William F. Patry has gone much farther in his pursuit of copyright law's mysteries, and in a different direction, than any mere academic dabbler has. His blog has long offered the single best source for news and analysis about copyright law and policy. Now, he has triumphed in hardcopy, too. His newly-released treatise, Patry on Copyright, offers over 5,500 pages, in seven volumes, on the topic. It represents the largest treatise on copyright law ever published, and the first multi-volume one published in 17 years.
Not content with that monumental achievement, Patry has also started a blog devoted solely to encouraging readers of his treatise to discuss it with him. He wants "to break down the one-way nature of legal treatises," he explains. To his credit, he invites readers' constructive criticisms on his writing and even offers his own: "I have an unfortunate tendency to write with too many adjectives or adverbs and to editorialize." I'd call that a bug rather than a feature, though; consider the bracing impact of Patry's candor: "I have in the past been very hostile to the DMCA amendments, for a variety of reasons, both substantive and process-oriented. I still loathe the chapter 12 additions, and think Section 512 is in need of a translation and redrafting into English."
Those achievements alone should suffice to put any legal academic in awe of Patry. Here, though, is what really bowls me over: Patry left a tenured post at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to become the Senior Copyright Counsel for Google, Inc. Most law profs seem to think that they've reached the pinnacle of all that a career in the law can offer. Many, frankly, look down their noses at the hard-working attorneys who help real-world clients solve real-world problems. I don't know Patry's personal motives for leaving academia, of course. I will say, though, that too few law profs would even consider giving up pure legal theory for messy legal practice. Here as elsewhere, Patry has proven himself remarkable.