Jonathan Zittrain

Does Harvard really hate Steve Jobs?

July 6, 2010: 7:00 AM ET

An online journal puts a star professor under a most unusual microscope

Source: The Daily Beast

This is what passes for investigative journalism at The Daily Beast, the news and opinion website founded in 2008 by former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown: a 1,900 word story attacking the credibility of one of the Internet's leading intellectuals written by a publishing heiress whose longest previous work was a year-long blog called "Confessions of a 5th Avenue Misfit."

The subject of the piece, Harvard vs. Steve Jobs, is Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet Law at Harvard Law School and faculty co-director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He's an influential expert who has written extensively on censorship, intellectual property law and filtering for content and computer security. He's the author, most recently, of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It and co-editor of Access Denied. He helped found StopBadware, a free service that scans the Web for malware.

Zittrain. Photo: Giorgio Montersino via flikr

The author is Emily Brill, daughter of Steven Brill, who founded American Lawyer, Court TV and Journalism Online. Emily Brill, whose CV includes jobs at MSNBC's Morning Joe and Journalism Online, is best-known through gossip items in Gawker, which regularly mined her blog and Facebook page for bikini photos of her newly thin body and details of her life of privilege -- a yacht trip to St. Barts, an intimate meal with George Clooney, the Manhattan event circuit.

What bothers Brill about Zittrain, ironically, is how well-connected he is. And what set her off is a quote that appeared in an op-ed piece he wrote for the Financial Times last February:

"iPhone thus remains tightly tethered to its vendor — the way that the Kindle is controlled by Amazon … Mr. Jobs ushered in the personal computer era and now he is trying to usher it out."

Her contention is that Harvard's Berkman Center -- and by extension, Zittrain -- is biased against Apple (AAPL), which does not give it money, and in favor of its sponsors, Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT), which do. Does she have the goods? She does not.

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