International Copyright Perspective

In July Professor Jane Ginsburg returns to Melbourne to teach a Melbourne Law Masters class of International and Comparative Copyright Law with Professor Sam Ricketson.

Professor Ginsburg is the Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law at Columbia Law School in New York City. She is also the Director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, established to contribute to a broader understanding of the legal aspects of creative works  of authorship, including their dissemination and use.

Professor Ginsburg is no stranger to Melbourne. She has visited Melbourne every two or three years, since 1993, and previously taught International and Comparative Copyright Law in 2005. "This year I'm looking forward to teaching with Sam Ricketson (LLB(Hons)1973). It will be more fun than presenting alone." The rest, she says, depends on the students.

Having lectured on intellectual property law in her native United States, as well as in France, Italy and the United Kingdom, Professor Ginsburg brings with her the familiarity with foreign law that one can acquire only by regular exposure to it. Combine this intimate knowledge with the fact that she is co-author of four legal textbooks, and students undertaking International and Comparative Copyright Law would be hard pressed to find a better-credentialled teacher.

Professor Ginsburg first chose to study copyright law because of the lecturer, rather than the content. "I didn't know about copyright, but I did know the teacher. I knew the class would be taught well." But it didn't take long before she found out how interesting copyright could be. "It's more intuitively congenial than other areas of law."

Does Professor Ginsburg have a favourite IP war story? "No," she says. "There are too many and more occurring all the time." Her Columbia office is brimming with "exhibits" (copyright and trademark counterfeits), many of which are gifts given to her from previous students, some of them even sending her the suspect items from overseas.

If she could wave a magic wand, Professor Ginsburg would ensure that authors are better compensated for their work, and better able to exercise artistic control over exploitations of that work. "When I first joined the profession, copyright lawyers were on the side of the angels, working to help authors. In many ways, copyright is now seen as an impediment to technology."

Although most of her time in Melbourne will be spent in class, Professor Ginsburg will find some time to indulge her passion for cooking by stopping at the Queen Victoria Market to pick up some fresh produce for dinner. And if Melbourne turns on some sunny days, you may well see her cycling to St Kilda.

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 3, May 2010.