students are engaged in the contentious issue of whether the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies can block access to affordable HIV medicines, specifically in Sri Lanka. They are working with Boalt’s International Human Rights Law Clinic, the East Bay Community Law Center and an AIDS group in Sri Lanka to press the World Bank and Sri Lanka government to provide treatment to people infected with HIV. Students at Boalt, Stanford and USF’s Internet and Intellectual Property Justice Project are also helping out companies and individuals that face accusations of trademark infringement from corporations. The three clinics are collaborating on a project with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and other law clinics around the country to help people who receive “cease and desist” letters from trademark owners. In February they launched the “Chilling Effects Clearinghouse,” an online resource to educate the public about the bounds of IP law and their rights on the Internet. In one case, students at USF’s clinic are helping a company square off against Intel Corp. The giant software company claims a publication put out by Spy Tech Agency, “Intel Bulletin,” violates its trademark. Spy Tech is a private investigation business in West Hollywood that also sells security and surveillance equipment. John Dresden, head of the company, says the name of the publication is an abbreviation of “intelligence.” Rather than drop the moniker, he turned to the Chilling Effects project for help. “There’s no way I could hire a battery of lawyers to take on Intel,” said John Dresden, head of Spy Tech. Robert Talbot, director of USF’s IP clinic, said working on such cases gives students an “opportunity to apply practically what they learned theoretically in class and to help out people that wouldn’t normally be able to obtain legal advice.” Shapiro, Stanford’s IP student, also lauds the hands-on experience that the IP clinics are providing. He said his work with the clinic would make him an effective attorney at a much earlier age. And he said it has given him a greater sense of responsibility. “The clinic has provided a new perspective about litigation,” Shapiro said. “It’s provided me with the idea that the legal system can be abused and one of our jobs as attorneys is to safeguard the legal process so people can get justice.”

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