Change Afoot at Madisonian.net in 2015

I’ve been teaching law for 16 years. This blog has been around for more than 10 years. To speak the plain truth, it’s getting pretty damn dull around here.

So change is afoot. I’m starting small, redesigning the blog (for WordPress aficionados, this is the new Twenty Fifteen theme, with more tweaks to come) and, more importantly, going solo. From this point forward, madisonian.net posts will be my own, and only my own.

After years of collaboration here, with an evolving but usually growing group of law professor colleagues, I am breaking up the band. All older posts will stay online, but new stuff by the crew will appear elsewhere. Members of the Madisonian.net team can be found, in most cases, on other blogs (Concurring Opinions and PrawfsBlawg, especially), on Twitter, sometimes on Facebook, and even in journal articles, books, MSM op-eds, and in podcasts and broadcasts. How can you miss them if they won’t go away?

My posting has picked up over the last few weeks, and I aim to pick it up a bit more in the weeks and months ahead. I’ve changed the blog description (upper left corner of the site) to reflect the broader range of things that I plan to write about from time to time.

Happy New Year!

Koons and Christo

Jeff Koons is at it again. He’s been sued for copyright infringement, this time by an artist who created an advertisement for a French clothing brand, Naf Naf.

You can see images of the original advertisement and of Koons’s adaptation at the following links:

Koons has been sued often enough that it’s reasonable to conclude that he is not merely playing with impressions of art (well or poorly? – opinions are divided).  Koons, I think, is using the copyright system itself as a canvas.  Back in law school, the great Robert Ellickson pointed me to a reflection by Christo (“Running Fence,” the Central Park “Gates,” etc.) that has been stored in the back of my mind for nearly 30 years:

Christo endured years of zoning battles with local authorities before erecting his “Running Fence” in Sonoma County, California: “‘It’s hard to explain that the work is not only the fabric, steel poles, or Fence. Everybody here [at the zoning hearing] is part of my work. Even those who don’t want to be are part of my work….”’ (quotation from Milner S. Ball, Good Old American Permits: Madisonian Federalism on the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf, 12 ENVTL. L. 623, 656 (1982)).

Does Koons think that he is … Christo?

Innovating Legal Education at AALS

I am speaking on a couple of panels at the upcoming AALS (Associaton of American Law Schools) meeting in Washington, DC.  The more provocative of the two is the “AALS President’s Program – Implementing Innovation in Law Schools,” which will be presented at 10:30 am on Saturday January 3 2015.

The program description is this:

“As law schools seek to compete in a changing and challenging global market for legal education, many are striking out in new directions with innovative programs and ideas.  The process of innovation in legal education is not unlike that of other businesses and organizations.  That process must include the right incentives and culture for forming new ideas, as well as a process for vetting them, prioritizing them, implementing them, and assessing their effectiveness.  This session addresses the innovation process and probes how to both spur innovative ideas and then to also move efficiently to implement the ones that seem right for the institution.  The session’s speakers bring a wide range of experience with innovation at diverse institutions.”

The speakers are

Dan Rodriguez (Dean of Northwestern University School of Law and AALS President), will moderate.

I don’t know precisely what we’ll say, but I know that Paul, for one, will come prepared to challenge the academics.

Twitter links: @SturmCOL, @UWSchoolofLaw, @PaulLippe, @DeanDBRodriguez, @profmadison

The Future of Copyright: Teaching

IP law seems to be moving so quickly these days that figuring out how to teach it and what to teach is ever more challenging.  This month (December), I’m grading final Fall papers and preparing for Spring courses, and that means deciding — again — what to do with Copyright Law.

Last year a student comment made me pause in a way that student comments rarely do. Reviewing last Spring’s Copyright Law course, the student expressed satisfaction with the course as it was but disappointment that my work on knowledge commons had not been expressed in the course — even indirectly.

That comment motivated me to look under the hood of the course in a way that I had not done in a long time.

Changes in the works:

  • Reducing the coverage of the “traditional” principles and doctrines of copyright, focused on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner and limitations and exceptions thereto.
  • Expanding the coverage of problems associated with secondary liability and service provider liability.
  • Expanding discussion of “regulatory” copyright, meaning compulsory and statutory licenses and collecting societies.
  • Introducing discussion of comprehensive copyright reform. Congress is talking about it, the Copyright Office is talking about it, the American Law Institute is talking about it — so I’ll talk about it with our students.

All in all, the revisions are designed to capture more explicitly an “institutionalist” focus on this area of the law, meaning how the law interacts with formal and informal groups of various sorts, not just with individual authors or copyright owners or copyright users and re-users. That’s closely aligned with the theme of the knowledge commons work, even if “commons” stuff as such will make a cameo appearance at best.

Along the way, I am getting rid of the traditional casebook.  I’m in the middle of editing a package of cases, and for secondary material and context I will be using parts of the excellent Open Intellectual Property Casebook from the Duke Center on the Public Domain, via Jamie Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, plus some stuff of my own devising.

And … because software copyright is much in the news these days, courtesy of Oracle and Cisco Systems, my writing assignments for the students (no exams in my IP courses – only client memos!) will all focus on that subject.

All in all, there is a fair amount of experimentation ahead.