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VOL. 119 | NO. 28 | Thursday, February 10, 2005

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Rhodes Law Institute Discusses Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual Property Headlines Rhodes Law Institute

LANCE ALLAN

The Daily News

Memphis will soon play host to one of the nations premier thinkers on the subject of intellectual property law.

Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School and founder of the schools Center for Internet and Society, is considered an expert on many intellectual property issues. He will give the keynote speech at the Rhodes College Institute on the Profession of Law, which takes place Feb. 25 at the Bryan Campus Life Center on the Rhodes campus.

I see it as a real coup, said Daniel Cullen, program director. Were very fortunate to get him. Hes very much in demand right now with intellectual property law in the news. Since everybody is increasingly connected to the Internet, the rules of the road on the Internet are a matter not only of legal concern, but of social and political concern, too. So this is really a significant event, both for the college and the city, to have the premier theorist of these matters on our campus to discuss it.

Timely topic. The institute, in its 18th year, is titled Copyrights and Wrongs: Controversies in Intellectual Property Law. Its a timely discussion, Cullen said.

The topic really came from the headlines for me because my own kids were interested in the Napster phenomenon, he said. It raised the question of is intellectual property like traditional property was, and how do we think of it?

The panel slated to discuss the issue at the event includes William Bradley Jr., a managing member of Glankler Brown PLLC who concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, trademark and copyright law, and Douglas Halijan, a partner at Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC who practices in the areas of intellectual property law and commercial litigation, with an emphasis on trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, computer law and franchise-related matters.

Evolving area of law. Being involved in the symposium with Lessig intrigued Halijan.

Its particularly interesting to someone like me because Im most often aligned with the owners of this intellectual property, he said. So its interesting to me to see Professor Lessigs take on how the laws are arguably serving the folks already in control of the media structure.

Internet commerce is an ever-growing part of the economy, and the issue of how to protect the interests of everyone involved is stirring up a legal dilemma on several fronts.

There is this issue of how to protect the interests of artists and creative control over what they do, and at the same time the access of ordinary people to culture and the ability to use what is increasingly digitized culture in a spontaneous and free way, Cullen said. Thats become a massive and perplexing social question for us.

And Lessig is a recognized thinker on the subject.

Lessig has a controversial thesis about this, Cullen said. He thinks that intellectual property law has developed in such a way that it really does threaten freedom, and not only threatens freedom, but threatens what he calls free culture. He has some provocative ideas about how weve got to revise this regime because the way things are going, he thinks were ceding control over the future of ideas to business and commerce.

Increasing attention. Intellectual property law traditionally has not been a major practice area in Memphis, but it is a growing one.

There has been within the last 10 years a considerable increase of attention within the Mid-South area on intellectual property rights, Bradley said. You have a number of publicly traded companies located here that have a wide array of intellectual property law matters. Probably 15 years ago, there were only one or two people in town that even described themselves as intellectual law practitioners, and now there are a considerable number of people who would characterize their practice as at least involving some area of intellectual property law.

Widespread appeal. There are sure to be many attendees at the Rhodes institute who are not involved with intellectual property law. But Halijan said there is plenty of reason for these attorneys and others to attend.

I think even attorneys that dont practice in the area of intellectual property may find it beneficial in that this area is so hot right now, Halijan said. Professor Lessigs work appeals not just to lawyers, but to people that are interested in pop culture, information technology, the media and the interplay between all of those. Even attorneys that dont practice strictly in the areas of copyright or trademark law are exposed to these issues frequently.

It is exciting for lawyers like me who do intellectual property work to have an internationally known expert like Professor Lessig in Memphis, but the issues that he writes about affect everyone. Lawyers who work in products liability, real estate, family law and every other specialty are affected by new technologies and the way those technologies have changed our culture.

Bradley agreed, and urged local attorneys to attend to identify potential problems with things their clients deal with on an everyday basis.

Its important to tie down the issue of ownership of intellectual property rights, he added.

New Internet culture. Lessig brings attention to the symposium from potential attendees who might not otherwise have an interest in the event, which offers legal professionals a chance to earn 4.25 hours of dual continuing legal education credit.

Hes the author of three books, and theyre all significant books not only in the legal community, but among the general public who pay attention to the future of the Internet, Cullen said. The Internet has a unique culture devoted to itself, and among people who consider the Internet the most creative, most promising new medium of communication, Lessig is something of a guru. People look to him for intellectual guidance, and hes considered a path-breaking thinker.

 

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