As a lawyer, I am used to a fair amount of solitary writing. That said, this new experience of starting a copyright law blog from scratch is more surreal than I had expected. I write this knowing that, as of now, I have no audience whatsoever! I now know what it sounds like when a tree falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it.
In any event, I thought I would get the ball rolling by giving a bit of my background and my hopes and intentions for the blog.
I hope that this blog, Title 17, will in some small way further the analysis, understanding and (if anyone ever reads it and finds it interesting enough to participate) discussion of copyright law, an area of law that I find personally fascinating and in which I am fortunate enough to practice. I also hope to be able to bring other of my interests and experiences to the blog. I have a somewhat eclectic background of experience prior to my life as a lawyer, all of which informs my views of, and approaches to, the law.
I began learning computer programming on an Apple II computer at around the age of 13, starting with BASIC and then Fortran, COBOL, Pascal and various other languages that nowadays are considered the equivalent of speaking in Aramaic. I am also a musician, initially playing the cello and then switching (much to my parents’ dismay) to guitar. Although I initially chose electrical and computer engineering over music when I when to college, I soon changed my major to philosophy. I quickly specialized in the philosophy of language and writing, and in particular the continental, post-structuralist and post-modern schools of critical theory. I entered a graduate program for a short time, switching to the English department at University of Florida (but continuing with my study of critical theory) and teaching a freshman course in writing and film criticism. During my late undergraduate and early graduate years, I began researching the role of electronic forms of communication, from “old” technologies such as film, radio and television to the then-emerging technologies of e-mail and the web, on human cognition.
I left the graduate program after coming to the realization that a career path as an English professor would be almost impossible given the academic job market at that time, and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to combine a number of my past interests while working in the multimedia software development industry. The company I worked for created interactive multimedia training programs for various high-liability industries, including law enforcement and hazardous waste disposal. When that startup company folded, I spent some time doing freelance multimedia software development and systems integration before changing course once again and going to law school at Georgetown University Law Center.
From the very beginning, copyright law was my primary interest in the law because all of my prior interests and experience, including music, film, computer software and the Internet, seemed to converge in this area of the law. I have also come to find that copyright is one of the most metaphysical areas of the law. All those years reading Heidegger, Deleuze and Derrida would not be in vain!
Of course, having an interest in copyright law does not guarantee gainful employment in that area. It was my good fortune that very early in my career I was an associate at the same time that Bill Patry left academia and returned to private practice at the New York office of a major international law firm. Bill Patry, for those who do not know him, is in my view the greatest living copyright lawyer and the author of the best and most comprehensive copyright law treatise on the market. With his years working in Congress, for the Copyright Office, as a professor and in private practice, Bill has the most exhaustive and complete knowledge of copyright law that I have ever encountered. I was lucky enough to spend several years as Bill’s lead associate on all of his matters. During this time, we litigated some of the most interesting and high-profile copyright cases of the time.
Working with Bill was not only incredibly fun, but was also like a souped-up graduate course in copyright law. In 2006, however, Bill decided to take a position as Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel and I continued on in private practice. I have continued to work extensively in copyright law and related areas.
I hope to be able to share the fun and excitement of copyright law through this blog, and learn more in the process. With any luck, over time I will be able to foster healthy discussion and debate over some of the many thorny issues presented. The name of this blog, Title 17: The S(c)ite for Copyright Law, is meant to signal my intention and hope that the blog will eventually become both a place and a source in the electronic world for such learning and discussion.