Last semester, I had the privilege of being a part of the inaugural class of the Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. The program is a two week intensive seminar series, followed by a full time internship for the rest of the semester at a placement suited to our interests. There were a variety of placements available to the program, including: The Globe & Mail, Industry Canada, SOCAN and other placements in both industry and government. I was fortunate enough to be selected for an international placement with CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics at Stanford Law School.
CodeX is a partnership between the Law and Computer Science faculties at Stanford University. It is an interdisciplinary research center that develops technology to enhance the practice of law. The technology being developed at CodeX aims to make the law more efficient, easier to navigate and less costly to use.
The project that I worked on is called SIPX – The Stanford Intellectual Property Exchange. It is a copyright licensing system that combines various types of licenses into a database. When professors at Stanford combine various excerpts and articles into a course pack of materials for their class, the rights for each article must be secured. The standard process is to secure these rights individually for each course pack, usually through some form of copyright clearance center.
SIPX acts as a copyright registry, a marketplace and clearance service all rolled into one. It facilitates the locating of licenses for copyrighted content (reducing the occurrences of orphaned works) and looks to existing licenses (usually purchased by the library for the entire university, or purchased by individual faculties for the use of their students) to dynamically generate a price for class materials based on the licenses each student is already entitled to. The system also allows greater control for publishers over license fees, providing the flexibility to set prices for material based on the intended user (for example, providing a discount to students vs. members of the general public).
The CodeX center is representative of the general spirit that permeates the area around Stanford University. The desire to improve our society, to find new, more efficient ways of doing things is something that is typical of Silicon Valley. One of the great things about Silicon Valley is the general attitude of innovation that inspires the thinking of those within. It is a place where new ideas are encouraged and the word “impossible” is seen as a challenge, not an obstacle.
In law school, we are taught to look to the past to solve our problems. In the common law system, a strong legal argument is based on precedent, and our ability to match or distinguish that precedent from a current fact pattern. However, one of the great things about working in the area of IP and Technology law is the emphasis on the future. New technologies bring new legal issues, and while precedents are important, it’s not always easy to analogise current technologies to past legal precedents. Often, issues can be so novel that new precedents are formed to deal with them.
When arguing new precedents, a look to the future is important. To be able to show a court the results of a legal decision that may have far reaching consequences requires a forward thinking approach that is the hallmark of a truly great technology lawyer.
Overall, my semester at Stanford University is one that I will never forget. I had the opportunity to learn from some of the top experts in their field. I engaged in legal research in the area of orphan works (an area gaining interest on the international stage). I met some amazing people, including international masters students (great for helping to interpret foreign language statutes) and had the opportunity to have dinner with some great legal minds in the area of IP.
The IP Intensive program is a learning opportunity unlike anything else in law school. It provides an opportunity to gain experience applying the skills we are taught in school to a real world environment. Through this program, I learned a new way of thinking about the law and I gained valuable experience applying my legal skills. I would highly recommend the IP Intensive to any students interested in Intellectual Property Law. It was an amazing experience and I believe I will be a better lawyer because of it.
Mark Kohras is a JD student at Osgoode Hall Law School. Here, he reports on his experience at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, while interning there as part of the inaugural offering of the Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program (IP Intensive) at Osgoode.