We are a small group of dissenting Harvard Law School students whose “Harvard Law Unbound” blog, focused on protesting corruption and conflict of interest at the Law School, was blacklisted last week by the Law School, which pressured our WordPress.com host into deactivating the blog. (For more background, review our old “About” page, reprinted here; our new “About” page, here; and the archived version of our blog, here, which we’re pleased to see more than 2,000 people have already viewed [6/2 update: 2,056 views when we launched this new blog yesterday; now up to 2,257!]).
The Law School administration didn’t file a lawsuit regarding our blog, and thus cannot claim to have persuaded a neutral judge that its objections had any merit. Instead, it pressured WordPress.com to blacklist our blog by threatening it with legal action. It did so notwithstanding our timely and well-documented objection that we had done nothing wrong. In the face of Harvard Law School’s legal threats, WordPress capitulated and deleted our blog.
The Harvard Law School administration’s legal threats were based on what law professor Glenn Reynolds (“Instapundit“), an expert in the area of high-technology law (among other areas), termed a “bogus DMCA claim.”Only Bill and Ted can say it better:
Our situation has also attracted the attention of law professor William A. Jacobson, of “Legal Insurrection.” In two posts on May 22 (here and here), he gave detailed attention to Harvard Law School’s bogus assertion, made pursuant to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, that the title of our blog supposedly violated the use-of-name trademark rights of Harvard Law School and/or “Unbound — Harvard Journal of the Legal Left,” because readers might somehow believe our blog was authorized by, or otherwise affiliated with, the Law School and/or the Journal. This objection was legally frivolous — utterly bogus — because at the very top of our blog was posted an explicit disclaimer of any such authorization or affiliation (photo of the top of our old blog with the disclaimer, here; copy of our old “About” page, incorporated by reference into the disclaimer, here).
Could it be that none of the administrators at Harvard Law School speaks English? Unless they simply acted in bad faith, it’s difficult to come up with another explanation for their professed confusion about whether we claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Law School or the Journal. Perhaps we should have enlisted Chris Tucker to check into whether or not the administrators at Harvard Law School speak English:
Assuming they do speak English, the Law School administrators could hardly have missed our disclaimer. Professor Jacobson, himself a Harvard Law School graduate, personally called it to the attention of the Dean of Students in an e-mail sent several hours before our blog was blacklisted. See here. Professor Jacobson’s followup post, after our blog was blacklisted, is here. Writing on the Breitbart.com website, Dan Riehl also covered the blacklisting of our blog, here.
Clearly, the Law School administration knew that given our prominent disclaimer, there was no risk of confusion, and thus no infringement of any trademark use-of-name rights which might exist (itself questionable, based on a search of registered trademark databases; more on that later). It made a bogus DMCA claim anyway, because it wanted our blog blacklisted, immediately, before the May 23 visit to the campus by Attorney General Eric Holder, which was the focus of our most recent posts. It achieved its objective, but only through baseless legal threats delivered to our WordPress.com host.
Beyond simply wiping away our past content, these baseless legal threats deprived us of the platform we needed to publicize, late in the afternoon of May 22, our second series of posters about Holder (the first 4-poster series, unveiled on May 21, dealt only with the “Fast and Furious” scandal). It also disrupted the planned protest of Holder during his Class Day speech — given the aggressive and unlawful actions the Law School administration took to censor our blog, those who had planned to protest Holder cancelled those plans for fear that if they proceeded the Law School administrators would have them arrested (until this blatant act of censorship we had assumed, based on the precedent set last fall when protestors disrupted a Harvard speech by Newt Gingrich, that a loud but non-violent protest of a speaker would not constitute an arrestable action).
As best we can determine, to date the Law School administrators have not disputed the conclusion (based on the facts then available) of Professor Reynolds and Professor Jacobson that the Law School’s DMCA claim was bogus. Apparently it doesn’t matter to them that well-credentialed and respected lawyers have concluded that Harvard Law School has no qualms about lodging bogus legal claims in order to suppress speech critical of Harvard Law School.
This is not the first time that Harvard Law School has been silent in the face of well-documented allegations of wrongdoing, in particular allegations that it filed a claim that was false under the governing federal law. It is currently facing allegations that it filed multiple false claims in violation of federal law regarding the purported Native American ancestry of Professor Elizabeth Warren, an allegation made by Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and recently analyzed by Professor Jacobson and by Michael Patrick Leahy.
We have launched this new blog in hopes that others with an interest in preserving free speech on the internet will join in our effort to hold Harvard Law School accountable for its bogus censorship of our blog, and specifically to call on it to withdraw its baseless DMCA objection, and authorize WordPress to reinstate our blog, so that we may continue to use that as a platform for future criticism of various aspects of Harvard Law School without interference from Harvard Law School.
We anticipate making a series of posts regarding the blacklisting of our blog, and we plan to continue pressing our objections to Harvard Law School’s blatant censorship of dissenting speech as long as needed to secure a victory for free speech, not just for us, but for anyone else wishing to criticize Harvard Law School or other educational institutions that might be tempted to file bogus DMCA claims in the future if this precedent stands. Feel free to e-mail us at HarvardLawUnbound@gmail.com. Thank you.
Note that we’ve chosen a deliberately provocative, indeed outlandish, title for this new blog — “Harvard Law School is Bogus” — to guarantee as best we can that Harvard Law School will not file yet another bogus DMCA claim seeking to have this blog taken down, based on supposed confusion over whether someone might think this blog is authorized by, and speaks for, Harvard Law School. We trust that not even Harvard Law School administrators can work up any confusion about this blog.