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Welcome to the website of the Internet and Intellectual Property Justice Clinic, a University of San Francisco School of Law clinical program that provides legal assistance to parties in intellectual property matters. For more information, see the "About Us" page.

Our website includes commentary from our students on cutting-edge internet law and intellectual property topics. Those posts are listed below, and more are archived under "Pages" on the right. Enjoy!

Cyber-Identity and Reputation Protection

By Damon P. and Sarah M.

   There is increasingly a lack of power, tools and regulations necessary for Internet users to effectively protect their online personas, identity and reputations. Monitoring and assessing our cyber reputations and identity is becoming a crucial step in building and maintaining enriching professional and personal relationships. There is a constant need to balance protecting individuals’ privacy, dignity and reputation and limiting Internet intermediaries’ liability. Unfortunately, the development of laws regulating the Internet has been very deferential to protecting and shielding Internet intermediaries from legal challenges.

   The current Internet legal framework was legislated when the relationship of web users to Internet content providers was limited to simple postings and commentary.  In the aftermath of Zeran, the Internet has taken a more prominent interactive relationship with Internet users--It is used increasingly to store and convey complex information such as videos, pictures, as well as sophisticated social media architectural maze of posts, tweets and blogs.

   Internet Services Providers (ISPs) needs to be held accountable for online defamation or reputation injuries occurring on their networks. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, website operators can ignore defamatory user content while profiting from the increased traffic it generates. At the time it was passed, the legislature was too concerned about chilling the development of the Internet by the potential widespread of pornographic and offensive content.  Now that the Internet is a thriving entity, we need to hold Internet intermediaries more responsible when user generated content is tortious in nature. Thus section 230 must be updated to reflect today’s Internet realities. 

   Like credit scores, there needs to be uniformity in objectively calculating one’s online clout or reputation for accuracy.  Online Reputation is quickly becoming a currency on the web.  It is no longer enough to just control Intellectual Property, it also a matter of taking ownership of one’s overall image by having the tools necessary to align that image to reality.

   Internet users lack sufficient tools to protect their identity and reputations. The tools currently available are at best, able to take rough, static snapshots of digital personas.  Like measuring a temperature reading, merely monitoring or tracking our online impact does little to help protect or strengthen our real time “cyber brand.”  The next generation of cyber tools must allow us to actively control and monitor our online presence.  Our cyber identity is no longer a novelty, it has become a currency and like any currency, without adequate protections, it can become worthless.