Sunday, July 30, 2006

Copyright Code in Verse

A non-lawyer from Israel named Yehuda Berlinger who keeps a blog on board games sat down and put the U.S. Copyright Act to verse. The verses are numbered by the section of the statute they describe. The poem is by turns bad, funny, insightful and brilliant. It's also an implicit critique of the ridiculously bad prose our lawmakers use for these statutes.

Yehuda claims it took him only three hours. Hmmmm.

It should become required reading for aspiring IP attorney. It's a great fun way to learn what the law is and where to find it. The Copyright Act is mind-numbingly difficult to follow and tough to navigate and cross-reference. Almost no one sits down and reads it front to back just for kicks. Of those that do, certainly few understand it.

We should all salute Yehuda's sense of fun and fearlessness. Too many lawyers think it's all a big pain to wade through all of the fine print.

The U.S. Copyright code, in verse
These verses describe
All the copyright code
Of the U. S. of A.
Written down as an ode

Copyright 2006, Yehuda Berlinger. Permission is hereby granted to copy in part or in whole along with this notice, attribution, and a link back to this web site.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Traffic Index #4 (Part 2)

I just lost half of a post that I spend a good deal of time on. So I'm just providing below the raw data and haven't cleaned up the links that I'd made all tidy and lost. Blogger's "Recover Post" function simply doesn't work. And I'm not even going to finish the thoughts I started. Blogging should be short and sweet, and I went on for too long!

French Wikipedia page on the Constitutional Council 17

The Palais Royal in Paris 17

Maps of Paris (Plans de Paris) 44,160

French National Assembly 52,900

Les Journaux officials (French equivalent of Federal Register) 70,793

French Ministry of Justice’s Page on Paris La-Santé (maison d’arrêt) 70,959

Opera National De Paris 121,468

Cour d’appel de Paris (Paris Court of Appeals) 310,122

Cour de Cassation (French equivalent of US Supreme Court) 425,043

Dowd & Marotta 685,261

Small Firm Life 888,685

Organization for Information on European Prisons 905,653

Traffic Index #4: Bastille Day Weekend

In 1989 I worked in Paris at a law firm called Vovan & Associes. It was the summer following my first year of law school. It was also the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. July 14 is the date that the celebration took place. I had a wonderful apartment and filled it with friends for the celebration.

The entire summer was magic. My experience working in France formed my entire career. In the United States, lawyers work in firms that are grinding pyramid schemes. In France and throughout Europe young lawyers in civil practice are grossly underpaid, but seem to get their hands on real work immediately and develop as professionals through a mentoring system.

In the United States we are going through very dark times politically. Although we are experiencing a technological and cultural renaissance, we are experiencing an almost total loss of respect for democracy, freedom and human rights. Cowards, weaklings and bullies have taken over our government and have damaged American democratic institutions. Respect for the rule of law in our country is at an all-time low. Respect for diplomacy is even lower. During the Italian Renaissance, Italy was run by weaklings, fools, madmen and religious fanatics who wreaked tremendous destruction. It is hard not to see the parallels.

In the United States, lawyers are subject to criminal penalties (sanctions) for making "unreasonable" arguments. The government is in charge of what is "reasonable". The newspapers for lawyers are full of tales of lawyers being subjected to these criminal penalties without due process of law, just for speaking on behalf of their clients. These penalties are enshrined in Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and many state copycat laws.

It is my hope that we will remember these days as we remember the darkest days of the McCarthy era. Where lawyers were subjected to witch hunts for speaking truth to power, for advancing novel theories, and for advocating zealously as a true adversary system requires.

The French have erected an opera house where the Bastille prison once stood. It's time that lawyers started thinking about shrugging off some of these crazy laws that are used to undermine our basic freedoms and the common law rights

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Everything Bad is Good For You

Over the Fourth of July weekend I read a book called Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson. Steven lives in Park Slope Brooklyn where I have roots and family. The book is terrific -- a blend of pop culture and neuroscience. Its thesis is that pop culture is getting smarter and more complex which is in turn making much of the population smarter. Steven maintains a blog.

The book reminded me of a lot of the topics that I've blogged about. He talks about the difficulty of video games and how the more advanced games force players to spend hours struggling with new interfaces, experimenting, and to both consult and compile manuals to figure out how to make it through extraordinarily difficult game based or online challenges.

This is a lot like lawyering in a small firm: figuring our way through mazes of rules, dodging monsters, causing and avoiding explosions, and constantly having to pick up golden coins along the way to recharge our superpowers. The new interfaces presented by blogging and technology present challenges that most of the population has to pay $9.95 per month to play. We pay with our daylight hours and our enjoyment level is generally much lower.

If anyone wants to start a video game called The Attorney, I can share some mazes, traps and amazing sequences. I know a few evil adversaries! My virtual hourly rate will be higher, but my avatar accepts Paypal.

In the end, I think Johnson is right. I think that we are going through an incredible cultural renaissance that is simply too close for most of us to perceive.