Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book review: "Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars" by William Patry

The content and technology businesses are at war, as is well-known and as I discuss in a recent article. It’s a struggle that focuses on unauthorized file sharing and new business models—in other words, a copyright war. Undeniably, the entertainment industry often battles demand rather than trying to satisfy it, and copyright laws have taken a corporate turn. Who better to write about this conflict, one would think—and point the way to solutions, one would hope—than an author with 27 years experience in copyright law as a professor, practitioner and government attorney?

That author is William Patry, who is now Google’s senior copyright counsel (though he emphasizes that he’s writing to express his own views, not Google’s). He says he’s in favor of “effective” copyright statutes, and I opened his book hoping to learn what those might look like, since the divergence of public behavior and existing copyright laws makes it clear that something has to change. It’s an area of great interest to me, not just personally, but also professionally, as my law practice at TroyGould focuses in large part on new media and, more generally, the intersection of entertainment and technology. I was writing a review for the Los Angeles Times, and I hoped I’d be able to write a positive one.

Alas, not. What I found was a book riddled with invective, unoriginal observations, and numerous typographical errors—about 200 typos at my count, including twice referring to Martin Luther King’s most famous oratory as the “I Had a Dream” speech (as though King had simply given up) and inadvertently transmuting federal judge Richard Posner into “Judge Richard,” perhaps positioning him for a gig on syndicated television.

The text is heavily footnoted, yet still marred by unsupported claims. Thus, Patry says that imposing public-access easements on beachfront houses doesn’t reduce their value. That’s doubtful, and he offers no evidence. We’re told “orphan works” is a metaphor used to unjustifiably protect certain kinds of works, but actually those using the term want to loosen protection (a position I agree with, as does Patry). Patry claims that declining CD sales are not related to unauthorized file sharing, but offers neither discussion nor footnotes. Moreover, the book is larded with unnecessary block quotes, among them a half-page endnote analyzing the phrase “Tastes Like Chicken.” Whatever the entrée, a sharper carving knife would have helped.

In short, I was hoping for a significant contribution that would build on previous work in this oft-discussed field. Instead, I found a deeply flawed narrative that didn’t even acknowledge the existence of landmark books in the area by such authors as Lawrence Lessig, Neil Netanel, William W. Fisher III, Jessica Litman, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Tarleton Gillespie, and James Boyle. As I discuss in the LA Times piece, the book is not without some virtues, but I was largely disappointed and surprised. You can read the full review here, then come back and leave comments if you wish.


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Sunday, October 18, 2009

SAG Interim Nat'l Exec Director Hired as Permanent

SAG's Interim National Executive Director David White just got the permanent gig and can drop "Interim" from his title. The vote on today SAG's national board, which began meeting yesterday and is still meeting today for a little while longer, was 70.91% in favor, I'm told, which suggests that a few of the Membership First directors joined the moderate coalition in appointing White to the job.

The appointment is well-deserved: Not only is White a calming and smart presence, but also he, John McGuire, Ray Rodriguez and others on the SAG team have built a record of accomplishment over the last 8 mos. or so, closing one deal after another, including, or course, the biggies (TV/theatrical and commercials). Now the work begins for next round of negotiations, which start in just under a year, believe it or not.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rosenberg v. SAG: Court of Appeal Implies Appeal May be Moot

Alan Rosenberg is no longer president of SAG, nor even a national board member, but his lawsuit against his own union drags on pointlessly. Believe it or not, he’s still trying to undo Doug Allen’s firing, the appointment of David White, the ratification of the TV/theatrical contract and, no doubt, the discovery of a new ring around Saturn. That last is probably a particularly bitter blow for the ex-president.

Rosenberg and his fellow Membership First plaintiffs 1st VP Anne-Marie-Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord might see some reason to continue the charade, but the Court of Appeal is apparently more skeptical: in a one-paragraph letter to counsel last week, the court asked both sides’ lawyers to be prepared to discuss at oral argument whether the appeal is moot, given that the SAG board reaffirmed Allen’s dismissal and White’s appointment, and the membership at large ratified the TV/theatrical agreement.

The oral argument in this farce is set for a week from tomorrow, October 20, but regardless of what happens, the case continues in the trial court — unless, perhaps, that judge, as well as the appellate judges, can be persuaded that courts have better things to do than try to madly shove toothpaste back into an already discarded tube.


Subscribe to my blog ( for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Handel appointed Adjunct Professor at UCLA School of Law to teach entertainment unions & guilds course

On a personal note, I've been appointed as an Adjunct Professor at UCLA School of Law. I'll be teaching a course on entertainment unions and guilds starting in January. I also continue as of counsel at TroyGould.

Below and attached is the press release from TroyGould.


Subscribe to my blog ( for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.


TroyGould’s Jonathan Handel Becomes Adjunct Professor at UCLA School of Law

Entertainment and Media Law and Policy Class to Focus on Unions and Guilds

LOS ANGELES – October 1, 2009 – Jonathan Handel, of counsel and member of TroyGould’s Entertainment, Sports and Media Department, has become an adjunct professor at the UCLA School of Law. He begins teaching a semester-long class on entertainment unions and guilds in January 2010 and will continue to represent clients at TroyGould.

Handel’s course focuses on legal analysis along with discussions of union history, policy and politics in order to illuminate the abstract language of guild contracts. Students will review topics ranging from on-screen and advertising credits to creative control, residual compensation, arbitration, strikes and stalemates, and new media.

“Understanding the role of Hollywood guilds and unions is critical to comprehending the state and direction of the entertainment industry as a whole,” says Handel, former associate counsel with the Writers Guild of America. “This is particularly true as a result of new media platforms such as the Internet and mobile devices, which promise to complicate Hollywood labor relations for years to come.”

Recent news events have made the course more timely and necessary than ever. Handel will specifically spotlight the 2007-2009 Hollywood labor turmoil that consumed the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and IATSE and the Teamsters, the unions that represents most ”below-the-line” workers.

Well known in the industry, Handel has been interviewed hundreds of times by local, national and international television, radio, print and online media outlets about entertainment, new media and Hollywood union issues. He has written articles on the conflict between content and technology companies and on trademarking movie titles. Handel has been a participant and panelist at various conferences and presentations, including those hosted by the Beverly Hills Bar Association and by Vanderbilt Law School. He was named one of the top 100 lawyers in California in 2008 and a Southern California Super Lawyer in 2006 and 2007.

In 2009, Handel published a short book titled “How to Write LOI's and Term Sheets,” and will be publishing his new book ”Hollywood on Strike!” later this year. His op-ed pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Journal, and the Los Angeles Business Journal. Handel is also a prolific writer for blogs such as the Huffington Post, for which he has written more than 100 articles, and for his own labor and new media law blog, “Digital Media Law” (, where he has posted about 250 articles on the latest news in the law and business of digital media, traditional entertainment, intellectual property and technology.

Handel earned his Juris Doctor cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1990 where he was an editor for the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and his AB magna cum laude from Harvard College in Applied Math and Computer Science. After graduating law school, he clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and has practiced law in Los Angeles since then.

About TroyGould

TroyGould is a Los Angeles law firm founded in 1970. Beginning with an early focus on corporate and securities law, the firm's practice now covers a broad range of business transactions, litigation, and legal counseling, with an emphasis in the areas of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, financial services, entertainment, sports, employment, tax, and competitive business practices.