Thursday, August 6, 2009

New William Patry book arrives -- with a new blog!

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, the long-anticipated book by famed copyright scholar and practitioner William Patry, is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. From the description:
In Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, William Patry lays bare how we got to where we are: a bloated, punitive legal regime that has strayed far from its modest, but important roots. Patry demonstrates how copyright is a utilitarian government program--not a property or moral right. As a government program, copyright must be regulated and held accountable to ensure it is serving its public purpose. Just as Wall Street must serve Main Street, neither can copyright be left to a Reaganite "magic of the market."
I'm sure I will find plenty to disagree with in Patry's book. (For one, the notion of copyright as a form of property has deep historical and theoretical roots.) But there is no denying that the man knows his copyright law: Patry helped draft sections of it while counsel to the House Judiciary Committee; served as a Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights, as a law professor, and as a partner at a major law firm; and is the author of a major copyright treatise. Patry now serves as Chief Copyright Counsel at Google, though he has made clear that Moral Panics is a personal project.

And, much to the delight of those of us who lamented the passing of Patry's previous blog, with the launch of the book comes a brand new blog.

I look forward to reading the book, and the blog, and will report back once I've finished.


  1. Thanks for the heads up on this book. It should be an interesting read.

  2. Funny, I would have thought a free-for-all of severely weakened copyright, allowing anyone to exploit IP without directly compensating people with the winners being those able to exploit best, would be more Reaganite. Oh well, I suppose if the book came out a few years ago the blurb would have compared current copyright practice to the Iraq War. And a few years before that, um... healthcare reform?

    Checking his blog, he says 'I regard copyright as a set of social relations. The advantage in regarding copyright as a system of social relationships is that it focuses attention where it belongs: in mediating conflicts within that system, and not, as the copyright as property model does, by positing ownership of a property right in the Blackstonian sense of exercising absolute dominion as the natural state of affairs, and by regarding every effort to regulate for the public interest to be a hostile act that must be ferociously fought against as if it is an existential threat. Conversely, when we regard copyright as a set of social relationships, we can ditch the calls for its abolition: what we should want is not the absence of a copyright law, but rather an effective copyright law.'

    Cool beans. I can get on board with that, although fear some of it (the last sentence, in particular) will be missed by some people just looking for rants. But I wonder how you can square seeing copyright as a set of social relationships with not seeing it (in general, rather than as specific rules) as a moral right. Isn't morality involved in social relationships? (Also, doesn't ditching the moral aspect make it very US-centric?) I suppose I'd better read the book.

  3. I fear you will be disappointed. It's a surprisingly one-sided, mean-spirited book; and, to add insult to injury, there isn't really anything new there. I would have expected something better from someone so typically thoughtful as Patry. I think even his friends will be quietly disappointed in this.


Comments here are moderated. I appreciate substantive comments, whether or not they agree with what I've written. Stay on topic, and be civil. Comments that contain name-calling, personal attacks, or the like will be rejected. If you want to rant about how evil the RIAA and MPAA are, and how entertainment companies' employees and attorneys are bad people, there are plenty of other places for you to go.