Brett Frischmann, JD

Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics

Brett Frischmann, JD

With his work appearing in prestigious scholarly publications as well as respected consumer outlets like Scientific American, Brett Frischmann, JD, is a prolific author and researcher who is leading the charge in vital and thought-provoking conversations about how communities share, develop and govern information in today’s digital age.

Professor Frischmann, a respected thought leader on intellectual property and internet law, examines the consequences that come with society’s increasing reliance on technology. Joining the University in 2017 as the Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, Professor Frischmann has focused the bulk of his research on three overlapping areas: infrastructure, knowledge commons, and the relationships between the techno-social world and humanity.

His most recent book, Re-Engineering Humanity, focuses on society’s embrace of big data, predictive analytics and smart environments—and individuals’ willingness to hand over personal information, privacy and control to the small group of people and companies providing and regulating that technology.

“We’re on a slippery slope toward a world in which more and more of our lives, of who we are and who we can be—as individuals and collectively—is managed and governed by supposedly smart techno-social systems,” Professor Frischmann says.

“Have you entered into a contract that you didn’t bother reading? Of course you have; we all have,” he says. “The contracts and, more importantly, the human-computer interface through which they’re presented, are designed so that there’s no point in reading the fine print, much less stopping and thinking about the legal relationships you’re forming or whether the third parties lurking in the background are trustworthy.”

Using their interdisciplinary expertise, Professor Frischmann and co-author Evan Selinger provide a practical framework for assessing and negotiating the often intricate and hidden tradeoffs of “smart” technology.


A Plan for Good Governance

Each day, millions of internet users turn to Wikipedia, open source software and news reporting wire services for information. Just a few examples of knowledge commons, these types of forums provide a community where users share information, data and content—and also, increasingly require a governing framework and privacy protections.

To help address this crucial need, the National Science Foundation awarded Professor Frischmann a three-year grant in 2020 to develop the Governing Knowledge Commons research coordination network.

Utilizing the grant, Professor Frischmann and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh and New York University are bringing together expertise from law, the social and behavioral sciences, computer science and engineering to communicate, coordinate and integrate their research and educational activities across disciplinary and organizational boundaries.