Bill Patry: End of Blog

by Lee Gesmer on August 5, 2008

In January 2007 I wrote:

Bill Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google (how’s that for a great job), emailed me and asked me to mention the publication of his new copyright treatise, Patry on Copyright.

I like the fact that Mr. Patry said this about his 5,800-plus page, $1500 treatise: “ The book is also chock full of wikipedia references, anecdotes, riffs on logic, congitive linguistics, etc. It is many books in one.”

Although I haven’t seen this treatise yet, I hope that it is a change from Nimmer on Copyright, which is so densely academic as to often be unusable by practitioners. Somehow, I doubt that we’ll ever see Nimmer referencing Wikipedia.

On Friday, August 1, 2008, Bill Patry wrote as follows. I excerpt from the full post, here

I have decided to end the blog, and I owe readers an explanation. There are two reasons.

1. The Inability or Refusal to Accept the Blog for What it is: A Personal Blog

. . . While in private practice I never had the experience of people attributing my views to my firm or to my clients. I moved from private practice to Google I put a disclaimer to the effect that the views in the blog (as in the past) were strictly mine. . . .

For the first year after joining Google, . . . people honored the personal nature of the blog, but no longer. . . . The inevitable opening sentence now is: “William Patry, Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel said,” . . . There is nothing I can do to stop this false implication that I am speaking on Google’s behalf. . .

In the end, I concluded that it is no longer possible for me to have a blog that will be respected for what it is, a personal blog. . . .

2. The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing

This leads me to my final reason for closing the blog which is independent of the first reason: my fear that the blog was becoming too negative in tone. I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries. I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others. But in my view, . . . we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. . . . Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits . . .

So between the inability or refusal of some people to accept the blog for what it is — a personal blog — and my inability to continue to be Cassandra, I decided it was time to pull the plug. . . . I intend to spend my free time figuring out a constructive way to talk about the difficult issues we face and how to advance toward their solution.

I have read and enjoyed this blog religiously for the last 18 months, and I am saddened. Oh, and p.s.: our firm does subscribe to Patry’s treatise now, and although Nimmer is still on the shelves, we are no longer purchasing updates.

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