Image Protection at Universities

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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4 Responses

  1. Devan,

    “Legally Blonde” was originally supposed to be set at Stanford, not Chicago. Amanda Brown, who wrote the book, was my classmate (SLS ’96). From what we heard, Stanford wouldn’t let them film on campus, so the producers changed the setting to Harvard.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    What’s puzzling is that the schools may allow footage to be shot on their highly-recognizable campuses even as their names are fictionalized. Many scenes of Law & Order involving (if memory serves) “Hudson University” were shot on the Columbia University campus, as is obvious from unique McKim, Meade & White architecture in the shots.

    Another data point: “Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues,” a 1972 comedy about a dope-smuggling Harvard Law School student. Would such an explicit identification be allowed, or even attempted, today?

    To say nothing of Thurston Howell III’s withering characterization of a supposed “native” on Gilligan’s Island: “Hmmph. Must be a Yale man.”

  3. Howard Wasserman says:

    The late-’80s television show “Valerie’s Family” had the oldest son (played by Jason Bateman) attend Northwestern University, although the show was not filmed there and the school portrayed was entirely generic. But the college storylines were so ridiculous (in one, Bateman steals the live wolverine that Michigan has a mascot) that students began calling on the administration to get out of the deal with the show, because it was embarrassing to have the school’s name attached to something so stupid.

    Also, St. Elmo’s Fire had the students as graduates of Georgetown, although the on-campus college flashback scenes were filmed at University of Maryland.

  4. Deven says:


    Sorry for the confusion. The Chronicle’s article (hey that rhymes) claims that Chicago was a choice before ending up at Harvard {“Both Stanford University and the University of Chicago rebuffed Legally Blonde and its Valley-girl heroine, so she turned up at Harvard.”). If you can check with Amanda whether that is true, that is still an interesting choice for pop culture: Stanford-Chicago-Harvard?

    (By the way it is Deven not an).

    As for the other two points, I am not saying that representations in culture don’t have some influence on how people think about, well, anything. And I think AJ is correct that certain things done in the past would not be allowed today. Still I would bet that we will look back at some comedy or other fictional portrayal from today and cringe a little. Whether schools should be able to try and manage their images so aggressively is the problem.

    As one option, I suggest that the larger the entity, the less it needs that type of control. And I again offer that Harvard’s point about people being able to discern fact and fiction should be taken to heart. Furthermore, if more fictional representations were out there, wouldn’t more people think that the use was not an endorsement?

    Last note, people, as opposed to institutions, would require a different analysis.