UCLA Law Nabs IP Star to Build Center

By Andrew Harmon, February 21, 2007

LOS ANGELES – Doug Lichtman, the University of Chicago law professor known for trying to forge consensus between media companies and fair-use and consumer-rights advocates, has agreed to join UCLA School of Law’s faculty in July, school officials said Tuesday.

Michael H. Schill, UCLA’s law dean, said Lichtman’s hiring is key to the school’s campaign to recast its entertainment-law program as an institutional moderator for the legal wars affecting Hollywood. Beginning in August, Lichtman will be responsible for creating a yet-to-be-named research and program center that aims to educate journalists and policymakers on intellectual property issues, Schill said.

“Doug is one of those rare law scholars who’s able to communicate easily with people who believe in minimal protection of intellectual property, as well as people in Hollywood who believe there should be maximal protection,” Schill said. “His goal is to bridge the gap between the polarized views of intellectual property, with respect to entertainment law in particular.”

Lichtman, 35, has taught patent and copyright law at the University of Chicago since 1998. As an editor of the Journal of Law & Economics, he has focused much of his scholarship on the economic impact of intellectual property litigation and the application of middle-of-the-road compromises in copyright disputes.

In 2005, Lichtman co-wrote with Steven Levitt an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case MGM v. Grokster. Levitt, who teaches economics at the University of Chicago, co-wrote the best-seller “Freakonomics.” In the amicus brief, Levitt and Lichtman argued for low-cost, reasonable safeguards employed by peer-to-peer file-sharing sites to combat copyright infringement.

“He’s an important law- and economics-oriented intellectual property scholar,” said University of Chicago Law School Dean Saul Levmore. “Our loss is UCLA’s gain. For them, it is nothing short of a terrific coup.”

Lichtman said his role as director of the new research center will be to present “a real-world public debate” on intellectual property matters for journalists covering legal issues, rather than for scholars.

“Most intellectual property centers today focus on academic projects like training future faculty members and sponsoring law review articles. That’s great, but it’s not what I want to build,” Lichtman said. “I want to build a public-facing entity, one that speaks not to academics but to reporters, congressional staffers and maybe sometime even judges.

“Those are the audiences who need to see balanced intellectual property debate up close and hopefully walk away with a healthy appreciation for the important considerations on both sides of the divide.”

A Phase 2 project of the research center will be a Web resource for briefs and other documents pertaining to crucial intellectual property lawsuits.

Schiff said the law school’s faculty hiring committee courted Lichtman for two years for its 40-student entertainment-law program, which was launched in 2005.

A 1997 graduate of Yale Law School, Lichtman was tenured as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School when he was 29. He has provided legal advice for both sides of the copyright debate, including large media companies and Internet watchdog organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“It’s an awkward position to be a passionate believer in the middle ground,” Lichtman said, “but it’s exactly where I want to be.”