I sometimes write articles or make public presentations advocating particular interpretations or modifications of legal rules.  In addition, I sometimes provide advice to government agencies in the United States and in other countries concerning how their laws or policies might be improved.  When doing so, I always strive to offer unbiased recommendations.  However, I occasionally have financial interests that might be affected by the reforms I advocate.  To minimize the risk of bias in such situations, and to help my audiences decide how much weight my recommendations deserve, I will strive on this page to disclose all forms of financial compensation I have in the past received – or could in the future receive – that might taint my judgment. 

Currently, most of my work falls into four major categories.  First, I am exploring ways in which legal rules might be modified so as (a) to stimulate the development of drugs that address the diseases that afflict poor countries and then (b) to make those drugs more widely available.  See A War Not Easily Won. In a few instances, I have given presentations concerning my ideas to pharmaceutical companies or their executives; I have not received any compensation for any of those presentations.  I also occasionally give presentations in “summits” organized by the GLG Institute for executives in pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of generic drugs; I am paid modest honoraria for those presentations.

Second, I have written about, and still sometimes make public presentations about, ways in which the rules affecting the entertainment industry might be reformed so as to capitalize on the potential economic and cultural benefits of the technologies that are transforming that industry while simultaneously ensuring that the creators of recorded entertainment are fairly compensated.  In this context, I do have (or have in the past had) some relevant financial interests.  Specifically:

  • In 2002, I was paid for work I did as an expert witness in a copyright royalty arbitration proceeding, in which I testified on behalf of a large group of webcasters.  (For an earlier discussion of my work on behalf of the webcasters, see Promises to Keep, Chapter 3.)
  • In 2004, I was paid to give two speeches to the executives of SAP concerning the future of the entertainment industry.
  • Between 2004 and 2006, I was paid for advice I provided to a group of lawyers representing Bertelsmann A.G. in a copyright suit arising out of a loan that Bertelsmann had made to Napster.
  • In 2006, I was paid by HBO to provide its legal staff advice concerning the challenges they were facing.
  • In 2007, I was paid for work I did as an expert witness in a copyright royalty board proceeding, in which I submitted testimony on behalf of Sirius and XM. 
  • I have provided advice to Radiotime, a firm exploring ways of increasing the flexibility with which listeners can gain access to radio broadcasts.  In return, I was given some stock options in the firm.  I have never received any compensation from Radiotime, but might in the future.
  • In 2007 I helped found Noank Media, Inc., a startup company that sought to implement in China the second best of the systems for distributing audio and video recordings that, in chapter 6 of Promises to Keep (2004), I contended could be employed to resolve the crisis in the entertainment industry.  In 2010, the company ceased operations. I never received any compensation from it, but could have done so if it had succeeded.

Third, I oversee the development and periodic revision of a digital curriculum designed to teach librarians in developing countries about copyright law.  I sometimes give public presentations to librarians or other groups considering adopting this curriculum.  I have not been and will not be compensated for this work.

Fourth and finally, between 2002 and 2014, I was the faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  For my work in that capacity, I was paid by Harvard University an annual stipend.  I remain a member of the Berkman Center Board of Directors. All financial contributions to the Berkman Center are listed on the disclosure page of the center – along with the projects to which they are applied.  I do not receive any financial benefit from any of those contributions. 

Other activities in which I have engaged in the past that might have affected my views concerning the interpretation or reform of legal rules include the following:

  • In 2004, I provided advice to the Nichia Corporation concerning the content of and policy justifications for the legal rules in the United States governing the relative rights of employee-inventors and their employers. 
  • In 2009, I provided advice to the Directors Guild of America concerning the priority of security interests in a particular motion picture.
  • Between October of 2009 and January of 2011, I was a member of a group of lawyers who represented Shepard Fairey, pro bono, in a copyright dispute with the Associated Press concerning Fairey’s use of an AP photo in the course of creating the Obama “Hope” poster.
  • In 2011 and 2012, I provided three opinion letters to DISH Network LLC concerning the legal implications of possible innovations involving cloud computing. 
  • In 2011 and 2012, I represented Greg Gumucio and “Yoga to the People” in a lawsuit that concerned, among other things, the legal status of sequences of yoga asanas.
  • In 2012, I assisted the law firm of Weil, Gotschal & Manges in its representation of Westlaw in a lawsuit involving copyright protection for legal briefs.
  • In 2012, Prof. Felix Oberholzer and I prepared a report for the Intel Corporation concerning the relationship between its intellectual-property strategy and its business strategy.
  • In 2013 and 2014, I assisted the law firm of Weil, Gotschal & Manges in two cases, one involving the public display of copyrighted works; the other involving public performances of sound recordings made before 1972.
  • I occasionally provided advice to Yahoo! concerning the legal implications of products and services that Yahoo! was considering introducing.
  • Similarly, I occasionally provide advice to Twitch.tv concerning the legal implications of their services.
  • In 2019, I provided advice to the law firm of Weil, Gotschal & Manges concerning their representation of Alibaba in a copyright infringement suit.
  • Since 2017, I have provided advice (pro bono) to the governments of Namibia, Malawi and Kenya concerning possible reforms of their copyright and patent laws.
  • Since 2018, I have provided advice concerning intellectual property to a fledgling biotechnology firm, Cambridge Science Corp, which aspires to help commercialize innovations developed in universities. In return, I have received a modest stake in the equity of the firm.

I will update this page whenever my financial interests change materially.

William Fisher

Last updated: September 28, 2020