Bill Patry's New Copyright Treatise:

Bill Patry, who eats, breathes, and lives copyright, has just published a new seven-volume copyright treatise; I haven't yet had a chance to read through the sample chapters I've been sent, but I expect the work to be superb, and Roger Parloff (Senior Legal Editor at Fortune) agrees. Here's an excerpt from Parloff's Jan. 23 review (which also calls the treatise "amazing"):

Patry is currently senior copyright counsel at Google, and in previous lives has served as a full-time professor at Cardozo Law School (5 years), copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives (3.5 years), Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights (4.5 years), and as a copyright litigator in private practice (12 years). (He also writes The Patry Copyright Blog, whose items I rip off from time to time.)

What's new about this treatise? Is it a wiki? No, thank God. Just the opposite, really. It's a 7-volume, 5,830-page treatise (available here from Thomson/West for the low low price of $1,498) that was--incredibly--written entirely by Patry....

The treatise comes with its own blog, which will include notes from Patry and comments posted by readers. (Patry is also the author of The Patry Copyright Blog.) The work sounds like a tremendous addition to the field (and I say this as someone who is a fan of the Nimmer Copyright treatise, too).

Colin (mail):
When can we expect your 7-volume, 5,830-page treatise on academic legal writing?
1.24.2007 4:05pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
When I think I'll be able to get $1498 for each copy -- which is to say when students and young lawyers who use the treatise will think that they can make lots of money billing the time they spend writing their law review articles.
1.24.2007 4:30pm
Colin (mail):
We all look forward to that brave new world.
1.24.2007 4:36pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
$1,498 is pretty steep, even with the free shipping. When can we expect the cheap paperback edition?
1.24.2007 5:02pm
One good thing about Patry's treatise is that it pokes at the cult of Nimmer, which has dominated the copyright field for so long. Whether one agrees or disagrees with either Nimmer or Patry, it's good for the law that there is now another giant in play.
1.24.2007 5:16pm
Is it searchable on Apparently not. Isn't Google the ones who claimed fair use when scanning in borrowed books?
1.24.2007 5:23pm
William Patry (mail):

What an unanticipated, clever quip! The book search project is not at all useful for research with treatises like mine or others of the same size. But my treatise will be available on Westlaw and thus available at no expense for law professors and law students. I have also given away all of my complimentary copies (save two for family) to non-profit organizations.
1.24.2007 5:44pm
Colin (mail):
Mr. Patry,

How many complimentary copies does an author get of such an expensive and voluminous treaty?
1.24.2007 6:37pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):

The book search project is not at all useful for research with treatises like mine or others of the same size.

That's an evasion.
1.24.2007 6:38pm
William Patry (mail):
Colin. I got 15 copies, so I gave away 13.

JohnAnnArbor, I don't think my answer was an evasion at all (especially to what was merely a sarcastic comment by Guest 12345) and you don't explain why you think so. I used Book Search alot in writing the treatise and bought dozens of books because of it. I used it to find where a good research source was and then I bought a copy of the book and used it for its research, page after page after page. Would you really find it useful to read snippets here or there from a 6,000 page treatise that is divided up into 25 discrete chapters? In any event, you tell me what chapter you are interested in and I will send you a free copy of it.
1.24.2007 7:23pm
well, a page or two via google book search might be useful - hard to say.

but, more seriously... if the book can be obtained via westlaw, who would buy a copy? Certainly not many members of the general public, at 1500/copy, and law students already have free access... so probably only law profs who might refer to it frequently, or who need an impressive bookshelf.

which leads to the question, why not make a pdf of the book freely available? it shouldn't cut into sales at all.
1.24.2007 8:07pm
William Patry (mail):
riptide. I agree about the utility of pdfs. I have pdfs on my laptop and think its a great way to do searches for discrete issues although I still like hardcopy to do real reading reading. I have talked to West about a CD ROM version.
1.24.2007 8:25pm
While my comment was sarcastic, I appreciate your responding. I am curious though how long does it take to write a 6,000 page treatise?

Re. JohnAnnArbor's statement, I think I agree with him a bit. While law students will have access to the text via Westlaw, individuals who are not law students might have occasion to look up a topic in your work in a library. Having full text access through a service like Book Search would be a useful means of locating the particular dozen or hundred pages of interest to them.
1.24.2007 8:28pm
William Patry (mail):
Thanks, Guest 12345. It took me 7 years to write this version, but if you include all the other prior work that I included and updated, you would add another 7 years. All together, its probably about 15,000 hours work and 25 years experience, so when one says $1498 is a high price, you have to look at how much time I put in. When I left private practice in October of last year, my billable rate was $700.

Book Search as now constituted only allows snippets of a sentence or two, and of course suit was filed over that small amount. But I am happy to send anyone, for free, my discussion of any topic they are interested in.
1.24.2007 9:04pm
Visitor Again:
The work sounds like a tremendous addition to the field (and I say this as someone who is a fan of the Nimmer Copyright treatise, too).

I was a great fan of Mel Nimmer himself. What a humble, kind, generous and thoroughly decent man he was.

While I'm not an intellectual property lawyer, occasionally I had cases that touched on that area and if I had a troublesome question I couldn't find the answer to I'd call UCLA Law School. Mel always willingly made himself available for telephone consultations at no charge. I remember I once had a client who invented a board game using board pieces bearing photographs of various Watergate personalities. Mel taught me all about the then nascent right of publicity. I could scarcely believe I was getting advice from the Nimmer of Nimmer on Copyright. On top of that, he also wrote amicus briefs, usually for the ACLU, in a few first amendment cases I worked on.

He was a real gentleman and a real scholar. It's more than 20 years since he left us, while only in his early sixties, and I know that many still miss him.

Time moves on, though, and it seems from the above that Bill Paltry is worthy of taking on the mantle Nimmer had.
1.24.2007 9:12pm
Visitor Again:
Sorry, Bill Patry for misspelling your name. Damn.
1.24.2007 9:13pm
William Patry (mail):
I'm used to Paltry, Patty, Party, and worse. I knew Mel and second your comments about him wholeheartedly: a sweet, generous soul. I went to dinner with him once in DC at the Hay-Adams hotel. We were the only ones having dinner except for Eddie Arnold and his wife. It was a great experience and I will never forget his kindness. I used his casebook in law school and instantly fell in love with copyright thanks to him.
1.24.2007 9:19pm
Book Search as now constituted only allows snippets of a sentence or two, and of course suit was filed over that small amount. But I am happy to send anyone, for free, my discussion of any topic they are interested in.

Thanks again for your responses. Mainly I'm saying, for the hurried souls, being able to type, into some kind of electronic index, a phrase or a set of words and getting back a list of pages: volume 3, pages 400, 402, 413, etc. Then running to a shelf and pulling that volume down to actually read those pages.

Have a splendid evening.
1.24.2007 9:40pm
Visitor Again:
Glad to hear there's a link there. It's almost as if there was a passing of the torch.
1.24.2007 9:46pm
Visitor Again:
Since Mel Nimmer's name is mentioned in Eugene's post, I hope this anecdote, rather well known, isn't too far out of bounds here. Marty Lederman, posting on a UCLA message forum of some sort, wrote of Mel's appearance for the petitioner in Cohen vs. California, the "Fuck the Draft" case:

When Mel Nimmer stood up to argue on Cohen's behalf, [Chief Justice Warren] Burger immediately instructed him as follows: "Mr. Nimmer, you may proceed whenever you're ready. I might suggest to you that . . . the Court is thoroughly familiar with the factual setting of this case and it will not be necessary for you, I'm sure, to dwell on the facts." This was, of course, a signal to refrain from quoting the jacket. Nimmer, to his credit, responded to the Chief's suggestion by saying, "I certainly will keep very brief the statement of facts," and then proceeded to explain that Cohen had been "convicted of engaging in tumultuous and offensive conduct, in violation of the California Disturbing the Peace Statute . . . . What this young man did" -- pregnant pause -- "was to walk through a courthouse corridor in Los Angeles County . . . wearing a jacket upon which were inscribed the words 'Fuck the Draft.'"!

I forgot who told me this -- and perhaps it's apocryphal -- but apparently Nimmer had decided before the argument that he had little choice but to speak the words without reservation in order to win the case.

Larry Sager, another old acquaintance of mine, responded on the same forum:

The story is true, I believe. I heard it first from Nimmer himself, when he was my colleague at UCLA, a thousand years ago. It is repeated, I believe, in The Brethen.

Apparently Nimmer repeated the word fuck several times during his argument, no doubt on the theory that the more he said it, the less offensive it would appear to be. I guess his stature in the law and his reputation as a really lovely fellow helped him carry it off. I can just imagine Burger fuming silently, unable to say anything for fear of revealing himself to be what he was, a prude.

Justice Harlan, of course, went on to write a finely reasoned majority opinion that made it clear the first amendment protects speech's emotive function as well as its cognitive content:

"We cannot sanction the view that the constitution, while
solicitous of the cognitive content of individual speech, has little or no regard for that emotive function which, practically speaking, may often be the more important element of the overall message sought to be communicated."
1.24.2007 11:42pm
U.Va. 1L:
Mr. Patry,

Wow. Skimming the table of contents is I found myself wanting to read large portions of this mammoth work. Does that make me a copyright nerd?

I'd love to see a CD-ROM edition containing a PDF version of the treatise. I expect my interest in the subject will outlive my days of free Westlaw access. ... I don't really know why, but ever since I wrote a "major research paper" in college on the history of copyright policy and its current trends, I've wanted to know everything I can about the subject. (My "major research paper" was about half the length of your TOC!)

1.25.2007 12:57am
Kanchou (mail) (www):
From the viewpoint of a California county law librarian:

1) It's not often for us to pay full list price for new sets, especially large one like this. If you are paying the full $1498, the law librarians at your institution are not doing their job.

2) However, it's not unusual for annual updating cost to exceed the cost of buying the set new. Quite often, I will have to cancel a subscription, wait for the semi-regular "special offer," and buy new set with one year of "free service" at discount. Of course, it's really hard to "win" this "game." The Thomsons are #9 on Forbes list for a reason.

3) The addition of the blog/wiki as part of will be interesting for librarians in term of a collection development perspective. My library is small enough that I do all the decision. But I can imagine the fun academic law librarians on all those "selection committees" will have.

4) As DDS commented, our collection development policy did call for two major treatises for each major collection areas.(Appleman/Couch, Bogert/Scott, Corbin/Williston, Moore's/Wright&Miller, Chisum/Walker, RIA/CCH for tax, etc.) It's amazing that there were no counterweight to Nimmer in this area. If only I have collection budget left ...
1.25.2007 1:33am
Dan Markel (mail) (www):
Bill's posted a couple interesting thoughts on the treatise over at PrawfsBlawg.

Here's something on "why I wrote a treatise" and another on how to price a treatise.

Patry 1

Patry 2
1.25.2007 1:40pm