Mediating Copyright and Intellectual Property Disputes

Vol. 6 No. 1


Judge James Scott Sledge (Ret.) is an alternative dispute resolution professional with The McCammon Group, a leading provider of mediation, arbitration, special master, and judge pro tempore services. The first chief judge of the United States Copyright Royalty Board, he led the three-judge court through its start as the primary, independent regulatory agency for copyright license and royalty distribution. He can be reached at

While serving as the inaugural chief judge of the Copyright Royalty Board for six and a half years, I had the great pleasure of presiding over cases affecting policy decisions for the regulation of the use of copyright content in the U.S. entertainment industry.

The entertainment industry, broadly defined, constitutes a major part of the world economy. The creative process embodied in this industry is protected by our U.S. Constitution. This protection is balanced against the need of technology users to benefit society and to expand economic opportunities. (For example, the recent Supreme Court decision in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., dealing with seed patents, will likely impact the balance between creation and use in many areas of technology and research.) In the United States, royalties paid under the statutory licenses exceed $1.5 billion a year, and royalties paid under agreements based on the licenses are many times this amount.

After serving as chief judge, experiencing the dynamics of these copyright disputes, and now having stepped into the world of alternative dispute resolution, I must conclude that the mediation of copyright disputes, and intellectual property disputes generally, offers many advantages over litigation. With the speed of technological advances, the complexities of these disagreements, the need for better outcomes, and the exhaustive cost and slow rate of resolving them in litigation, some other way must be found. Mediation provides an opportunity for better results obtained more quickly, less expensively, privately, and confidentially, as well as in a way that may preserve and enhance critical and ongoing business relationships.

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