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Cathy Kirkman; Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Blogger, Silicon Valley Media Law


Cathy Kirkman is a partner and shareholder Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati; Blogger Silicon Valley Media Law in Palo Alto, CA. She is specializes practice in Intellectual property.

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   LAW STAR                                                                                        1. 800.973.1177

                            Cathy Kirkman; Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich &
                            Rosati; Blogger, Silicon Valley Media Law
                            [by Charisse Dengler]
                            Cathy Kirkman’s client list may read like who’s who of the digital media world (Google, Napster, Creative Commons,
                  , and Bad Boy Technologies, among others), but navigating media laws for high-profile heavyweights
                            isn’t the extent of her talent. She’s also one of many in the legal field diving headlong into the pool of opportunity that
                            is blogging or, more appropriately, “blawging.”

Kirkman, a partner and shareholder at               However, Kirkman feels that lack of                “Blogging is a great way to be engaged in
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo            accessibility to material is an obvious            my field, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to
Alto, CA, specializes in intellectual property      downside to copy protection, and that’s why        blog than to put out a weekly newsletter,”
transactions and media-client consultations,        she supports Creative Commons and its              she said. “It definitely helps the community
both in the digital media realm.                    goals.                                             because it allows it to be more connected.”

“Some of the cutting-edge clients I have            “My blog is under Creative Commons                 Kirkman feels that the birth of the Internet
loved working with include Google, Creative         because I want people to be able to read it        has led to significant changes in the legal
Commons, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Napster,”            without infringing and be able to benefit from     profession and, specifically, in the field of
she said. “I am always very excited when            it,” she said.                                     digital media law.
things happen, like a client gets funding,
goes public, closes an important business           Kirkman’s blog, Silicon Valley Media Law,          “The nuclear winter of the dot-com bust
deal, or successfully navigates a cutting-          is a means through which she can actively          was a challenge when nobody but the most
edge legal issue.”                                  participate in the global world of legal           forward-thinking wanted to invest in the
                                                    gabbing; and her enthusiasm for the cyber          digital media space,” she said. “Now, we’re
Kirkman has been a part of merchandise
                                                    sport is contagious.                               way past that, and Web 2.0 [a second stage
licensing for Converse and MCI; worked
                                                                                                       of design for Web software] is going crazy
on films such as Robin Hood: Prince of
                                                    “I just love blogging,” Kirkman said. “It’s a      in the [Silicon] Valley. A challenge is trying
Thieves and Young Guns II; and delved into          way to contribute to and participate in the        to mediate the needs of content owners and
the gaming world on behalf of clients that                                                             technology entrepreneurs.”
                                                    greater dialog surrounding legal issues.”
include 3DO, Maxis, and Brilliant Media.

                                                    Whether she’s blogging about John Stewart’s        “The Internet has enabled us to try to achieve
In 2004, she helped draft a copyright
                                                    movie piracy comments at the Oscars or             the ultimate goal of being available to our
license for Creative Commons, a nonprofit
                                                    historical presidential copyright cases,           clients at all times—be virtual and available
organization committed to achieving a
                                                    Kirkman packs each entry full of hyperlinks,       and make sure you’re doing all you can for
balance between total copyright deadlock
                                                    offering readers additional sources of             your clients,” she said.
and complete artist exploitation. Creative
Commons gives artists the ability to choose
                                                                                                       Kirkman said the world of virtual reality has
a copyright license that makes their material
                                                    “Hyperlinks allow you to point to what others      made it easier for her to integrate work and life.
available, while still protecting it from piracy.
                                                    are saying, instead of just putting forth your
                                                    own opinion,” she said.                            “My greatest challenge is trying to achieve
As someone fighting on the front lines in the
                                                                                                       my day-to-day goal of making every client
battle against piracy, Kirkman doesn’t think
                                                    Early in her career, Kirkman knew that she         feel like my only client,” she said. “This is not
it will ever be completely eliminated.
                                                    wanted to be a resource in the legal field; so     a media law issue; but it’s what I aspire to,
“Piracy has always existed, but I do think the      she decided to put out a weekly newsletter         since the practice of law is about providing
music industry has had success in creating          via fax. Needless to say, she’s thrilled to        the best possible service to clients.”
awareness about it,” she said. “They are now        be free of the fax machine and greatly
leaning toward copy-protected CDs; and as           appreciates the global community modern            “Being a lawyer is a life of service,” she said.
the world becomes more locked down with             technology has created.                            And she counsels law students to think the
copy protection, the harder piracy becomes.”                                                           same way.

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       LAW STAR                                                                                1. 800.973.1177

“Think about the field of law as a field of        “I had a professor, Paul Goldstein, and he       “Do your own thing,” she said. “Ask yourself,
service,” she said. “I think it can be very        was a wonderful professor. I got excited         ‘What’s my agenda? What do I want to be
satisfying if you rationalize it that way. Also,   about the subject and became his research        doing at this firm?’”
think about being a lawyer from day one and        assistant,” she said. “As lawyers like to say,
not an apprentice. If you do, you’re going to      ‘but for’ that experience, I don’t know what
get to where you want to be faster because         direction I would have gone in. I was doing
you’re aspiring to it and you’re excited about     scrub work as a law student, but this helped
it.”                                               me identify my passion for IP law.”

Kirkman first became excited about the idea        Kirkman encourages law students to identify
of practicing media law while at Stanford Law      what it is they want to do and not simply
School.                                            conform to someone else’s mold.


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