Rose Colored Glasses

Random Thoughts on Instructional Design

General Session – How to Fix Copyright by William Patry

William Patry is the Senior Copyright Counsel for Google, but he wasn’t speaking as a Google employee. He started his presentation by stating that he rarely accepts public speaking engagements because he is tired of the “them vs. us” debating that occurs on the topic of copyright. He then proceeded to academically dissect (tear apart) the New York Times article, “Would the Bard have Survived the Web?” (

Some of the quotes from Patry that came in over the Twitter feed were:

  • Discourse around copyright has become so destructive; prefer to think of the issue as “Us and Us.”
  • The best way to learn is to unlearn…circling back to think about what it is you got wrong!
  • Patry’s mother taught him that “we have a moral responsibility to learn everyday.”
  • Writing is a way to learn—to discipline myself.
  • The best way to know you have a mind is to change it. (I believe I’ve see that saying on a bumper sticker some where.)
  • The biggest impediment to learning is assuming something is true and leaving it unexamined.
  • On the tone of Patry’s presentation one Tweetster wrote: “I think I can see why discussions of copyright Patry gets involved in are contentious.”
  • It’s an oxymoron to say I want non-disruptive innovation. Non-disruptive innovation doesn’t exist.
  • Innovation is disruptive – t can be destructive but can also raise opportunities, bed demonizing it does not help.
  • One Tweetster wrote: “While I enjoy hearing Patry, I would rather he was testifying before congress today alongside Turow.”
  • More fundamental question: Would the bard have survived modern copyright laws? Patry quotes Judge Posner to suggest not.
  • Copyright law has been overpromised from the beginning. It’s always been a winner-take-all system, due to basic economics.
  • That copyright leads to abundance is empirically a false argument.
  • Governments have been outsourcing our cultural heritage to the free market.
  • The market is what it is, not worth to try to fix. We have to have other things to address what we want copyright to do.
  • Copyright cannot extend creativity, we have to find another way to encourage creativity.
  • Fundamental misconception that innovation relies on intellectual property.
  • Creative commons does what a system should do – give choice. Important vehicle for those not into gatekeeper/winner take all.
  • Creative Commons is about what you can do with materials.
  • Term extension in copyright has always been about going backwards; giving value to works from the past.

For more on Patry’s thoughts on Copyright feel free to visit his blog at

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This entry was posted on February 16, 2011 by in ELI 2011.

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