SCL Lecture 2009: William Patry on Copyright

January 4, 2009

The SCL Lecture for 2009 is to be given by William Patry and is to be entitled ‘Crafting an Effective Copyright Law’. The Lecture will take place on the evening of 24 March at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London.

An introduction and tribute to Sir Hugh Laddie QC will be given by The Rt Hon the Lord Hoffmann.

William Patry is a copyright lawyer based in the USA. When copyright experts gather, a handful of names can be cited with the certain knowledge that all will respect the view of the citee (albeit not necessarily agree). William Patry is one such name. After many years in private practice, eight in government service (including a stint as copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives) and five as a law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he is now Senior Copyright Counsel for Google Inc. He is the author of a seven-volume work, Patry on Copyright, which is a leading work on US copyright. His blog, Patry on Copyright, was probably the outstanding blog in its field until he decided to end his postings in August 2008, largely because of the failure of readers to understand the difference between a personal blog and a Google position paper. His lecture will of course reflect personal opinions. The ending of his blog brought an avalanche of regretful and appreciative comments which sum up the standing which he has, including this from Sir Hugh Laddie himself ‘your blog was a beacon of erudition and common sense. It is a disaster that you have chosen silence even if the reasons for doing so are understandable. …, there are many who will miss your insight and willingness to tackle the big issues without partisan bias. The world of copyright will be the poorer for your decision.’ One anonymous comment summed up the general mood with rather less eloquence: ‘Total Bummer’.

William Patry was moved to accept the invitation to give the SCL Lecture because of his great admiration for Sir Hugh Laddie QC, a previous SCL Lecturer. His tribute to Sir Hugh can be read here

The Lecture will expand upon a statement of Sir Hugh’s that we do not need a strong copyright law, but rather an effective copyright law. William Patry will highlight the contrast between those who want copyright law to deliver on its promises (Macaulay in 1841, Gowers in 2006, and Sir Hugh Laddie in his 2007 UCL speech) and those who make what he calls rhetorical claims that we must grant expanding rights because it is ‘just’ (Talfourd in 1841 and those in the UK in 2006-2008 calling for an increase in the term of protection for sound recordings). He will also address what has been called ‘market myopia’: the failure of copyright owners to focus on consumers, why historically they are concerned with control instead and why this has frequently led them to be anti-innovation.