Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mike Masnick inverviews Bill Patry

There is an interesting interview with Bill Patry over at Techdirt. The former professor, now a corporate lawyer for Google, states that he began in copyright holding a position close to copyright maximalism, but his views began to evolve when, as a member of Congressional Committee staff, he began to reflect more deeply on copyright's public purposes.
1998 was a watershed year for me, with term extension and the anti-circumvention parts of the DMCA, which, in tandem represent the Rubicon for me, the point at which copyright became unmoored from its fundamental purposes.
Indeed, back in "the days of '98" I found then Professor Patry's 1997 journal article "The Failure of the American Copyright System: Protecting the Idle Rich" (72 Notre Dame Law Review 907, May 1997) to be helpful and inspiring as I was trying to develop and articulate my own copyright philosophy.

Mike asks, "For many of us who are concerned about what copyright law has become, what do you think is the most effective way to change things?" Patry's answer is
I would talk to Michael Geist in Canada. He is, to me, the single most effective advocate for the public voice in copyright debates. He is also respected by many Canadian government officials. We do not have anyone remotely like him. It's not enough to rail about things you don't like, or have a following of people who idolize you. And that, unfortunately, is the rut we are in here.
This is perhaps one of the most important statements in this important interview. American conditions are very different from Canadian, of course. What would it take to develop a voice on behalf of the public domain that politicians would hear? If it can't be done nationally at first, can it be done in one state, so that the Senators of at least one state, before they cast their votes on copyright matters, have the decency to consult those who speak for the public domain? If it can't be done in one state, can it be done in one congressional district, so that there is at least one Congressman who is willing at least to listen to those who would challenge the maximalists' lies?

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