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IP and Insurance

New lawyers are often staggered to discover that the integrity of the elegant legal structures that they studied in law school often depends, in practice, on how well insurance markets function. It’s a bit like Bill Clinton discovering in 1993 that his grand budget plans might be held hostage to a bunch of $%^& bond traders.

In copyright, then, all the world’s judicial and legislative correctives to over- and under-protection can accomplish only so much unless insurance markets cooperate. And, finally, they seem to be starting to. I and others recently blogged about a breakthrough in insurance coverage for documentary filmmakers who want and need to rely on the fair use doctrine. Today, Larry Lessig is announcing a major leap forward in the same direction: A partnership among an insurer, the Stanford Fair Use Project, and a network of practitioners willing to discount their rates to documentarians, which assures a practical infrastructure is at the ready to enable carrier reliance on documentarian fair use practice. This is awesome, and it’s a magnificent example of how academic IP can complement IP practice and activism. Congratulations to Larry, to the Board of the project, and to the participants in the Statement on Best Practices in Fair Use prepared at American University, which supplies the conceptual backbone. Larry Lessig once wrote that fair use means the right to hire a lawyer. That’s still true, but that lawyer now has much better and less expensive tools to work with.

[See also Bill McGeveran on this topic, at Info/Law.]

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