"Patent law is the quintessential legal institution that seeks to give people property rights on information, and its expansion has made it an enormously interesting area of legal practice," says Professor Harold Edgar '67, who has been teaching at Columbia Law School since 1968. Like his colleagues, Professor Edgar is not an ivory-tower academic. Among the roles he fills outside the Law School is chairmanship of The Hastings Center, a research institute whose focus is health care and biotechnology.
Professor Jane Ginsburg is a staunch defender of the rights of artistic and literary creators. Her work takes her from Columbia's classrooms, where she's taught since 1985, to conferences and other campuses throughout the world. While much has changed in the study of IP law, a few principles remain the same, says Professor Ginsburg. "I prepare students by giving them an overall legal training that teaches them to go out and find and evaluate facts. The facts will change, but the underlying analytical ability is what they need to learn."
Professor Michael Heller decided on a teaching career while working as a consultant to the World Bank and teaching a seminar at Yale Law School. "During a given week, I might be negotiating student paper topics in New Haven and a World Bank loan in Budapest," he says. "The contrast was stark and it favored teaching." In addition to property, he counts among his interests takings law, corporate governance, and restitution. The term "tragedy of the anticommons" was originally coined in his 1998 Harvard Law Review article by the same name.
Trained as both a lawyer and an economist, Professor Scott Hemphill adds a critical dimension to the Law School's faculty, which he joined in 2006. Before coming to Columbia as a fellow, he clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. As a clerk, he almost never saw an intellectual property case making it to the docket. That has already changed. He says, "It signals a recognition of the importance of IP in the world we live in."
Prior to becoming a lawyer, Professor Clarisa Long, who has graduate training in biology, worked for a biotech company that was patenting its research. She soon became the liaison between the scientists and patent lawyers, an experience that piqued her interest in the links among the scientific, legal, and regulatory communities. Later, while in law school at Stanford, she wrote and filed patents with the Patent and Trademark Office.
Ronald Mann is a nationally recognized scholar and teacher in the fields of commercial law and electronic commerce. He clerked for Judge Joseph T. Sneed on the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals and for Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court. After three years in private practice, he worked for the Justice Department as an assistant for the solicitor general of the United States. He co-authored the first American legal casebook on electronic commerce.
Professor Tom Merrill, whose research interests include administrative law, environmental law, and property theory, came to Columbia from Northwestern Law School. His tenure at Northwestern was marked by a three-year sabbatical during which he served as deputy solicitor general, writing briefs on key abortion and right-to-die cases.
Professor Eben Moglen is a central figure in the free software movement, which seeks to eliminate the proprietary nature of computer code. "In the 21st century, software is becoming a public utility, not a product," says Professor Moglen, founder of the Software Freedom Law Center, who speaks to groups around the country. He strongly disagrees with the premise of the law of copyright based on the idea that important products will not be made without incentives. Instead, he argues that for certain kinds of products, information sharing will produce higher-quality material.
A self-described computer geek, Professor Tim Wu was once a programmer. After law school he clerked for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Professor Wu sees in copyright the ground rules that help determine which information flourishes in our society. He recognizes that the current rules of copyright are sometimes a poor match for changing technologies. He says, "The questions were and still are, What is the Internet going to become? And what will that mean for our culture and the kind of country we live in, which is defined by how we communicate?"