Interview with William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google Inc.


This interview was originally posted on October 24, 2009.

This interview concerns Patry’s recent book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, as well as questions concerning copyright and its recent developments. Patry was previously copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, and a Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights; a full-time professor at the Cardozo School of Law; and a practicing copyright lawyer. Patry is now Senior Copyright counsel at Google Inc. He is also the author of an eight-volume, 6500-page treatise, Patry on Copyright, a separate treatise on fair use and many law review articles. This interview took place between September 14, 2009 and October 7, 2009, via e-mail exchanges between Clancco’s Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento and William Patry.

SMS: Bill, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with We’re very excited about this opportunity and ongoing dialogue with you. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became interested–and involved–in copyright law.

WP: Thanks so much Sergio for giving me the chance to talk to you and your readers. It is a great honor. I first became interested in copyright law in law school. At the university, my graduate and undergraduate degrees were in music. Music is still my true love aside from my 8 year old twins Yonah and Margalit, who are my greatest joy in life. I still play clarinet. In law school there were lots of classes on different subjects: torts, property law, labor law, constitutional law, but none of them spoke to my passions like copyright law did since copyright law touches so directly on what creative people, including musicians, do.

SMS: Given the fair amount of information available on copyright and copyright law (including the internet), can you tell us anything that is usually misinterpreted about these two doctrines?

WP: I think it is not so always a question of misinterpretation or misunderstanding, but a difference of opinion about the purposes of copyright. At the individual level, these are differences people feel passionately about. My only regret, and this is what much of my book is about, is that in the case of corporations, what are business issues are misdescribed as moral issues, when in fact they are economic issues. I think we will reach better economic results if we discuss economic issues honestly.

SMS: How has the internet affected copyright and fair use, particularly in the visual arts arena? Can you give us one example?

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