More of the William Patry Interview

Back in April, we published a portion of an interview K. Matthew Dames conducted last winter with William Patry. Patry, who writes, edits and publishes The Patry Copyright Blog, is one of the foremost authorities in the field. Bill also is the sole author of a new seven-volume treatise, Patry on Copyright, for which he has completed a first substantive update, to be published later this month.

(Bill maintains a separate blog for the treatise, The Patry Treatise Blog.)

Our interview with Bill lasted nearly 90 minutes, and a large portion of that interview is now available in the June 2007 edition of Searcher magazine. (Cite below.) There are some portions of the interview, however, that were not published in Searcher. The following passage — about the importance of civil procedure in copyright law — is a Copycense exclusive.

K. Matthew Dames: I found it interesting in looking at some of the [treatise’s] categories that you have [that] fair use is a large chunk of material, and I think people would expect that. Remedies is also a large chunk of material, and I think people would expect that. What surprised me was the number of pages devoted to jurisdiction. Could you talk about that?

William Patry: If you look at the remedies chapter itself it would surprise you because, consistent with my earlier comments, what I tried to do there was is to place copyright inside the general jurisprudence on remedies. First of all, while there are certain peculiarities in copyright law – for example, statutory damages – the concept of actual damages or profits is no different in copyright than they are in any other form of the law. So one has to take that into account.

In terms of injunctions, there are special things in copyright law – for example, the presumption of irreparable harm once somebody has made a prima facie case of infringement. What I discovered through research and my own views is that the way in which copyright law has been treated specially – as if there is a niche, as if the general rules on preliminary injunctions somehow don’t apply to intellectual property – really are wrong. So I spend a lot of time on the general doctrines of preliminary injunctive relief.

I have a circuit-by-circuit breakdown on just general law: how the circuits deal with preliminary injunctions. Then, I place that within how [the courts] deal with intellectual property, and trace the origins of this idea that there should be a presumption of irreparable harm once you make out a prima facie case of infringement; how it came about; how I think it went wrong; and how it may, for example, conflict with the Supreme Court’s more recent eBay case.

Another example of that is in the chapter on statute of limitations, which is a fairly long chapter for that discrete topic in what might be regarded as a specialty treatise. There has long been a supposition that the Seventh Circuit [Court of Appeals] is sort of off on its own … that somehow they treat statute of limitations differently. And you’ll see lots of many cases from other circuits, and lots of commentators say that.

So I spent about three months just steeping myself in general statute of limitations law, learning as much as I could about it. I then discovered that, in fact, there is no such split in the circuits at all. While there may be some language that would make someone think that [there is a split], indeed it’s not true. And I actually confirmed that with some of the judges in the cases, and I sort of lay out how general limitations law works, and how it has been applied in copyright cases. You discover there’s no split in the circuit. That’s sort of another example of how my attempt to educate myself about general law, and then place copyright in general law, paid off. But it only paid off because I attempted to take the time to really steep myself in general limitations law.

The [jurisdiction chapter] arose out of the same instinct that led me to have fairly long chapters on remedies and statute of limitations. For jurisdiction, there are two elements. First, part of it deals with Copyright Office registration practices. I could have treated that as a separate chapter, but since [such issues] really are encountered as a jurisdictional question – “Do you have a registration or not?” is a subject matter jurisdiction question; “Is your registration valid or not?” “Is there fraud in the Copyright Office?” – those sort of issues arise within challenges that typically come at the jurisdictional phase. So within that admittedly long chapter, there is substantive discussion about Copyright Office practices on registration. So that accounts for some of it.

But the other part of that chapter is just general law: personal jurisdiction; subject matter jurisdiction, forum selection; venue selection clauses, and those things. The reason for that, again, is my desire to understand general law, but it also came from reading [nearly] 30,000 copyright cases. If you look at the volume of cases, the majority of cases are jurisdictional cases involving copyright. The ones that people tend to focus on are the substantive ones: “Is it infringement” “Is it fair use?” “What are the remedies?” Those [issues] are all important, but if you look at what is the actual meat-and-potatoes stuff that litigators and judges face in copyright cases, the majority of those [issues] are jurisdictional.

So I felt that in a treatise on copyright, it would be irresponsible not to devote a substantial amount of time to the issues that are of the most obvious importance, as judged by the number of cases that are out there. There you find there is nothing truly spectacular about jurisdiction in copyright cases. Copyright really is determined by general jurisdictional issues; for example, because there is no national service of process in copyright cases, jurisdiction is determined by state law. (Subject matter jurisdiction, of course, is federal.)

So I had very long discussions because those are the issues copyright lawyers are going to be dealing with, and many copyright lawyers who are specialists don’t take the time to understand general jurisdictional law. And for that, they can get creamed by people who do, and certainly by judges, who handle jurisdictional issues every single day of the week. So I wanted to provide a resource by which copyright lawyers who may not spend too much time on jurisdictional issues as others do, could have at their hands really the most recent stuff on general jurisdiction. To me, it was a service to provide for specialists.

See also:

K. Matthew Dames & William Patry. The Evolution of Copyright. Searcher. June 2007. An Information Today exclusive.

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Written by sesomedia

07/02/2007 at 09:00

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