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Patry Returns to Blogging, and to a Debate

William Patry is back to blogging and already finds himself in a back-and-forth debate over whether copyright law inhibits innovation and props up antiquated business models.

Patry is a prominent copyright lawyer who works as senior copyright counsel for Google and wrote a seven-volume treatise on copyright law. As we reported here at the time, Patry announced in February that he was discontinuing his popular blog, The Patry Copyright Blog, which he launched in 2005. Last week, he launched a new blog, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, tied to the release of his new book of the same name, to be published on Sept. 3 by Oxford University Press.

The debate is with Ben Sheffner, author of the blog Copyrights & Campaigns, over the lessons to be learned from the music-industry trials over peer-to-peer file sharing. Patry actually invited Sheffner to the debate, believing he would serve as a "perfect counterpoint" to the views Patry expresses in his book. "I spoke to him about doing a kind of tag team on some of the issues raised, and he has generously agreed. I hope our constructive differences can help set a civil tone."

In its simplest form, their debate turns on the "Internet view" of copyright. "On the Internet, (almost) everyone hates copyright," Sheffner writes. But that Internet view does not reflect the view of ordinary people, he argues. In the three P2P cases tried so far, "all three of those juries demonstrated through the very large damages awards they imposed that they view illegal downloading and 'sharing' as wrong, and deserving of harsh sanction."

For Patry, the issue is not what the general public thinks about copyright law. The issue is that copyright owners "have used copyright to deny consumers access to things they want." What they want, in the case of music, is a viable model for purchasing songs online at a reasonable price. When the music industry failed to provide that, it took Apple's iTunes to show that such a platform could succeed. "I want copyright owners to succeed economically," Patry writes, "but I want them to succeed by satisfying consumer demand, not by thwarting it."

That is just the starting point for the discussion, which continues through a number of back-and-forth posts between the two, all published on Patry's blog. The tone is, as Patry hoped, civil and the two copyright lawyers' thoughts are well worth reading for anyone with an interest in the state of copyright law.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 18, 2009 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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