Amazing new copyright treatise! Seriously.

January 23, 2007, 5:25 PM UTC

This may not be the sort of post that gets picked up by Yahoo Finance and drives boat loads of “traffic” to the site. Yet I do hope some people stumble upon this somehow and end up taking a look at an amazing new copyright treatise that’s been written by William Patry.

Patry is currently senior copyright counsel at Google, and in previous lives has served as a full-time professor at Cardozo Law School (5 years), copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives (3.5 years), Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights (4.5 years), and as a copyright litigator in private practice (12 years). (He also writes The Patry Copyright Blog, whose items I rip off from time to time.)

What’s new about this treatise? Is it a wiki? No, thank God. Just the opposite, really. It’s a 7-volume, 5,830-page treatise (available here from Thomson/West for the low low price of $1,498) that was–incredibly–written entirely by Patry.

“I researched and wrote every word of it,” Patry tells me in an email. “The days of single author vast treatises seem long past and now legal writings tend to be polemics, law firm advertising stuff, academic stuff (not of much use to private lawyers or inhouse counsel), or group efforts. So this is a throwback in some ways to the days when one person tried to impress on a work his or her own personality, and I am not the least bit shy about doing that either.”

He’s really not, though his opinions are there only if and when the reader is ready for them, and after he’s dutifully and comprehensively offered the insights on the subject of all the best judges, academics, practitioners, literary critics, language philosophers, linguists, and whatever category people like Roland Barthes fall into. Some passages–like his discussion of principles of statutory construction in Chapter 2–have significance that ranges far beyond the realm of copyright, and should be read and considered deeply by every practicing judge. Patry’s critique of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dismissive (“textualist”) approach to legislative history is devastating, in part because it is informed by Patry’s own wealth of experience in the legislative process as copyright counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. After quoting an oft-cited passage of Scalia’s, italicizing certain phrases he plans to pick apart, he writes: “I have emphasized so many passages here because they reveal, individually and collectively, a degree of ignorance and contempt that deserves to be confronted. The passages take off the mask of pious assertions of fidelity to Congress: anyone who thinks this is how Congress actually works clearly has no respect for it.”

Yet the treatise toes no stock political line either. He goes after liberal attempts to import international law into U.S. law in chapter 25, for instance, and rides roughshod over the liberal U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit throughout.

This work is really worth checking out. Don’t just take my word for it. Bigger shots than me think it’s a big deal. It’s got a foreword by former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and an endorsement by former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger. Give it a look.