by Susan Wright
Copyright law, although growing in complication, is becoming more important within the creative industries. Without this protection, artists would have little incentive to produce their respective art. Mark A. Fischer is a lawyer specializing in intellectual property law.
I sat down with Mark A. Fischer, Partner at Duane Morris LLP, to discuss what prompted him to choose copyright law, as well as experiences that have stood out throughout his career.
Where did you go to school, and where did you first get involved in law?
After working for publishers Little, Brown and Houghton Mifflin in high school and through college (I was easily the youngest staffer at those publishers), I decided to go to law school. I copyedited law course books at Little, Brown and found I enjoyed learning about the law. I then went to Boston College Law School. After law school I set up a solo practice in Harvard Square in a third floor walk-up above a restaurant. I started representing rock bands and then began attracting technology clients from MIT and Harvard. I had a lot to learn but I knew I wanted to combine something I love in real life–the creative arts–with law practice. I guess I intuitively knew it was all too easy to be an unhappy lawyer. I didn’t want to be one of those, so I consider myself fortunate to work with such amazing people and companies.
How was Duane Morris LLP first created?
The firm was established in Philadephia in 1904. I wasn’t one of the founders, obviously. It has grown tremendously to become an international firm of over 700 lawyers.
What was the first thing you learned once you began practicing in the field of law?
That I’m always learning. It’s true today. Perhaps it’s one reason I love teaching law as well as practicing (I teach Advanced Copyright at Suffolk University Law School). And one other thing to mention: copyediting and proofreading are still part of this job.
Tell us about your most interesting case to date.
Sounds trite to say this, but it’s rare that several new matters don’t arise each working day. Many are unexpected. The new media are, well, new and innovative. So, I must constantly expect the unexpected. I’m fortunate to work with so many fascinating creative people. I was particularly pleased that my longtime client the Holy Transfiguration Monastery won a copyright lawsuit. The case went to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Recently, the US Supreme Court declined the defendant’s petition to hear an appeal of the victory at the First Circuit. The decision validates the copyright ability of religious works and helps protect them from infringement. Works by religious organizations are entitled to full copyright protection. The creativity, skill, and dedication of the monks has been recognized.
What part of law do you find most interesting?
I would have to say copyright law. It’s based on a philosophical yet highly practical premise: if laws give those who create works of art a financial incentive, they will ultimately create more and better work. Why? Because unless creative people can devote themselves to their art, they will be incentivized to do other kinds of work that may pay the rent, but divert them from their art. We’re all enriched by what creative people create, whether music, books, motion pictures, visual art, theatre, software, video games, the Internet — just to name a few. Although copyright law has become complicated, the underlying point of view remains the same.
What got you interested in this area of law?
When I was in my third year of law school, I couldn’t imagine being in an area of law that wasn’t focused on creativity, especially music and books. It was that simple. I believe that this area of law chose me.