This week we would like you to meet Jon Garon; Author and Dean and Professor of Law at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law.
1. Explain what you do at Nova Southeastern University | Shepard Broad College of Law and tell us about your role.
I serve as Dean of the law school as well as a full-time professor on the faculty. As dean, I am responsible for the administration of law school, which includes assuring we remain in compliance with our accreditation, adherence to university policies, and operating within our own academic policies. I facilitate curriculum development and strategic planning. I am also very involved in our fund-raising and in our efforts to develop new programs to respond to the changes in legal education and legal profession.
As a faculty member, I continue to teach a number of courses related to intellectual property, privacy, and technology related legal issues. I teach Copyright, Entertainment Law, and Privacy, along with First Amendment and other topics. I also continue to publish regularly in these fields.
2. Where does your interest in copyright law originate?
My interest in Copyright goes back to high school, where it developed from two very different experiences. In part it came from my background in theater. I was very active in theater throughout high school and college as an actor, writer, and director. This interest led me to start my legal practice as an entertainment lawyer.
The second area that strongly shaped my copyright interest was as a designer. Our family owned a knitting mill. My father had obtained the U.S. patent on the Ski Mask in the 1950s and, while in high school, I was able to sell an original design to a national clothing retailer. Unfortunately, the company declined to re-order my designs. Then, a few weeks later, I saw my work on their shelves. They had shipped my design to an overseas manufacturer and replaced our products with knock-offs.
Both as a playwright and as a designer, I learned the lessons that come from both strong and weak copyright protection.
3. If there was one thing that you wished that students, the public, and the academic world understood about copyright, what would it be?
For nearly two centuries, copyright law was understood to protect the artist, inventor, designer, and craftsperson and enable creators to benefit from the work they do. At its heart, copyright protects expression, often for voices initially unpopular and marginalized. Suddenly with the Internet, copyright was recast as a barrier to free access for the public. Copyright was unfairly vilified those protecting the works of authors were ignored. But societies flourish when they value creativity and expression. It is important to nurture creativity and expression, and that can only happen if copyright law protects the creators.
4. What do you see as the biggest copyright-related challenge today?
Copyright is less well understood today than it was in previous decades. Courts struggle to understand the meaning of transformative fair use, the general public cannot understand the what constitutes permitted online uses from other uses, and creative artists do not understand how to protect their works or understand the appropriate role of fair use. In many ways, copyright would benefit from simplification and standardization. This might not occur through Congressional action, but it could occur through an emerging normative understanding of how various industries apply copyright to the practices accepted in each industry.
5. If there was one aspect of copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?
If I could negotiate a new copyright statute, I would separate out commercial copyright from non-commercial copyright. Throughout most of copyright’s history, litigation was limited to meaningful commercial activities and the statutory damage provisions are well-structured to accommodate those commercial interests. But the statute was not drafted to address peer-to-peer file sharing and other noncommercial (but systemic) copyright infringement problems. Instead courts struggle. They use overly broad liability provisions to enforce excessive damages or excuse blatant infringement by making overly broad interpretations of fair use.
By segregating copyright law practices along a commercial and noncommercial continuum, the law could help resolve these problems. The law would need to recognize that instead of a bright line between commercial and noncommercial activities, there is a range of conduct. But that can be done with thoughtful drafting. By fixing this issue, much of the public’s distrust of copyright would be addressed, harmful infringement would be targeted, and public creativity would be encouraged.
6. Please tell us all about your new book!
The new book is entitled “The Entrepreneur’s Intellectual Property & Business Handbook.” It serves as a training manual––or handbook––to teach business owners how to use intellectual property to build long-lasting, successful business enterprises. It provides an economic explanation for the importance of exclusivity as a business advantage and provides detailed discussions of product relevance, brand development, and non-legal business strategies to build and sustain a company.
The book combines these business concepts with the legal tools essential for start-up and small businesses, including chapters on legal formations, founders’ agreements, financing structures, and separate chapters on patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, publicity rights, and franchising. It uses examples from successful companies to provide a roadmap for the business owner along with sample agreements and checklists.
The book is used by entrepreneurs, legal clinics, small business development centers, and business advisors to help entrepreneurs differentiate their products and services in a very competitive market. It emphasizes that not every business needs a patent portfolio, but every business needs to combine business strategy with intellectual property protections to build itself in a way that avoids being copied by the competition.
My hope is that the book reflects the best that intellectual property policy has to offer in a simple but comprehensive single book. It is available exclusively through Amazon here.