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When Blawgers Throw in the Towel

Even blawgers get writer's block. Any lawyer who writes a blog will tell you that there are days when drafting the simplest post seems like an Olympian feat. Some blogs run hot and cold. The author will post consistently, even furiously, for a time, then seem to drop off the face of the earth, and then return to hyper-blog mode. That is understandable. We are, after all, lawyers with day jobs and families and other responsibilities. But sometimes legal bloggers throw in the towel for deeper reasons. Consider the examples of two popular IP bloggers, William Patry and Keith Henning.

Patry is a prominent copyright lawyer who works as senior copyright counsel for Google and wrote a seven-volume treatise on copyright law. Early in 2005, he launched The Patry Copyright Blog. It quickly became the last word on all things copyright. But last August, after some 800 postings, he announced the end of the blog. He decided to give it up, he wrote, for two reasons. One was readers' "inability or refusal to accept the blog for what it is: a personal blog." By that, Patry meant that readers were unable to separate Patry the person from Patry the Google lawyer. Readers regularly assumed his views were Google's.

"On top of this, there are the crazies," he wrote, "whom it is impossible to reason with, who do not have a life of their own and so insist on ruining the lives of others, and preferably as many as possible."

His second reason was that he found the current state of copyright law too depressing. "It is profoundly depressing, after 26 years full-time in a field I love, to be a constant voice of dissent. ... 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."

Patry's ending of his blog was followed two months later by Henning's decision to end his IP blog, Copywrite, for similar reasons. A copyright lawyer in Arkansas, Henning cited Patry's post as foreshadowing his own reasons for quitting. For Henning, like for Patry, his top reason was the readers. "There are some strange people out there," he wrote. "You would not imagine the strange and abusive emails I receive because of a stance I take on something as benign as balance in copyright law."

Time was another factor for Henning. But his third and fourth reasons were, "It is depressing," and, "It is really depressing." The depressing part, he said, was that "nothing seems to staunch the flow of the [IP] rights grab by big business." The really depressing part, he added, was the flood of calls he was getting from people seeking help after being sued by the record industry for file sharing. "The sadness in their voices pains me."

Now that the music industry has abandoned its strategy of suing everyone under the sun, perhaps Henning will someday return to the blogging fold. But Patry and Henning illustrate that legal blogging carries a potential downside. For any lawyer thinking of getting into blogging or wondering whether to continue, the final words of each of these bloggers are worth a read.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 19, 2009 at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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