Monday, 24 August 2009

Book reviews

Emanating from the US office of UK-based publishers Oxford University Press is a stream of fresh, enjoyable and informative books on copyright. They are (in no particular order):

Music and Copyright, by Ronald S. Rosen, which is a fascinating and informative book. The author, a partner in LA law firm TroyGould, is a seasoned copyright and trade mark litigator. If the little portrait photo on the back cover is anything to go by, he is small, grey and happy.

According to the publisher,
"The highly topical area of copyright law, as applied to music, is widely misunderstood by lawyers, business people, and - perhaps most seriously - the federal judiciary [That the judiciary should misunderstand copyright is something that has always baffled this reviewer, since the judges have the benefit of so much advice from litigation lawyers for both sides. Or perhaps that's why they misunderstand it ...]. More than ever, there is a need to understand music infringement issues within the context of copyright litigation [Potential defendants in infringement proceedings certainly need to understand it, but they're a not an easy market to reach]. In Music and Copyright , Ron Rosen provides readers with a practical and strategic roadmap to the music-infringement litigation process, beginning with the client's claim or defense and continuing through the selection and use of trial experts, discovery, motion practice, and trial.

Renowned for his expertise and career-long commitment to entertainment, intellectual property, and commercial litigation, Ron Rosen has condensed his experience into an essential guide for anyone involved in music-infringement litigation. Packed with elucidating examples from the author's own practice, Music and Copyright navigates the often thorny terrain between notions of the legal and the musical providing practical advice, case studies, forms, and commentary along the way".
Apart from the fact that the author is obviously a skilled and passionate litigator, there is another way in which this book is tilted towards the contentious rather than the non-contentious dimension of music copyright -- that is the consequence of the fact that the case law which interprets, explains and develops the bare words of statute law is itself the product of litigation. In any event, in an era in which so much non-contentious copyright is boringly ritualised into boilerplates and collective rites of administration, litigation is clearly where all the real fun is. In short, this is not the book for you if you want to conjure up a new scheme for licensing ringtones -- but it is ever so useful if you either have an infringement dispute or want to calculate your changes of emerging from one unscathed.

Like all of the books in this attractive series, there's nothing in the marketing to remind the purchaser that this is at base a US book for US practitioners. However, the author's thorough treatment of issues involving comparison of works, parody and suchlike will enrich the understanding, and strengthen the forensic armoury, of any practitioner anywhere.

Bibliographic details: ISBN13: 9780195338362, ISBN10: 0195338367. Paperback, xxii + 596 pages. Price: $185. Web page here.

Publishing Forms and Contracts, by Roy S. Kaufman, is a bit of an oddity -- a book on publishing contracts which, written by the Legal Director of one publishing house (the Wiley-Blackwell division of John Wiley & Sons), is published by another. Once upon a time this might have been regarded as a case of sleeping with the enemy, but now things are different: the common foe of all publishers is the major shift in purchasing and reading habits generated by the first decade of broadband-assisted internet use. It is in the interests of all paper-product publishers to streamline their production, smooth over the jagged edges of legal uncertainty and provide a litigation-free income stream for their products while the online sector grapples with business models that are more like income-free litigation streams.

These comments should not lead the reader to think that this book does not cover electronic publication, internet distribution and other current issues, since it most certainly does. Indeed, it is comforting to see that, while the technologies become increasingly unfamiliar, the legal principles that underpin contract law remain comfortingly constant.

Anyway, according to the publisher,
"Publishing continues to be a major industry worldwide [From a publisher like OUP one would expect nothing less], and this book is designed to assist the thousands of entities that regularly contract into a variety of agreements and need advice in drafting or negotiating the best terms for a deal, or otherwise employing or understanding specific terms used. This book-written and compiled by the in-house counsel of a major publishing house-offers more than 80 forms and templates of all of the major agreements regularly encountered by a publishing company, with strategic commentary on their use.

Topics covered include book publishing, periodical publishing, electronic publishing, litigation/litigation avoidance, e-commerce and permissions/subsidiary rights. Each chapter begins with introductory text setting forth key issues and other insights, and then presents the related forms, which in turn are accompanied by drafting and negotiating tips".
Having got out of the habit of using CDs for any purposes, I found it a little disconcerting to have to grapple with a CD-ROM rather than follow a hyperlink, but it's surprising how quickly one can adapt to an old technology when the need arises. Still, when the next edition is published I hope I'll have at least the option of accessing my precedents online, a form of delivery which has the advantage that it can be tinkered with in response to judicial interpretations, new statutes and changing fashions of draftsmanship.

Bibliographic details: ISBN13: 9780195367348, ISBN10: 0195367340. Paperback, xvii + 462 pages. Price: $145. Book's web page here. An accompanying CD-ROM to the book contains all of the forms in electronic format, which can easily be modified for the customer's use.

The third book in this little trilogy of reviews is An Associate's Guide to the Practice of Copyright Law, by Meaghan Hemmings Kent and Joshua J. Kaufman. Both authors practise with the venerable Venable LLP (Meaghan being a senior associate, Joshua being a partner). It is not apparent whether Joshua is related to Roy, author of the book reviewed immediately above.

According to the publisher,
"An Associate's Guide to the Practice of Copyright Law guides associates through what is typically the most challenging part of their job: knowing where to find information and what specifically they need to complete a particular task or assignment. Written by a senior associate and a supervising partner, the authors reign [Should this be 'rein'? Or is it a subtle allusion to 'royalties'?] in the work process for associates and give practice-oriented advice on important topics such as what questions to ask a client, what research to conduct, what elements must be met for various causes of action, the potential repercussions for various actions and the proper alternatives to be considered. The book also includes sample documents and pleadings, references to secondary sources and key cases in copyright law".
Well, actually the most challenging part of an associate's job is how to become a partner. This involves things like never being seen wandering around the office without an important-looking file or two in your hands, not booking social arrangements that can't be conveniently cancelled, remembering to ask intelligent-sounding questions and being slightly better than anyone else whose candidacy for promotion is being considered. While this book does not provide this important advice, it does the next-best thing by giving genuinely helpful tips that enable the young copyright practitioner to be a self-starter and to know how to steer a job from its inception to a plausible conclusion. Apart from a clear, concise text, the authors flag plenty of 'practice tips' which the reader can peruse while waiting to catch a bus (some of these tips are in fact summaries of legal rules).

As with the other books reviewed here, the focus is plainly on the US practitioner. Given the sui generis nature of US copyright law and practice and the sheer wealth of case law, this book will clearly be of less use to the lawyer from other jurisdictions. However, it will be handy for any non-US copyright lawyer who spends hours on the phone to his US counterparts and sometimes struggles to comprehend issues which are alien to him.

Bibliographic details: ISBN13: 9780195373479, ISBN10: 0195373472. Paperback, xi + 327 pages. Price: $150. Book's web page here. A CD-ROM containing many forms in electronic format, is included.

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