Law in Contemporary Society

Professor Eben Moglen
Columbia Law School, Spring 2021


For our last week together, 12 and 14 April, we will discuss one more lawyer's practice: mine. Please read or listen to my talk, Die Gendanken Sind Frei, given in Berlin, 2004. Review the websites of SFLC and SFLC.in, paying particular attention to the roster of publications, and the programs of SFLC's annual conferences at CLS.

In addition, please

  1. Listen to the week's class audio and the supplementary audio for Wednesday. See ClassAudio for previous classes.
  2. Check what's On the Radar.

You should be prepared to ask at least one question at the class meeting, which will be held on our Etherpad. For past week's pads, see ClassPads.


Writing Schedule:

  • First drafts of second essays will be due close of business Friday 16 April, and will be edited by Friday 30 April if submitted timely. See SecondEssay for instructions and template.

  • Second drafts of both first and second essays may then be submitted anytime before Wednesday 19 May. If you want more time for the submission of second drafts, you may request an extension by email before that date.

  • To revise a draft, simply remove everything on the page above the permissions material and insert your new draft. Remember that History contains all versions of the topic, so nothing is lost.


Office hours are now by appointment, conducted via Etherpad or video conference.

If you need an appointment, please write moglen@columbia.edu, or consult my assistant, Jerrica Sosa, at 212-461-1905.


On the Radar

Jiayang Fan, The Atlanta Shooting and the Dehumanizing of Asian Women, The New Yorker, March 19, 2021

Davey Alba, How Anti-Asian Activity Online Set the Stage for Real-World Violence, New York Times, March 19, 2021

Marie Solis, 'A specific kind of racism': Atlanta shootings fuel fears over anti-sex-work ideology, The Guardian, March 18, 2021

Dan Davies, Less regulation means more business for the City, right? It's not that simple, The Guardian, March 9, 2021

Mishi Choudhary and Eben Moglen, Social Media is Flawed by Design, Times of India, February 16, 2021

Peter Brannen, The Terrifying Warning Lurking in the Earth’s Ancient Rock Record, The Atlantic, March 2021

Murray Waas, Jeff Sessions impeded inquiry into role in Trump’s family separation policy, The Guardian, January 22, 2021

Ed Pilkington and Ankita Rao, A tale of two New Yorks: pandemic lays bare a city's shocking inequities, The Guardian, April 10, 2020

Shaun Nichols, Yeah, that Zoom app you're trusting with work chatter? It lives with 'vampires feeding on the blood of human data', The Register, March 27, 2020


A Word on Technology Old and New About the Word

This course is centered in the experience of classroom dialogue. Everything we read and write will be intended to help us understand better what we learn from listening to one another. I say "listening," because in a conversation with so many voices, we're all going to be listening much more than we are talking. So this is an extended exercise in active listening.

It turns out that wiki is a very good medium for active listeners. Below you will find an introduction to this particular wiki, or TWiki, where you can learn as much or as little about how this technology works as you want.

For now, the most important thing is just that any page of the wiki has an edit button, and your work in the course consists of writings that we will collaboratively produce here. You can make new pages, edit existing pages, attach files to any page, add links, leave comments in the comment boxes--whatever in your opinion adds to a richer dialog. During the semester I will assign writing exercises, which will also be posted here. All of everyone's work contributes to a larger and more informative whole, which is what our conversation is informed by, and helps us to understand. This is a law school course, so one cannot prevent altogether the stupidity of grades.

Please begin by registering. I look forward to seeing you at our first meeting.

Introduction to the LawContempSoc Web

The LawContempSoc site is a collaborative class space built on Twiki [twiki.org], a free software wiki system. If this is your first time using a wiki for a long term project, or first time using a wiki at all, you might want to take a minute and look around this site. Every page has a history: all the versions it has accumulated through each person's edits. Use the "History" button at the top of each page to explore that history. When we edit a page, using the "Edit" button, the old version is still part of the history, so editing is additive, not destructive. If you see something on the page that you don't know how to create in a wiki, take a look at the text that produced it using the "Raw" button at the top of each page, and feel free to try anything out in the Sandbox.

All of the Twiki documentation is also right at hand. Follow the TWiki link in the sidebar. There are a number of good tutorials and helpful FAQs there explaining the basics of what a wiki does, how to use Twiki, and how to format text.

From TWiki's point of view, this course, Law in Contemporary Society, is one "web." There are other webs here: the sandbox for trying wiki experiments, for example, and my other courses, etc. You're welcome to look around in those webs too, of course. Below are some useful tools for dealing with this particular web of ours. You can see the list of recent changes, and you can arrange to be notified of changes, either by email or by RSS feed. I would strongly recommend that you sign up for one or another form of notification; if not, it is your responsibility to keep abreast of the changes yourself.

LawContempSoc Web Utilities