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Growing up in a Southern California neighborhood sandwiched between two motion picture studios, Jeffrey Cunard developed an early appreciation for the importance of copyrights. In time, appreciation became career interest. Today, the 52-year-old Debevoise & Plimpton partner represents both copyright owners and content users at (in his words) “the intersection of new digital technology and intellectual property.” Exhibit No. 1 is the Google case. Cunard is co-counsel, with partner Bruce Keller, for five publishing houses that are suing the search engine giant in a case that, he says, raises “very important, significant, and novel issues” regarding the fair use doctrine. Filed in October 2005 in New York federal court, the suit challenges the Google Library Project, which seeks to digitize the collections of several major libraries. In response to a search request, users are shown a card catalog-style entry and a few snippets from a copyrighted book or the full text of a book that is in the public domain. Google calls this fair use. But the publishers in their complaint object that such an “entirely commercial endeavor” violates copyright law, requiring the “massive, wholesale and systematic copying of entire books still protected by copyright.” John Sargent, treasurer of the Association of American Publishers, praises Cunard’s ability to work with all the plaintiffs. “He manages to wrangle us and get us all on the same page. He’s got a great mind and a manner that allows highly productive, nonconfrontational discussions,” says Sargent, adding, “The guy has an encyclopedic knowledge of copyright law.” While Cunard is representing traditional copyright owners in the Google case, he also does considerable work for content users — or, like Microsoft Corp., companies that are both owners and users. Thomas Rubin, chief IP strategy counsel at Microsoft, appreciates Cunard’s perspective. “He sees issues from all sides very clearly,” Rubin says. “[But] what really sets him apart is that no detail is too small. So often, cases are decided on the details. His attention to details is what I value more than anything else.” Rubin points out that Microsoft makes sparing use of outside counsel, but Cunard remains a go-to lawyer for the company. “I can pick up the phone, and he doesn’t need to do research to give me keen insight and deep analysis,” Rubin says. “He combines practical business advice with sophisticated policy expertise.” Cunard’s longest-term client is Sony Corp. His work on company matters dates back to his very first day as an associate, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held Sony liable for contributory infringement in the landmark Betamax case (subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court). Recently, he defended Sony BMG Music Entertainment when the company was hit with a series of class actions and regulatory inquiries over copy protection software used in some Sony compact discs. The class action complaints alleged that the software secretly installed itself when users loaded music CDs into their computers, potentially damaging the computers and leaving them more vulnerable to viruses. Sony settled the class actions and state investigations in 2006. A 2007 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission prohibits Sony from installing software without the user’s consent and requires it to provide a reasonable means of removing the software. Asako Kawakami, head of the copyright, legislative, and policy affairs section at Sony Corp. in Japan, writes in an e-mail, “We always appreciate [Cunard's] advice, which reflects both his deep knowledge of our business and his genuine expertise and interest in the issues we face.” Policy work is another active area for Cunard. He’s representing the College Art Association pro bono in efforts to pass legislation dealing with “orphan works” — especially photographs, other graphical works, and songs — that are still in copyright but whose owner can’t be found. The association supports altering copyright law to facilitate the use of such works by artists, scholars, and museums. The arts are a major interest for Cunard, who in September ended a term as chairman of the board of the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. In another foray away from pure client work, he served as co-director of Harvard Law School’s cyberlaw clinical program from 2004 to 2007. He’s also the author, along with Bruce Keller, of Copyright Law: A Practitioner’s Guide (“An indispensable guidebook,” proclaims former Registrar of Copyrights Ralph Oman in a review). Cunard says he has to squeeze in the time to write on “nights and weekends,” but the process “keeps me focused and fresh on all developments in the field.” Cunard earned his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1980 and then clerked for U.S. District Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr. in the Central District of California. He originally joined Leva, Hawes, Symington, Martin & Oppenheimer in Washington, before moving to Debevoise in 1983. Today he is the managing partner of the firm’s 32-lawyer D.C. office.

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