FACULTY PROFILE Matthew Sag
Matthew Sag, a Georgia Reithal Professor of Law, focuses on intellectual property and its intersection with technology and competition law. Prior to his academic career, Professor Sag practiced intellectual property law in the United Kingdom in Silicon Valley, California. After earning his degree with honors from the Australian National University, he clerked for Justice Paul Finn of the Federal Court of Australia.
How did you become interested in copyright law?
As a teenager, I was obsessed with science fiction and new technology. In law school I began to think more about how new technology challenges the existing legal order. Copyright law particularly fascinated me because it poses fundamental questions about creativity. After law school, I followed my interest in copyright law and began working on IT projects and emerging Internet law issues.
How have the emerging predatory litigation trends affected copyright law?
Over the past few years, a small group of copyright owners has deluged the federal court system with lawsuits against John Doe defendants alleging online copyright infringement. My research makes clear the scale of this phenomenon; its reliance on boilerplate cookie-cutter court filings; and how some plaintiffs have exploited the litigation process to coerce large numbers of innocent defendants to settle charges of infringement for thousands of dollars. Copyright trolling lawsuits make it difficult to have a rational policy discussion about solving the problem of online infringement, they expose some of the problems with copyright’s system of statutory damages, and they risk giving copyright itself a bad name.
“My advice is to stop thinking about narrow silos defined by particular areas of law and start thinking about what kind of clients you want to work with, what kind of work you want to do, and what kind of industry you want to be part of.”
Your article discusses the oral arguments of U.S. Supreme Court Justices. How has politics shaped the Court’s decision-making processes?
Professor Tonja Jacobi and I show that the nature of oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court has changed dramatically over the past 60 years. American politics and society became distinctly more polarized in the mid-1990s, so too did the Court. By creating a database of every transcript for the last six decades we show empirically that judges talk a lot more at oral argument than they used to (leaving the advocates with a lot less time) and that this change seems to be centered on the mid-1990s, which is when America became the politically polarized place it is today.
What advice can you give a student interesting in pursuing a career in IP and copyright law?
My advice is to stop thinking about narrow silos defined by particular areas of law and start thinking about what kind of clients you want to work with, what kind of work you want to do, and what kind of industry you want to be part of. If you have a scientific background you can specialize very narrowly in the process of drafting patents (we call this "patent prosecution") and a few people specialize in a similar process for obtaining trademarks. These are great IP careers, but they are not the only ones. Most jobs in IP are much broader than this. You might end up doing corporate work for technology companies, commercial litigation, working in publishing or the entertainment industry. Understanding IP is essential to all of these positions.
How often to you get back to Australia?
Most of my family still lives in Australia and I get back every couple of years. But, I also try to leave some time to see the rest of planet when I can.
Interested in Intellectual Property Law? Learn more.
Read Professor Sag's ScotusOA Blog