Copyright Expert William Patry Shuts Down Blog, As It's 'Too Depressing'
from the sad-day dept
It was really disappointing, if entirely understandable, earlier this year when the until-then-anonymous “Patent Troll Tracker” had to shut down his blog. Prior to that, it had been one of the only sources (and in some cases the only source) to report on some important cases and trends in the patent world. Unfortunately, it appears the same thing is now happening in the copyright world. William Patry, recognized around the world as an expert on copyright, has shut down his blog. Tragically, he didn’t just stop writing it, he’s deleted the entire archive — so even posts of his that we pointed to just last week no longer are live. This is really unfortunate — and there seems to be no reason he couldn’t have allowed the archives to live on.
As for the reasons for shutting it down, his first is that he was sick of people taking the word on his personal blog as the position of Google, since he works there. When he started the blog, he did not work there, and since he joined the company he was quite explicit about that fact and never commented on cases or stories that involved Google or even other cases involving companies involved in lawsuits against Google. However, too many people would take what he said as the “word of Google,” unfortunately.
Much more importantly, however, he notes that writing about the state of copyright these days has become “too depressing.” This should really open some eyes. Patry has always been a supporter of the copyright system. But he’s become depressed with how the system has been changing, such that he finds himself constantly writing about changes or abuses of the system. Even (as he puts it) being a “centrist” on copyright issues, he’s seen how far in one direction certain interests are trying to pull copyright, and it means he’s constantly pulling hard in the other direction, making him seem less like a centrist and making him depressed for having to write so negatively about things happening in the copyright world.
Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.
It is profoundly depressing, after 26 years full-time in a field I love, to be a constant voice of dissent. I have tried various ways to leaven this state of affairs with positive postings, much like television news shows that experiment with “happy features.” I have blogged about great articles others have written, or highlighted scholars who have not gotten the attention they deserve; I tried to find cases, even inconsequential ones, that I can fawn over. But after awhile, this wore thin, because the most important stories are too often ones that involve initiatives that are, in my opinion, seriously harmful to the public interest. I cannot continue to be so negative, so often. Being so negative, while deserved on the merits, gives a distorted perspective of my centrist views, and is emotionally a downer.
This should be a huge downer for everyone else as well. While Patry and I disagreed about the extent of reform needed in copyright, he is one of the sharpest minds on any issue having to do with copyright, and having him silence himself means that the forces he was sick of fighting — those who are constantly stretching and abusing copyright — have just won yet another battle. That makes it that much harder for the rest of us to stop certain industries from continuing to stretch, twist and abuse copyright, not for good reasons, but merely to prop up their own obsolete business models. One hopes that others in the field will step up and help prove to Patry and others that this isn’t too depressing — and that this is a battle that can be won — but no one will be able to fully replace his regular insightful opinions on the subject.