Copyright syllabus (Fall 2016)


Professor Ira Steven Nathenson

St. Thomas University School of Law

Copyright Law, Fall 2016

Phone: 305-474-2454
Course website:
Class time: Mon. & Wed. 4:00PM–5:15PM, room A111
Office hours: Up till 10/5: Tues. 3-5PM, Wed. 5:30-7:30PM, Thurs. 3-5PM, and by appointment.

After 10/24: I have resumed office hours. They will be online. Unless stated otherwise, they will be Tue., Thur., and Fri. 3-5PM. Since they are online, you will have to schedule an appointment. See Mariela or Diana (faculty secretaries), or Suzanne (faculty receptionist). They’ll set you up with a time slot. Be sure to give them your name and your Google/Gmail name so I can videocall you. Also, when it is time for your appointment, be sure that you are logged into Google Hangouts either on a web browser or with an app.


Copyright law stands at the forefront of law in the digital era, protecting and sometimes frustrating the creation and distribution of modern culture.  By providing exclusive—but limited—rights to “original works of authorship,” copyright protects not just traditional media such as books, songs, and movies, but also electronic works found in YouTube videos, streaming media, and computer code.  Because copyright issues are so prevalent in modern society, a modern lawyer should have a solid grounding in copyright law.  This course covers major topics in domestic copyright law, such as originality, authorship, ownership, duration, the exclusive rights, infringement, fair use, and enforcement.  It also pays close attention to the interplay of technology and law.  Finally, the course extends beyond book learning by using realistic exercises that tie lawyering skills to the readings.  Examples may include preparing copyright registrations, assignments, takedown notices, and infringement opinions. A PDF copy of this syllabus may be found here.


  1. Course Website: Site at This website is your source for assignments, project information, and other materials. Details on the course website are provided below.
  2. Casebook: Craig Joyce et al., Copyright Law, Tenth Edition (Carolina Academic Press 2016). Do not get the prior Ninth Edition from 2013, which is from a different publisher.
  3. Casebook Supplement: Craig Joyce et al., Copyright Law, Tenth Edition, 2016 Cumulative Supplement (Carolina Academic Press 2016). This book has statutes, treaties, and updates to the casebook. It is just hitting the printer, though it may not be available the first week of class.


Assignments and course-related materials will be posted to the course website at  In addition, selected course-related announcements and materials may be sent to your official St. Thomas Law email account.


There is no final examination. As a skills course, your grade will be based on experiential projects (70% of grade) and class participation (30% of grade). based on experiential projects (75% of grade) and class participation (25%).  For class participation, your score will look at a number of factors, including: regularity and quality of preparation and discussion; regular and timely class attendance; professionalism; and contributions as a discussion leader. As a skills course, there is no curve. [Note 11/2/16: since we dropped the third project due to my accident and missed week of class, we discussed how to redistribute the scoring on 11/2.]


Class attendance.

“Regular class attendance” means, among other things, that you are in your seat and ready to start work on time. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to be in your seat and ready to start on time. Because we will be doing practice-oriented projects, class will often begin with important announcements and project guidance. If you are late, you will miss out on that information. Along similar lines, do not exit the classroom without good cause. If you leave class early without permission, you may be counted absent and may be denied reentry. All of these considerations may be factored into your class participation score.

Participation as a class member.

Every class member should be fully prepared as a discussant to discuss the materials assigned for each class even if they are not a discussion leader. See here for guidance. Class members should work during class with the professor and discussion leaders to discuss and explore the assigned materials. If you want, you can email me prior to class with supplemental materials you find that you think might be useful to share with the group. If we do not complete an assignment on one day, we will usually pick up on that assignment in the next class, so you should still be prepared to discuss those materials. Even when there is overlap, you should always prepare any new assigned materials as well. Your participation as a class member counts as part of your class participation score.

Participation as a discussion leader.

For every class, there will be two or three discussion leaders. Your participation as a discussion leader counts as part of your class participation score. You can find guidance on serving as a discussion leader here. Your designated discussion leader dates will be posted online.

Disclosure, Candor, and Attribution policy: i.e., non-plagiarism.

We will discuss matters regarding your individual projects in class, and you may discuss ideas and the law with your Copyright Law classmates. However, any work product you hand in must be your own work. In limited circumstances, I will allow you to work from and adapt forms and other pre-existing materials. I will let you know in writing when you may use pre-existing materials. Except in the limited circumstance when I permit you to use pre-existing materials, any work product you hand in must be written and created solely by you. Any violation of this policy will be dealt with harshly and may in addition constitute a violation of the St. Thomas Law Honor Code. All students will be required to sign and return the Disclosure, Candor, and Attribution Policy (TBA shortly). In addition, submitting any assignment or work product constitutes a certification that the student’s work product complies with the policy.


This is a skills course, but the real goal is to treat it as much more than a skills course.  It is intended to be one that integrates your learning—and I mean learning and not teaching—of copyright doctrine, copyright theory, copyright practice skills, as well as professional values in the copyright context.  I am a strong believer in the integrated approach, one that uses skills to teach law and doctrine, and that uses professional values to tie them all together.  So instead of learning doctrine in one class, ethics in another class, and skills in yet another class, I want to use them all, together, to better learn copyright and to become a better lawyer.


Learning outcomes refers to skills, concepts, and other matters I want you to learn in our course.  Learning methodologies are the techniques we will use to learn these matters.  Assessment refers to the ways you will receive feedback to help you determine your level of success and to course-correct for improvement. As a skills course with multiple projects, assessment is primarily formative, i.e., feedback that occurs while the topic is still being studied.  This contrasts heavily with traditional doctrinal courses where assessment is primarily summative, i.e., feedback that occurs at the end of a course.

 Learning Outcomes (the goal)

Learning Methodologies (the means)
Copyright law and theory: Examples include authorship, originality, ownership, registration, assignment and licensing, infringement, fair use and other defenses, and issues arising under digital copyright.  See assignments for more examples.  Reading, briefing, marking up, and discussing copyright cases and statutes, and using the Harkness method of group discussion.  Copyright doctrine will also be learned through practice-oriented skills projects such as drafting registration certificates, cease-and-desist letters, and more.
Integrating law and theory with practice skills and professional values: Developing basic practitioner proficiency in tasks common to copyright lawyers and tying professional values into copyright practice. The copyright skills projects are designed to integrate the teaching of the four components of lawyering: doctrine, theory, practice skills and professional values.  For information on the MacCrate Report’s recommendation for integrated teaching of these components, see here.



For the past several years, laptops and electronic devices have been barred from use in my classes. However, this semester, as an experiment, such devices will be permitted for class-related purposes.   The reason devices will be permitted is because I want to incorporate online resources into our class discussions. However:

  • Class purposes only. Your use of electronic devices should be limited to class purposes only. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by eBay, email, Instagram, Facebook, or other shiny diversions: I teach from a tablet that I use as an electronic whiteboard, I walk around the entire classroom constantly, and I will call you out for misusing technology.
  • Quiet zone. Mute devices so that they do not make any sound. Focus on class discussion.
  • Note taking. I would strongly encourage you to take notes by hand even if you use a laptop because handwriting slows you down and forces you to develop your critical listening skills.
  • No recording. Although electronics are permitted, recording of the class by audio or video is prohibited unless approved in advance in writing by me, and will be permitted only for exceptional reasons or required accommodations.

Updated Nov. 2, 2016 (to reflect redistribution of scoring)

Updated Oct. 27, 2016 (to reflect office hours change)