Interview with an Internet Superhero

By Ryan Morrison

SOPA. PIPA. ACTA. The TPP. Bills that involve governments around the world trying to put a stranglehold on the Internet.

Core issues of freedom are involved. And as comedian John Oliver put it on his podcast, “It’s a shame this stuff is so important because it’s really damn boring.”

Luckily, some people actually find “this stuff” fascinating, and are working from the political sidelines, doing everything in their power to speak up for the rest of us when it comes to the Internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is that group, and of that group, one man stands apart from the rest. We mean that, of course, because he was willing to sit down and speak with us.

Trevor Timm is a 2011 NYLS alum, and he’s done us proud.  He graduated near the top of his class, passed the bar, and now serves as an advocate-journalist in the San Francisco Office of the EFF. He also wrote for this very blog, and now he’s back to catch up with us.  We spoke over Skype on the evening of February 3, and again on February 18.


Thank you for taking some time to talk to me. I follow you on Twitter and read your articles, but I’m still amazed at how you’ve become such a respected and well known writer. How did you make the leap from new law grad to working for the EFF?

Thanks for inviting me. I got heavily involved with Legal as She is Spoke and the Program in Law & Journalism with New York Law School at the beginning of my second year. Professor Zierler helped me get a job with former New York Times general counsel James Goodale where I worked on free speech issues for more than two years. My last year, I also had a terrific internship with the General Counsel of the New Yorker. And at school, I worked as a research assistant for Professor Nadine Strossen, former President of the ACLU.  I was always pretty good with time management!

On top of all that, I was on Twitter night and day trying to make a name for myself by analyzing free speech issues in the news. I was able to get a strong following on there from my writings on Wikileaks, and this helped seal the deal when I applied a job at the EFF.

Here I am, and I love it. I get to do what I did for LASIS as a career, on subjects I enjoy writing about and even affect the public discourse.   It couldn’t be more satisfying.

Yes, I know from reading your tweets and articles that you care deeply about what you do.  And lately, you’ve been writing a lot about SOPA and PIPA. Thanks to advocates like yourself, the two bills have now been tabled indefinitely. What next?   (more…)


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Fighting Megaupload Piracy With…Piracy?

By Asher Hawkins

Last week, the Obama Administration criticized SOPA and PIPA for their associated risk of fostering censorship. At the same time, the Administration stated it would combat online piracy perpetrated by foreign websites.

Looks like the promise to crack down on piracy was more than mere saber-rattling.

Yesterday, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the Stop-SOPA Blackout, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a sweeping indictment targeting the leaders of Megaupload.com, a popular Hong Kong-based file-sharing site that, according to the feds, allows users to access pirated copies of movies, music and other copyright-protected works.

Megaupload’s top seven honchos – none of them U.S. citizens, and four of them arrested Thursday by local New Zealand law enforcement upon a request from American authorities – are accused of heading up an organized criminal enterprise whose main goal was criminal copyright infringement.

But the feds’ actions may just be outside the scope of existing U.S. statutory law. The whole idea behind the Stop Online Piracy Act (the House of Representatives version of the controversial legislative initiative) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (the Senate version) is that our existing laws don’t give the feds the legal weaponry needed to protect works under U.S. copyright from the scourge of foreign online piracy.

Does U.S. law apply to wrongdoing committed (or primarily committed) overseas? It’s a complicated issue that our judicial system has increasingly grappled with in recent years. Thursday’s news reports about the shutdown of Megaupload – here’s a run-of-the-mill mainstream-media report from ABC News, and here’s a more in-depth piece from Wired – didn’t address this “extraterritoriality” issue.

So we decided to do just that.   (more…)