The U.S. Copyright Office is pleased to announce that “Nimmer on Copyright: Celebrating 50 Years” is now available as a video podcast.
The program, held May 6, 2013, at the Library of Congress, featured reflections from a panel of experts about the treatise and the trajectory of copyright law from 1963 to 2013. The panel was moderated by Karyn Temple Claggett, associate Register of copyrights and director of policy and international affairs, and included David Nimmer, UCLA School of Law and Irell & Manella LLP; Jon A. Baumgarten, former general counsel in the Copyright Office; Peter S. Menell, professor of law at the University of California Berkeley School of Law; Robert Brauneis, professor of law at The George Washington University Law School; and Shira Perlmutter, chief policy officer and director for international affairs at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It was hosted by Maria A. Pallante, Register of Copyrights, as part of the ongoing “Copyright Matters” series she founded in 2011. Joseph Salvo, president of the Copyright Society of the USA, provided opening remarks. Among other remarks, panelists made the following comments and observations:
David Nimmer shared film clips and photos of his father, Melville (“Mel”) Nimmer (1923–1985). As a young boy, he remembered watching his father work on the treatise, which was published as one volume in 1963. As a child, David traveled with his father on some of his international copyright-related business, and only later learned about the importance of the various meetings his father was attending. When asked what he thought his father might think of the current copyright law, David ventured that his father might be surprised at some of the developments, such as the relationship of some consumer devices to copyright. Prior to the program, David presented the Library of Congress with a first edition of the Nimmer treatise, which was officially accepted by David Mao, the Law Librarian of Congress. In thanking Nimmer, Mao said that the edition had escaped the Library’s collection.
Jon Baumgarten suggested that “Nimmer on Copyright” is “as organic a part of the development of copyright law as any one case or piece of legislation.” He added that Melville Nimmer expected discussions of copyright law to be “on the merits,” that is, seriously presented and respectful. Jon recalled many deep discussions with Mel Nimmer, which might occur almost anywhere without warning, including the beach.
Peter Menell noted that “Nimmer on Copyright” stands at the pinnacle among all legal treatises, not just copyright law reference materials. “David’s special contribution has been in applying copyright law to the dramatic shift toward digital technologies,” said Menell. Acknowledging that the 1976 copyright law is “creaky” today, Menell suggested that the Nimmer treatise has provided an authoritative foundation for courts in the challenging task of interpreting the law in a dynamic technological environment. Menell also observed that the treatise will be indispensable as we move forward in revisiting and reviewing the law.
Bob Brauneis presented an informal survey that he conducted with Professor Barton Beebe, in which they reviewed the importance of the treatise in court opinions. “Nimmer on Copyright” has been cited 3,181 times in published federal opinions. No other treatise has been cited as much, said Brauneis, with the exception of “McCarthy on Trademarks” which was cited 3,189 times (but with the caveat that there are far more trademark cases than copyright). Of all the particular areas of law on which “Nimmer on Copyright” has had an impact, two of the greatest, in Professor Brauneis’ view, are probably infringement analysis and fair use.
Shira Perlmutter discussed the impact of the Nimmer treatise on the international copyright scene. She noted that Melville Nimmer and former Register of Copyrights Barbara Ringer were impressive and articulate representatives of the United States in the 1960s and ’70s, at a time when Americans were seen as out of step with much of the world, and international negotiations were really dominated by other countries. “Nimmer on Copyright” is not only known throughout the world, Perlmutter explained, but has been an unmatched resource for explaining U.S. law.