Harvard Law School’s Bogus Journey Into Blog Blacklisting

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.

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19 Responses to Harvard Law School’s Bogus Journey Into Blog Blacklisting

  1. Pingback: » Harvard Law Unbound rises from the ashes - Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion

  2. Hank says:

    Harvard is bogus indeed and act.

  3. secondwind says:

    Are you guys having fun yet? Was this whole plot hatched around the table at a drunken pinnocle game? My suspicion is it grew from from such soil. Give em hell !

  4. Streisand effect is set at full speed ahead aboard the USS Harvard Law.

  5. Multitude says:

    One would think that Harvard Law School was quite busy in helping Professor Warren uncover the “true but unverifiable” genealogical evidence that she’s a Native American, or perhaps absent such substantiation, creating new legal rationale that provides for one to self-determine and declare as any protected class, based on the stories, fables and myths we each believe growing up.

    I’m actually relieved that some students are cognizant of the destruction of Harvard’s image and reputation that has occurred in recent years. I no longer respond to a Harvard degree with respect; the final “nail in the coffin” being the reaction by Harvard Philosophy faculty shown this February by placing signs barricading its building from curious national circuit high school debaters, warning them to stay out of their Ivory Tower. While most universities would be excited to have some of the top young minds eager to learn of their faculty (and furthermore, almost any analytical philosophy program in the world would be desperate to have any relevance to their otherwise hopeless pontification, let alone fan status amongst ideal candidates for admission), Harvard’s pedigreed elites shut off access and told the interested students to stay out of “their” building. The message was not only recognized, but inscribed into the identity so many of us now sustain of this bitter, shallow, self-centric but intellectually empty entity we know as Harvard University.

  6. Best of luck to you. It seems that your school is not a big fan of the First Amendment. What a shame. Agree with you or not, please speak. More. Louder. Bolder. One of bloggers I read was recently arrested for blogging… scary.

  7. Moneyrunner says:

    What is the penalty for Harvard filing a false claim regarding the minority status of their faculty? Could there be a RICO aspect?

  8. Phil says:

    I would contact FIRE at the fire.org immediately regarding your case. They could help.

  9. Phil says:

    Sorry, auto correct.

  10. Anthony Parent says:

    Why don’t you host your own blog, guys? Harvard Law is a 1/32 cluless moron and 31/32 stupid bully. If you originally hosted elsewhere, Harvard couldn’t touch you ( or it would be far more difficult) And now you’ve made yourself vulnerable again to wordpress’ whims (I can’t blame them myself). Do you not understand how leftists work? If you need help email me.

  11. oMan says:

    Well done, on at least two counts. First, you are acting (speaking/writing) to make speech free –a messy and aggravating process with real costs. Free speech rights are always about speech which we find disagreeable; the other stuff needs no protection. So good on you for being gadflies. Second, you’re displaying real style. Being serious is not the same as being solemn. Your wit makes your arguments more fun and memorable, and puts the Grim & Determined crowd at a distinct disadvantage. Combined with their organizational handicaps –layers of bureaucracy and too many vested interests to manage– you can make a real impact. Just don’t let this dissipate as a stunt; make a lasting difference if you can.

  12. bflat879 says:

    Good Luck with this. It’s time the liberal left faced scrutiny for trying to curtail free speech. Why should anyone pay high tuition rates to a school that has no respect for the constitution and avoids speech that might not shed a good light on their institution. As with all liberal endeavors, when you can’t win the debate you stifle free speech.

  13. Bob says:

    Guys, wordpress doesn’t investigate the claim. If the request comes from a corporate attorney that even smells like it has a claim, they take down the site. This is to protect WordPress. All you have to do is appeal to WordPress making the same fair use claims you reference and you’ll be back up and running.

  14. Walter Sobchak says:

    You go girl!

    Well struck to start. I hope you get into some of the larger questions, like what are they doing with that endowment? Do any of the Faculty do anything around here, or is it just a paycheck, and a lily pad for their outside practices (looking at you Dershowitz), or other interests, like Indian Princes Warren? How many administrators sit around collecting paychecks and writing memoranda to each other that lead to meetings that produce nothing? If Harvard Law School were run to achieve its original mission, with a spirit of economy, and not as a gold plated club for senior faculty and administrators who do nothing for the students, and given the size of its endowment, would it need to charge tuition at all? How much can HLS do to relieve the excessive debt burdens on recent grads?

    Good luck

  15. Many thanks for all the comments. Sorry for the long delay in their appearing on the blog, but because of Harvard Law School’s past abuse of our commenting feature, we’ve had to customize this blog to require commentator approval before comments appear.

    On our two previous blogs which Harvard Law School had taken down, Harvard Law School never even e-mailed us to notify us of any concern. It simply posted DMCA comments on our blog, and presumably also sent notices to WordPress.com. If Harvard Law School has any concern about our blog which it would like us to address (we’re open to any reasonable suggestions), it needs to e-mail us first, not file a bogus DMCA claim without ever reaching out to us! We’re sorry for the inconvenience caused our readers who want to comment, on account of Harvard Law School’s past abuse of the commenting feature.

  16. Daniel says:

    I would guess Harvard, it its like other Universities, has made many statements about how important diversity is to the education of its students. If Harvard was making false claims about the diversity of its faculty to attract consumers (students), is this not an actionable fraud?

  17. The officials at Harvard Law School Is Bogus Law School are going to be very upset about this.

  18. I have NO idea WHO you people ARE….
    I support people, not faceless organizations with a sad tale of woe.
    How bout a listing and bios of your members?
    It could be most appealing, and make it easier for the Federal government to track you in their data base…

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