Copyright expert

“Copyright law is an exciting—and fun—area to study,” says Matthew Sag, associate director for intellectual property at Loyola’s Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies. A Georgia Reithal Professor of Law, Sag teaches courses in election law and property, copyright, and other intellectual property-related subjects. The Australia native describes the importance of copyright law, career advice, and what makes Loyola students unique.

What is copyright law?
Copyright law tells you when, how, and to what extent a new author can build on the work of a previous author. No one creates anything from scratch: New expression comes from responding to, building on, or borrowing from others. Copyright law is about the line between just being influenced by someone else and actually infringing on their rights. It defines who owns what. To understand where and how those lines are drawn, come take my copyright class. 

Why is copyright law important?

Copyright law shapes the world around us: what we see on YouTube and social media, the music we listen to, and the technology we use to access it. It shapes the computer industry and sets the rules of the road for the Internet.

You’re originally from Australia. How did you get to Loyola?

Growing up in Brisbane, I had always been interested in technology and sci-fi, which sparked my interest in intellectual property. I received an undergraduate degree in political science and economic history and an LLB degree with honors from Australian National University in 1997. I then clerked for an Australian federal court for a year before taking a job as a lawyer. I moved to London during the height of the dot.com bubble in 2000 and worked as a lawyer for the tech industry in Silicon Valley for three years after that. In 2004, I accepted a position as visiting assistant professor of law at Northwestern University. I’ve been teaching at Loyola since 2011 and am enrolled in Loyola’s Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) program studying international and comparative law.

“Loyola students approach the study of law with the right motivation—to understand how they can use the law to make the world a better place in their own particular way.”

What’s unique about Loyola?
Loyola students approach the study of law with the right motivation—to understand how they can use the law to make the world a better place in their own particular way. I also find students to be highly motivated and my colleagues supportive. It’s a creative, collaborative, and intellectually diverse school. 

What’s your career advice for students?

Find something that interests you and then throw yourself into it. Figure out either what kind of work you want to do or what kind of people you want to work for, and channel everything in that direction. The more your work interests you, the less it feels like work.

What can your students expect from you?
As an academic and teacher, it’s my job to simplify things that appear complicated, but also show that things that look simple can actually be more complicated than they appear. I try to teach my students different modes of reasoning and analysis so they can draw on them and develop that muscle as they go through law school and beyond.

What are your specific areas of interest?

I’m interested in looking at how different countries approach the copyright-law implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. U.S. copyright law has adapted to new technology through developments in the fair-use doctrine. Other countries have less-flexible systems and are still playing catch-up, mostly by trying to encode the results of U.S. cases into their rules, regulations, and statutes. So far, the U.S. approach is coming out ahead, but there are still a lot of issues to work out. –Carla Beecher


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