Virginia Law Review Launches Online Magazine "In Brief"

January 26, 2007

The Virginia Law Review has launched a new online magazine that offers a forum for scholars, judges, practitioners, and students to discuss legal issues in a more flexible and timely format than the print edition offers.

"Ideally, 'In Brief' fills a niche between a printed journal and a blog," said VLR editor-in-chief Jim Zucker. "'In Brief' is unique because the format's extremely flexible. We're willing to manipulate the format to fit whatever the issue [requires] or the author would like."

The debut issue, posted this week, features a discussion of the virtues and vices of strong intellectual property protection in the world of fashion design and elsewhere. In "Where IP Isn't," professors Kal Raustiala of UCLA Law School and Chris Sprigman of Virginia extend their recent Virginia Law Review article, "The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design," to consider the potential consequences and practical implications of stronger legal protection for fashion design. The essay includes photos illustrating the kind of design copying that regularly occurs in the industry, as well as links to audio files that demonstrate the same issue in the music industry. Professor Randal Picker of the University of Chicago responds by challenging the authors' underlying assumptions and pointing to a historical counter-example. The second response, by Professor Rochelle Dreyfuss of the New York University School of Law, considers the phenomenon identified by Raustiala and Sprigman more abstractly and attempts to draw lessons from an industry moving away from a low-IP protection environment to one of greater protection.

Zucker and VLR technology development editor Chris Yeung worked together on the inaugural issue. Zucker noted that several law schools' journals have online companion sites, but many either focus on recreating the writing style used in the print version (formal and heavily footnoted) or their online pieces comment only on articles in the print version. Other magazines invite scholars to debate or invite multiple scholars to write on a given topic.

"In Brief" pieces may respond to articles, essays, or book reviews published in the print edition of the Virginia Law Review, or they may explore new ideas unrelated to the Review's print content, Zucker said. The magazine requires submissions to be less than 3,000 words and lightly footnoted, allowing for an expedited two-month editing and writing process among Law Review staff and contributors.

"The writing style's a lot more op-ed," said Yeung. "The target audience here is not just legal academics but someone who's interested in the law."

Zucker and Yeung don't see the format replacing the print edition anytime soon, but many of the online editions law schools now have grew out of frustration with the long editing process for print-edition articles.

"There's this push toward shorter and shorter print articles and I think the online articles will facilitate that," Yeung said, because they offer a secondary realm for further discussion by authors and scholars.

Most legal articles that are published first appear in draft form on Web sites like the Social Science Research Network, where scholars can track hits to their abstracts and drafts. After publication, most people find the articles through the Lexis or Westlaw search engines. Journals' print editions are now mainly used in libraries. Zucker hopes "In Brief" will lead to further distribution and possibly a more robust strain of responses to published scholarship.

"If I wanted to respond to something I read in a law review it would take eight months and lose its currency [in a print edition]. This way after something comes out in print, you can respond to it quickly. Hopefully professors will be more inclined to write shorter responses challenging each others' ideas," Zucker said.

"There are a lot of good ideas in legal scholarship. The problem is that a lot of things get lost by the time they are published," Yeung added.

"In Brief" is available at Readers can also sign up to get notified by e-mail when the next issue of "In Brief" is online.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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