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In Peter Menell’s classroom, there are more stars than a Hollywood back lot. Bruce Willis is there. So is Jimmy Stewart. Alfred Hitchcock shows up occasionally, and even crooners like The Bee Gees and George Harrison make cameo appearances. OK. They don’t show up in person — a couple of them are dead, after all. But expired or not, the stars help Menell give everyone from judges to law school students a taste of copyright law. Menell, a University of California Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law professor and director of the school’s Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, hopes a little Tinseltown glitter will help his students stay engaged as they learn the complexities of intellectual property. “It’s a new model for educating to use visual metaphors and digital media to capture the complex rules and institutions and to bring the actual work at issue in a case into the classroom in a visual way,” Menell said. The idea came to Menell four years ago when he wrote to the Federal Judicial Center, a Washington, D.C.-based group that funds education for judges. Menell offered to put together a crash course on IP for federal judges. The course was a hit and will be held for the third time at Boalt in June. “We’ve gotten a phenomenal response from the judges,” Menell said. “Traditionally they have been a persnickety audience.” Menell has been refining the project over the years and using it in law and business classes and educational seminars for attorneys. The curriculum, included in a PowerPoint presentation, is replete with movie clips, sound recordings and images from major IP disputes. “Words on a page can’t show the similarities” between two works of art, Menell said. But through computer animation, the similarities are tangible. In one of his slides, the notes and words of two sound recordings — the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” and former Beatle George Harrison’s “My Sweet Love” — appear side by side and then the songs are spliced together. One can see and hear why the Chiffons sued Harrison for infringement. Another slide shows a clip from the movie “12 Monkeys” in which Bruce Wilson is in an interrogation room, pinned to a medieval-looking chair. When a Lebius Woods graphic appears next to the clip, a striking resemblance is apparent between the two. Menell uses another movie to explain a complex copyright issue — the transfer of rights to derivative works. Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart obtained rights to the film version of a dime-store detective story on which Rear Window is based. The author died before renewing his copyright and it was transferred to another fellow who sued Hitchcock and Stewart’s production company for infringement. The presentation boils copyright law down to the “Newtonian level” to see what triggers infringement, Menell said. Menell, 42, has taken his show on the road. Most recently, he has used it in a series of educational seminars that he put together with copyright experts David Nimmer, author of the treatise “Nimmer on Copyright,” and Lon Sobel, editor and publisher of the Entertainment Law Reporter. The seminar started Tuesday in San Francisco. Menell’s passion for teaching goes beyond the legal community. Every year he makes a presentation at his children’s school. This year he’s doing a presentation on patent law for his son’s fifth-grade class. “I broke down one invention [a cheese slicer] to compare the parts and how the patent law applies,” Menell said.

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