As promised in my prior post about Bill Patry’s Patry on Copyrights, below is the Blog’s first e-interview.*  I emailed Patry questions about himself and his treatise and I print his responses (in italics) below.

What drove you to write a copyright treatise?

Probably a mild form of insanity. I have written other treatises, including a multivolume one of 1995, but I wanted to really go crazy, and did.

How did you go about writing the treatise and how large was the staff that helped you draft it?

It took me 7 years and when you include material I incorporated and revised from earlier works, it is 14 years total. I have never used assistants of any kind, so I researched and wrote 100% of it myself. The book evolved a lot over time, and I probably rewrote it substantially at least three times. I had a fair idea of the structure so the hard part was figuring out what kind of treatise I wanted it to be. A straight treatise along the lines of a recap of the statute and major case law is not so helpful or interesting. I wanted this to be exhaustive, meaning I tried to think of every issue I could, provide all cases I could, all legislative history, major commentary and insights from general law or even other disciplines outside of law. I tried to leave no stone unturned.

* I hope this will be a continuing feature of the Blog.  If you know someone you think should be interviewed or if you would like to be interviewed, please send me an email.

What sets your treatise apart from works already on the market?

I think the answer to the last question gives you some idea, but there are a few other things. It is, by a factor of almost 100%, the largest copyright treatise ever written (almost 6,000 pages of textual analysis) and is also probably one of the largest legal treatises written by a single individual. The treatise is also the first new copyright treatise in 17 years. I tried to make the book transparent, being intuitively useful: whereas one treatise might have a single chapter on the substantive aspects of infringement, I break the issue down into separate chapters for each exclusive right, and a separate one just for fair use. Whereas one treatise might have a single chapter on the procedural aspects of infringement, I have a separate chapter on jurisdiction and venue, one for statute of limitations, one for pleadings, and one for parties. Where relevant, I have broken down the discussion circuit by circuit.

I also have tried to bring to the book my uniquely diverse background: I was in private practice for 12 years. I served in the federal legislative branch for 8 years ( U.S. House of Representatives, Copyright Office). I was a full-time law professor for 5 years, and now I am inhouse at Google. These experiences teach you different things, expose you to different issues, and help you think about things in different ways, all of which I incorporated in the book.

Why should a practitioner that is already comfortable with a prior treatise switch to yours?

Hopefully the last answers will convince you that mine is the latest, most comprehensive, and all you need. My objective has been to provide practitioners with an exhaustive, yet immediately accessible work. My treatise is, I would note, not only almost twice the size (in textual analysis) of the next treatise, yet $250 less.

What surprising things did you discovery about copyright law in the course of developing the treatise?

The most surprising thing was how being a specialist in copyright hindered my growth as a lawyer and as a legal thinker. Regarding copyright as special, as the Cinderella of the law, prevents one from understanding how generalists like federal judges, will actually approach copyright cases. This treatise is different from all others by being a number of books in one: a specialist’s work par excellence, but always within the context of general law. The chapters on statutory interpretation, statute of limitations, and jurisdiction are the best examples.

What one or two sections or portions of your treatise should every practitioner read?

There are 25 chapters, and each intended to be comprehensive on its own subject. The big substantive chapters are 3 (copyrightable matter), 5 (ownership), 9 (infringement of the reproduction right), and 10 (fair use). There is also a very comprehensive discussion of the difficult issues of renewal and termination of transfers, with charts. Chapter 17 on jurisdiction, has a very extensive look at Copyright Office registration practices. There are others that are unique, like 2 (statutory interpretation) and 25 (choice of law).

In my experience, fair use is one of the most misunderstood and misused copyright doctrines, how do you help practitioners navigate fair use?

I have been thinking about fair use for 25 years. I have drafted revisions to section 107 while a congressional staffer. I testified about it as a Copyright Office official before a joint Senate-House hearing. I litigated many fair use cases, and my first treatise (1985) was just on fair use. I put out a second edition of that treatise in 1995. For this book, I took that entire treatise, revised it, updated it, and made it a very long chapter (10). In that chapter I also give the statutory evolution of Section 107 and the relevant sections from all the committee reports.

How frequently do you plan to update the treatise?

Twice a year; its looseleaf.

Is your treatise available electronically?

Not yet, but it will be eventually. [ed. note:  It could be available as early as February].

How can I purchase your treatise?

My favorite question: You can buy it from West/Thomson, via this link: