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“I don’t often write �fan letters’ to high-priced lawyers, but this one I pen with great delight.” So began a Jan. 21, 2000, note from Jack Valenti to Jon Baumgarten. Valenti, the legendary head of the Motion Picture Association of America who died last year, lavished praise on Baumgarten for his work on a major MPAA case involving the unauthorized decryption of DVDs. Valenti wrote that Baumgarten had “performed with unhesitating, superb ability on every aspect.” For Baumgarten, a 65-year-old partner at Proskauer Rose, the letter is but one high point in a career that has spanned four decades. “I’m a hard-core copyright lawyer,” says Baumgarten, who describes his practice as a mix of litigation, counseling, and legislative policy work. “He is the absolute very best,” says Henry Horbaczewski, general counsel of Reed Elsevier Inc. “The guy is a genius. He understands not just copyright law but policy better than anyone I’ve ever met.” Reed Elsevier owns LexisNexis as well as science, medical, and business journals and databases. “Essentially all our assets are intellectual property,” Horbaczewski says. “Copyright is our livelihood, and he’s our principal adviser on all copyright matters.” Baumgarten and partner Stephen Kaye scored a big win on the company’s behalf in a case against Jurisline.com (and its attorney, David Boies). In 1999, Jurisline filed suit in the Southern District of New York, claiming that basic case information may be freely copied from the Lexis database because that information is in the public domain, and contrary restrictions under Lexis’ licenses are unenforceable. Reed Elsevier and its subsidiary Matthew Bender & Co. then sued Jurisline in New York state court for fraud and breach of contract. Beside the enforceability of so-called “copyright by contract,” the cases raised the issue of whether federal copyright law pre-empts state contract law. In 2000, the federal court ruled the state law claims were not pre-empted. Jurisline then dismissed its claims. Baumgarten calls himself “very fortunate” to represent Reed Elsevier, noting that “they have long been on the leading edge of intriguing and important issues of copyright law, business, and technology.” The motion picture industry has also turned to Baumgarten for cutting-edge assistance. The DVD decryption case was one of the most important matters. As Baumgarten notes, “The studios would not release movies on DVD without encryption, and the law to protect this was being challenged. If the case had failed, the DVD market might never have succeeded as it did.” In 1999, computer hackers devised a program called DeCSS that unlocks the copy protection on DVDs. The defendants — Eric Corley and two others — posted the program on their Web site and linked the program to other sites. The motion picture studios sued, claiming that posting DeCSS violated the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The defendants countered that the DMCA was unconstitutional and that computer code was speech, entitled to the strongest First Amendment protection. In 2001, Baumgarten and partner Charles Sims persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to uphold the DMCA. In doing so, the 2nd Circuit declined to give broad free-speech protection to the decryption code. The defendants were barred from putting DeCSS on their Web site or linking it to others. Ron Wheeler, senior vice president of content protection at 20th Century Fox, says he has “enormous respect and admiration” for Baumgarten. A party in the DeCSS case, Fox also retains Baumgarten for its own matters. “He has a great sense of practicality, which can be a rare quality in a lawyer,” Wheeler says. “In negotiations, he understands what the other side’s constraints are, where they can give and where they can’t. He has a great ability to play the chess game several moves ahead.” The DeCSS case was not the first time Baumgarten counseled clients deeply alarmed by new technologies. He played key roles in early-1990s cases against Texaco Inc. and Kinko’s Graphics Corp. that laid the ground rules for unauthorized photocopying in corporate and educational settings. In both cases, he represented publishers that “perceived photocopying at the time to be just as big of a threat as the digital revolution is viewed today,” he says. It’s little wonder that Baumgarten has been a go-to lawyer on the finer points of copyright law. After all, he was general counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office when the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed — legislation, he notes, that required “completely overhauling everything the Copyright Office ever did.” He held the position from January 1976 until the end of 1979. Prior to landing the GC job, Baumgarten, who earned his law degree from New York University School of Law in 1967, worked for Parker Chapin & Flattau in New York. In 1969, he moved to Linden & Deutsch. After his late-70s stint at the Copyright Office, he stayed in Washington and joined Taskus Gordon & Hyman (now part of White & Case). In 1986, he moved to Proskauer, where he practices alongside Christopher Wolf, another well-known copyright and Internet law specialist.

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