I’m delighted to say that Bill Patry will be guest-blogging this week about his new book, How to Fix Copyright. I’ve known Bill for 18 years, from the time that he was copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. He has also been a Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights, a full-time professor at the Cardozo School of Law, and a practicing copyright lawyer; and now he is Senior Copyright counsel at Google Inc. (though the book represents his personal views, and not those of his employer). He is also the author of an 8-volume, 6500-page treatise, Patry on Copyright (Thomson/West), a separate treatise on fair use (also West), a prior one-volume treatise on copyright that went through two editions (BNA Books), and many law review articles. Here’s an excerpt of the How to Fix Copyright summary:
The arrival of the Internet was revolutionary, and one of the most tumultuous developments that flowed from it — the upending of the relatively settled world of copyright law — has forced us to completely rethink how rights to a work are allocated and how delivery formats affect an originator’s claims to the work. Most of the disputes swirling around novel Internet media delivery systems, from Napster to Youtube to the Google Book Project, derive from our views on what constitutes a proper understanding of copyright. Who has the right to a work, and to what extent should we protect a rights holder’s ability to derive income from it? Is it right to make copyrighted works free of charge?
How to Fix Copyright offers a concise and pithy set of solutions for improving our increasingly outmoded copyright system. After outlining how we arrived at our current state of dysfunction, the book offers a series of pragmatic fixes that steer a middle course between an overly expansive interpretation of copyright protection and abandoning it altogether. We have to accept that we cannot force people to buy copyrighted works, but at the same time, we have to enforce laws against counterfeiting. Most importantly, we have to look at the evidence — what furthers creativity yet does not deny protection to those who need it to create? We should also reject the increasingly strident (and ill-informed) denunciations of delivery systems: Google Booksearch and DVRs are merely technologies, and are not the problem. Throughout, the book stresses that we need to recognize that the consumer is king. Law can only solve legal problems, not business problems, and too often we use law to solve business problems.