End of an Era; End of a Blog

Bill Patry has decided to stop his popular copyright law blog. He gives two reasons:

  1. Although the blog is his personal work, most folks who quote the blog draw some link to Google policy. (I’ll do it here: Patry is Google’s top copyright attorney).
  2. Copyright law is too depressing:

    “[W]e are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

    It is profoundly depressing, after 26 years full-time in a field I love, to be a constant voice of dissent. I have tried various ways to leaven this state of affairs with positive postings, much like television news shows that experiment with “happy features.” I have blogged about great articles others have written, or highlighted scholars who have not gotten the attention they deserve; I tried to find cases, even inconsequential ones, that I can fawn over. But after awhile, this wore thin, because the most important stories are too often ones that involve initiatives that are, in my opinion, seriously harmful to the public interest. I cannot continue to be so negative, so often. Being so negative, while deserved on the merits, gives a distorted perspective of my centrist views, and is emotionally a downer.

    So between the inability or refusal of some people to accept the blog for what it is — a personal blog — and my inability to continue to be Cassandra, I decided it was time to pull the plug.”

18 thoughts on “End of an Era; End of a Blog

  1. “Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners.”

    I can’t put it any better than this. I’m not sure what’s worse: perpetual copyright term extension (you KNOW Disney will get another term extension before Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck have a chance to pass into the public domain), oppressive statutory damages (think RIAA terror campaign against anyone who ever shared an mp3), or “harmonization.” It’s hard to come up with a more blatant sop to connected, monied interests than the monstrosity that is U.S. copyright law–maybe the tax system is the only thing worse.

  2. Area 51?
    Come on Amelia. This isn’t space ships. This is casus belli.

    99, Cheney says, “we need a new Pearl Harbor.”

    2 years later, they get their new Pearl Harbor.

  3. Instead its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models,to suppress new business models and technologies and to obtain, if possible,enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm but which is a benefit to copyright owners.

    Patry’s it is copyright law. But his words apply just as powerfully to patent law and trademark law.
    Simply put: laws protecting intangible rights are based on static, outdated notions of authorship, inventorship or ownership. Such laws are ill suited to a digital world that is ever increasing its velocity.

  4. The reality is that any blogger who works for a corporation runs the risk of an allegation that he is shilling for the corporation’s position. Arguments ad hominem are always popular because they work. To use a military analogy, an argument ad hominem is a flanking attack – best used when you do not want to attack the opponent head on. There is no such thing as a principled public debate – it does not exist, never has, never will.

    All that said, there is a need for balance in the law of copyright and we need different points of view. Google is uniquely placed to pro-actively shape the future. It seems to me that Google should be promoting schemes where digital content has imbedded the terms on which the content can be used. If a newspaper does not want Google or others to index their online content or to link to that content then it should be easy for the newspaper to indicate so. If a record company wants to restrict the uses that a customer can make of music then they should have an easy way to indicate it but their competitors need to have an easy way to offer a more expansive license and the consumer needs a way to know what he is getting for his money. With flexibility in licensing and transparency, the market will decide who is right.

  5. “9/11 was an inside job – way too many facts not explained by 20 guys with 3rd grade educations in 747s…I don’t believe V. Foster committed suicide”

    [rolls eyes]

    Area 51 called. They would like you to stop climbing their fence.

  6. Interesting.

    Reason no. 1 probably should have been expected. Some reporters are lazy. Others are perceptive. It’s debatable whether the personal thoughts of Google’s No. 1 copyright attorney and Google’s copyright policy are entirely separate/separable.

    Reason no. 2 is unfortunate. He’s right, of course.

  7. MM – “”They lied for a warped, misguided cause that many people still refuse to recognize was a warped, misguided cause. But the number of those deluded people is slowly shrinking, replaced by an equal number of ashamed and pathetically defensive people.”"

    Not getting the vague allusion here, but I’ll throw this out . . .

    9/11 was an inside job – way too many facts not explained by 20 guys with 3rd grade educations in 747s.

    Who knows about the Anthrax?

    Who knows about the suicide?

    I don’t believe V. Foster committed suicide, and I don’t think it’s certain this guy did either.

    It could be as simple as this guy having evidence that he was put up to it by some 3rd party and he was going to use that in his defense (“hey, I was working for the CIA”).

    Can’t have that accusation come out. Suicide.

    I think it extremely unlikely that this guy acted alone. Just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for him to do it. Too much risk.

  8. I wonder if the patents-uber-alles, holier-than-thou crowd that often comments here sees anything relevant to the state of the patent law in Mr. Patry’s comments? I think it may be a symptom of the severe illness infecting public discourse generally that he is not allowed to share his usually thoughtful insights without the implication of “a link to GOOG Policy…” In the slightly retreaded words of THE ONE, “why can’t we all just get along?”

  9. WOW — you are better than Monk, or even Columbo — no kidding.
    Thanks for the heads up — please post a follow up.

  10. At the risk of going off-topic, has everyone noticed the interesting patent-related news? Specifically, USPN 6,316,006, filed November 23, 1994 and issued November 13, 2001? And USPN 6,387,665 filed March 7, 2000 and issued May 14, 2002?

    The inventions relate to anthrax vaccines and compositions for preparing the vaccines. One of the named inventors is Bruce Ivins who, according to Wiki, was “a scientist for 36 years and senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland for 18 years.” Ivins also published “44 published scientific papers dating back to May 18th 1969,” and “received the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service—the highest award given to Defense Department civilian employees—for helping solve technical problems in the manufacture of anthrax vaccine.”

    Although Judge Rader would never believe it, Ivins was about to be charged with murder and attempted murder for the infamous anthrax attacks that flipped out the more cowardly citizens of our country in the wake of 9-11 (and which were used by the Bush Administration to promote a false connection with Iraq). Ivins allegedly killed himself earlier this week. The previous suspect, Dr. Steven Hatfill was paid $5 million bucks by the government for the damage at the same time they gave awards to Ivins for his “distinguished service.”

    The interesting thing about the anthrax patent, of course, is the timing.

    link to portal.uspto.gov

    A notice of allowance was sent February 19 1998. Then there appears to have been some confusion. A second Notice of Allowance was mailed Oct 16, 1998. Then the application was abandoned. A petition was filed in June of 2000, docketed to an Examiner, and then basically noting happens until …

    … Sept 11, 2001. Six weeks after the terrorist attacks (Oct. 15, 2001) PAIR contains an entry stating “Application Is Considered Ready for Issue”. The anthrax-containing letters were mailed out during a period starting one week AFTER 9-11 and continuing through October.

    What are the odds that if the PTO’s phone records are checked that they will not reveal a call to the Examiner about the status of this case?

    And yes Dr. Ivins stood to benefit financially and (as history shows) his reputation did benefit directly from the attacks.

    But enough beating on Dr. Ivins. The real sickos in this story are the people who maintained (and continue to maintain) that there was something “special” about the anthrax spores, i.e., that it required a specialty in aerosol physics to make this stuff. Keep your eyes on those people in the upcoming weeks as they show up on TV to repeat their nonsense. They lied for a warped, misguided cause that many people still refuse to recognize was a warped, misguided cause. But the number of those deluded people is slowly shrinking, replaced by an equal number of ashamed and pathetically defensive people.

  11. Dear GP,

    What is invention?
    link to wordnet.princeton.edu
    “the creation of something in the mind”

    Well, maybe that definition is a little too loose for the PTO.

    What is invention? I like this definition:
    Invention is what makes the non-obvious obvious: everything is obvious after it has been invented.

  12. “I see some solid battle lines being formed around key issues such as subject matter and obviousness”

    Oh Lord help us. Battle lines around “obviousness”?

    Please.

    Obviousness cannot be found, cannot be contained, cannot be demarcated – it’s completely ethereal and amorphous. So no battle lines can be drawn around it.

    Why is something obvious?

    It’s obvious because I say it’s obvious.

  13. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience with copyright law. But a lot of waxing nostalgic, and lamenting for a simpler time and more “clarity” in the law, makes me wonder whether if it was any easier, why would clients need lawyers in the first place? My take is that as things get more complex – as they must, they get more interesting.

    In patent law, for example, far from degrading into a morass of nuances, I see some solid battle lines being formed around key issues such as subject matter and obviousness. Its in times like these, when the faint of heart are scrambling to make sense of it all, that I find it most exciting to be a practicing lawyer. But thats just my opinion – I am not a blogger. My time is devoted exclusively to practicing the rudiments of my craft. Running a blog must exposes one to so many of the ebbs and flows of the law, that is winds up being a little like trying to ride the end of a bullwhip. To run a blog AND to try to manage the copyright docket for a company like Google – when and how did you ever get any sleep!?

    I hope in time you re-gain a more positive perspective. At least two weeks straight on a white sand beach are strongly indicated. Absolutely no telephone, no computer, and no annoyances except for whether to have lobster or cracked crab – I say, why not have both – you’ve earned it.

  14. As an “IP” lawyer of 30+ years practice now, trained in a simpler time, I think Bill Patry is entirely right to be morose about the vastly increased complexity and too-often-wrong-headedness of the US copyright law. That law now is a result of compromises made in Congress fostered by directly competing interests leading to usually incomprehensible weasel-wording of the statute’s provisions – try to give even basic copyright law advice without having to parse the statute and consult the experts’ tomes! We specialty practice lawyers do it, and usually make sense of the law, but what a waste of time and clients’ money!

    For example, we fear that the patent law revisions are going the way the copyright law has gone, into a morass of very finely distinguished nuances – if and when sense is actually made in either law – once the conflicting interests and the Congressional committees get through with it. Trademark law still has some sense to it, thanks partly to INTA’s leadership, but even there we see unearned complexity taking root: Are Adwords(tm of Google) buys or sales of 3rd-party trademarks uses in commerce, if the words bought actually trigger placement of links to or ads of competing goods or services?? A clear statute would be welcome, but don’t expect to see one.

    Sorry to see Patry’s blog go, but I can well understand the sorrow of continuing to slog through writing it in these times.

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