Social Impact

Pamela Samuelson

2005 Winner of the Social Impact ABIE Award

Pamela Samuelson is Professor of Law and Information Management; Chancellor’ s Professor; and Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, University of California, Berkeley. Pamela likes to joke that she can’ t code her way out of a paper bag, but for the last 20 years she has been a critical connection between technology developers, the legal world, and the community. For her work in bridging the gaps, finding the balance and perspective needed on all sides, and commitment to educating a new generation of technologists and IT legal activists, she is awarded the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award for Social Impact.

In the 1980’s, working with computer scientists at Carnegie-Mellon, Pamela foresaw a new territory where computing and law were not immediately compatible and that neither side truly understood the other. She was a pioneer in defining that new space and one of the first to understand that viewing computer languages as text, thus making them copyrightable, threatened innovation and growth in the nascent software industry. Through a series of amicus curiae briefs, Pamela argued that copyright shouldn’ t encompass functional design elements, and eventually the courts began to agree.

Through the 1990’s as the spread of computer networks, file sharing and the Internet made it possible to share and manipulate information in ways never imagined, Pamela continued to be an advocate for legal rulings that supported innovation, free speech, privacy, copyright, intellectual property and open sources issues. In streams of law review articles as well as in the “Legally Speaking” column she writes for Communications of the ACM, Pamela tracked and foretold the amazing story of these issues as they’ve interacted with each other and changed our world.

In 2000, Pamela and her husband, Robert Glushko, Ph.D., endowed the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley. It was the first clinic in the country to provide law students with the opportunity to represent the public interest in cases while providing a new voice for the public interest. The Clinic aims to serve as the public’ s voice in legal and regulatory disputes presently dominated by lobbyists and the government.

The Samuelson Clinic embodies Pamela’s two decade commitment to connecting technology with the law for the public good. The Clinic is one of the most important organizations both advocating for important societal issues facing IT and for training future IT advocates. Through the clinic, students file friend-of-the-court briefs, comment on proposed legislation and regulations, and provide legal assistance in matters that raise important issues relating to law and technology.The Clinic represents consumer interests in intellectual property, communications regulation, and privacy  issues. In addition, by working with law firms and legal service providers, the clinic helps develop and coordinate pro bono efforts while establishing itself as a public interest leader in the technology field.

Pamela Samuelson is a MacArthur Prize Winner and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley with a joint appointment in the School of Information Management & Systems as well as in the School of Law where she is a Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. She teaches courses on intellectual property, cyberlaw and information policy. Pamela has received accolades such as the University of Hawaii’ s distinguished alumni award, has been named one of the nation’ s 50 most influential lawyers, one of the 100 most influential people in the digital age, and one of the 25 most intriguing minds of the new economy.