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April, 2005
Wikimedia-logo.svgThis user is the General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Mike Godwin

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Accomplished attorney with extensive experience in legal policy development and advocacy concerning technology, privacy, and the Internet, including criminal, constitutional, copyright, media, and telecommunications law, as well as cybersecurity issues. Published author with effective research ability and clear and persuasive writing. Excellent public speaking, counseling, advocacy, and litigation skills. Proficiency in foreseeing and synthesizing legal and technical issues. Strong academic background, including the experience to supervise and mentor law students and lawyers.

Bar Memberships: Admitted to the District of Columbia Bar. Active member of the State Bar of California. Inactive member of the State Bar of Texas.

Legal experience[edit]

Wikimedia Foundation, San Francisco, CA

General Counsel, 2007 – the present

Supervise legal policy and advise business affairs at nonprofit organization that operates top-ten World Wide Web site offering Wikipedia and other reference services.

Yale Law School and Department of Computer Science, New Haven, CT

Research Fellow, 2005–2007

Supervised and mentored student research projects involving law and technology policy. Advised with regard to the Privacy, Obligations, and Rights in Technologies of Information Assessment (PORTIA) project.

  • Researched and wrote a guide for the American Library Association on digital-rights-management issues, as well as a position paper on network neutrality.
  • Chaired the program committee for Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2006, a public-policy conference held in Washington, DC.

Public Knowledge, Washington, DC

Senior Technology Counsel/Legal Director, 2003–2005

Conducted full-time advocacy for nonprofit group focused on ensuring technology and information access and other rights for consumers. Oversaw policy and education programs and directed all legal programs. Developed and presented policy positions on critical technology access issues to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress, government agencies, industry, and consumer groups. Authored and edited FCC filings. Supervised legal staff and interns.

  • Commented extensively for National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other media.
  • Organized successful lobbying effort and lawsuit benefiting consumers and the computer industry against film industry’s “broadcast flag” scheme to restrict distribution of media.

Center for Democracy and Technology, Washington, DC

Policy Fellow and Staff Counsel, 2000–2003

Provided technology and legal expertise on constitutional law, criminal law, and criminal procedure. Analyzed computer crime and wiretap statutes, including the USA-PATRIOT Act anti-terrorist legislation. Commented in the media on encryption, First Amendment law, and copyright and civil liberties. Represented CDT at conferences on constitutional law, criminal law, and criminal procedure issues.

  • Analyzed the international Cybercrime Convention promulgated by the Council of Europe.

IP Worldwide magazine, American Lawyer Media, Washington, DC

Chief Correspondent, 1999–2001

Wrote and edited news and analysis on legal trends and current cases for a lawyer-oriented publication focusing on technology. Contributed regular column on Internet and intellectual property issues for American Lawyer magazine.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cambridge, MA/Washington, DC/San Francisco, CA

Staff Counsel, 1990–1999

Created the legal department and initiated policy and advocacy positions for major civil liberties and technology organization. Guided and developed legal policy issues on evolving technology issues, including electronic searches and seizures, First Amendment on the Internet, international copyright, and third-party criminal liability. Informed users of electronic networks about their legal rights and responsibilities. Instructed criminal lawyers and law enforcement personnel on computer civil liberties issues. Conducted seminars about civil liberties in electronic communication for a wide range of groups. Supervised law clerks and interns.

  • Originated and supervised the first case that demonstrated the principle that digital works were subject to First Amendment protection.
  • Developed legal theories that won the first Supreme Court case to address the First Amendment’s applicability to the Internet.
  • Chaired the drafting committee of the Massachusetts Computer Crime Commission; supervised drafting of the Committee’s report to the Governor, which was adopted in March 1993.
  • Commented extensively in the media, including ABC’s Nightline, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Smith, Morris, and Florey, Austin, TX

Law Clerk, 1989–1990

Assisted in preparing criminal case defenses, based on Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sentencing provisions. Assisted the late law professor and Supreme Court advocate Charles Alan Wright on federal criminal procedure and the federal sentencing guidelines.

Teaching experience/fellowship[edit]

Media Studies Center, The Freedom Forum, New York, NY

Freedom Forum Fellow, 1997–1998

Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, NY

Adjunct Professor, Internet and Media Law, 1998

The School of Visual Arts, New York, NY

Adjunct Professor, Internet and Media Law, 1993–1995


University of Texas School of Law, Austin, TX

Juris Doctor, May 1990
  • Cactus Yearbook, Outstanding Student and Goodfellow
  • Abbot, Friar Society
  • Editor-in-Chief, Daily Texan (campus-wide daily newspaper, circulation 30,000)

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Bachelor of Arts, Plan II Liberal Arts, with Highest Honors, May 1980
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Major publications[edit]

  • Godwin's Law - widely quoted guideline about invoking inflammatory comparisons in public discussion; cited in several magazine and newspaper articles, including Wired magazine, The New York Times, and a recent article in The Washington Post.


Consumer electronics; telecommunications; computer hardware and software; Shakespearean theater; history of American film

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