James Lahore moved to Britain in the early 1970s to set up an undergraduate course at the University of Southampton, a course that constituted the first undergraduate course on intellectual property taught in Britain. The module, a third year option, begun to be offered in 1975 and was taken over later by Gerald Dworkin, who became a leading scholar on the field. Southampton was also the first university to introduce an option on an intellectual property related subject called ‘Computers and Law’, what is often described today as ‘Information Technology’. The subject was introduced by Steve Saxby, a graduate from the University of Kent, who had been a student of Harry Bloom (who had also supervised Jeremy Phillips).
Further references:
Gerald Dworkin, Confidence in the Law (Southampton, University of Southampton, 1971)
Sally Nash and Martin Sherwood, The University of Southampton: An Ilustrated History (James & James, 2002)
Steve Saxby, The Age of Information: The Past Development and Future Significance of Computing and Communications (Palgrave Macmillan, 1990)
Facilitator: Who conducted the interview when you came to Southampton?
Prof. Steve Saxby: It was Professor Gerald Dworkin and another colleague Rosa Greaves, who became Head of School in Glasgow. Her field is European Union law. Little were we to know just how influential EU law was to become in the development of IT law. But certainly Gerald was an enormous influence here when I first arrived because he was the leader of intellectual property law, or one of the main advocates, writers, and academics in the field. And the two of us found ourselves one day out at Arizona State University at a conference. I’d previously been there the year before in 1983 to teach Comparative Computer Law. We’d both gone out there for one of the big conferences they used to run at the time on the emerging issues in IT Law, which included a significant amount of Intellectual Property Law. So we spent a very stimulating week together in Arizona in 1985. We were able to talk about the subject and talk about its development. All I can remember about Gerald was that he was able to underline for me some of the key principles of Intellectual Property Law in so far as they related to the emerging field of Computer Law.
I’ve also mentioned the link I had with Jack Brown of Brown & Bain, the law firm out there. Jack visited my class in Arizona State University Law School to show the students the cardboard model of a computer that he took into the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in the famous Apple and Franklin case of 1980, which determined the legality of software within the domain of copyright laws more than patent law. That was an ambiguous issue at the time.
So my connection with Gerald and Jack enabled me to begin to understand much more about some of the fundamental issues of Intellectual Property, as they were emerging and challenging some of the technology, and to try to work out the relationship between Intellectual Property Law and the online world as it was emerging. That led to my joining the Copyright Committee of the British Computer Society in the early 1980’s. That was in the formative period of the passage of the Copyright Directive of the European Community at the time and the passage of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). So that brought together both academics, technologists, practitioners, people like Simon Charlton and Bryan Niblett, and enabled us to begin to advise the British Government and the European Commission on the development of the law. Subsequently, I was on the Legal Advisory Board of the European Commission which enabled us to further attend meetings as academics and give advice to that part of the Commission that was looking at things like the development of the Software Directive.
Facilitator: What kind of issues were being discussed at that time?
Prof. Steve Saxby: Well, it was in terms of the area of copyright and the fundamental distinction between copyright and patent law and how did the two work together in some of the critical areas. Of course, this was the time that saw the emergence of Microsoft. There wasn’t any Google then. The concept of service providers was embryonic. So it was really about the nuts and bolts of how computers work, and where does the Intellectual Property reside. So fundamentally, the focus was on software and to a lesser extent it was on something called “expert systems”. This was the notion of Artificial Intelligence and where does the Intellectual Property reside in the development of expert system software. Does it reside in the people who wrote it or the people who subsequently develop and use it? And what about adaptation and alteration? What are the limitations? The legal regulation of computer software became quite a dominant theme.
Facilitator: How do you remember your first courses here? How did you start? And how were they received by colleagues and by the students?
Prof. Steve Saxby: They were received initially as a joke. So there I am as a young lecturer, arriving at the Faculty Board with a proposal to teach a course that I called Computer Law, and finding that the faculty thought it was a complete joke. “There is no such thing as ‘law and’ subjects”, I was told. You know you might as well teach law and tuning forks ; law and bouncers, law and computers. It doesn’t exist, so go away. Don’t be so stupid. So since I’d come to Southampton to teach that subject and research into it, I was a little bit upset, but also determined. With the support, particularly of Harry and to some extent from Gerald, who could see where Intellectual Property Law was going, I was encouraged to resubmit the following year, which I did in 1979. And they said to me, “Well, we do have a kind of half option. All right, go on then. Don’t teach it in the law school. Go to the library and teach it somewhere over there and go away.” So I taught that, I had about 20 or 30 students. They only had a hundred in each year here.
So having done that, I then came back and said, “Well, how about letting me teach as an option?” They must have had a shortage of options, because they agreed that I could teach it as a full option in the final year. Well the first year of teaching it in 1980, I had 50% of the final year doing it and that continued to grow. I had half of the final year interested in taking my course and so how could they argue? How could they tell the students you shouldn’t be interested in that, you should do something else? So that’s when it began. However, and this is disappointing to some extent, the process of embedding it within Law took a very long time. Southampton is much more of a science and engineering institution. So I think to some extent, they couldn’t see connections between Law and Electronics and Computer Science. So we tended to be a little bit isolationist in our subjects. But it didn’t stop me developing the subject, commencing research and excavating the jurisprudence of I.T. Law, which was an essential task for all academics interested in the field in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Facilitator: What type of syllabus did you have at the beginning? How did you create a syllabus or an outline of the subject when there was no other course around and no textbook?
Prof. Steve Saxby: Well, you would simply have to sit down and sketch out the issues on the back of an envelope what were the issues. Then you’d have to go away and search for the materials that enable you to explore those issues. So if you think about it, you have the emergence in the early 1980’s, late 70’s of something called computer crime. So you would have to look into that. And I got to know one or two parliamentarians who were interested in computer misuse. There was a Conservative female MP, Emma Nicholson, who was introducing a Private Members’ Bill on computer crime and she got me involved. I found myself in the House of Commons one day with a draft Bill and she said to me, “Well, you can chair this meeting.” I’d thought I was just going to take part. There were judges, members of the security services, the police, the computer industry, IBM, and many other companies, and there was me with her kicking me under the table saying, “Deal with that point, deal with that point.” And that led to the Computer Misuse Act, 1980. So you just had to grab whatever you could that was out there. It was a bit like having to cook a meal for a group of people and you haven’t got a clue where to start. So you go out to the shops, look the meat counter, you look at the fish, you look at the vegetables and you try to make a meal without a recipe book. That’s how it was.
Facilitator: I think at some point semiconductor chips was a topic of interest to copyright lawyers.
Prof. Steve Saxby: Yes, the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act, 1985, in the United States. It never came to anything.
Facilitator: Yes. That’s what I meant. That there were topics that at some point were expected to become important but then didn’t.
Prof. Steve Saxby: Yes, there were many loss leaders, so to speak. We did think at some time that robots were going to suddenly appear on the scene. Well of course, they are still struggling even now to anything fundamental with robotics, although it is a growing field. Some things accelerated incredibly fast, others came, were thought of, but the technology and the thinking didn’t lead to any huge progress. Nobody could have possibly imagined that you could have a handheld device, which you’d carry around with you and that could perform all the functions that they do today in what we still quaintly call a mobile or cell phone! Nobody could have imagined that in 1970.
So you had some pretty straight lines. It was about software copyright. It was about the growing computer power with the silicon chip. Where would this lead? What kind of protections should exist? And of course, finally we haven’t even mentioned it, the Data Protection Act, 1984. That emerged because of concerns about privacy and it is still now the General Data Protection Regulation. It is still a huge problem and a huge subject and the boundary between privacy and access to information is still a very big subject. So that was one of the areas of major discussion back in the early 1980’s and late ‘70’s.
Facilitator: When did you see other courses starting to begin? For example, I think Queen Mary started with I.T in the late 80’s.
Prof. Steve Saxby: I’m not sure exactly when they started, but certainly I wouldn’t claim to be the only one. I do believe that mine was the first undergraduate course in Great Britain in the LLB when I introduced it in 1979. But clearly, you had people like Colin Tapper, who was working in the field before me and writing and researching at Oxford. At Queen Mary, clearly you had what became the Centre for Commercial Law studies and with Chris Millard, Chris Reed and Ian Walden and others who are working there. It became an extremely important base for the development of the subject.
Facilitator: Didn’t you also have some connection with Baker & McKenzie?

Prof. Steve Saxby: Yes. I haven’t mentioned that I founded an Encyclopedia with Sweet and Maxwell at about the same time as the journal, and that was contributed to from the very earliest stages by lawyers at Baker & McKenzie. There were others from Bird & Bird and later on from Bristows and other law firms, who rapidly saw the commercial potential of providing legal advice and expertise in this field. But of course there was Don Jerrard, who became Head of Intellectual Property at Baker & McKenzie, and who I’ve known for 30 years as a very, very good friend. He was a big influence in terms of helping me to understand from the practitioner perspective what this subject was all about, because it was unusual in the sense that it wasn’t an established field. How do you create a field and establish it from nothing? You have to talk to people, you’ve got to approach it from different angles; you’ve got to talk to practitioners, you’ve got to talk to other academics, and you’ve got to talk to scientists.

So there were people like Stephen Castell, who is a major figure even today in the field of expert witness testimony. There was a lady called Gillian Bull, whom I’m still in touch with, who transcended both the practitioner community and academic life. So you had to talk to people and build up your ideas and you had to create events and conferences that you could attend. We used to go regularly to meetings in Strasbourg and in Luxembourg, particularly through the Legal Advisory Board. That was the way you began to build up.

And I haven’t mentioned the late Professor Jon Bing, who was a similar massive influence in this field, particularly in terms of privacy. He was one of the co-founders of the Norwegian Research Centre for Computers and Law, which was one of the earliest centres in the world researching in this field. So you’ve got some landmark figures dotted around the globe, both in the practitioner and academic community, who could see the convergence between law and technology coming, but didn’t know whether that would be a nuclear explosion of uncertainty or whether it would be something that would seamlessly connect and gravitate towards a legal framework that worked. I think that in the end it was a mixture of the two what actually happened.
Facilitator: Did you have any connection with information science and library people like Charles Oppenheim or people who were at City University?
Prof. Steve Saxby: We did in the early years of BILETA, British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association, who had folks from City University. So I remember that. That connection petered out for me when the interest led by Abdul Paliwala of Warwick University shifted BILETA more towards the use of technology in the classroom than the legal issues of IT. So we began to look elsewhere. The Society for Computers and Law was very influential, and I was part of that. I used to write a regular piece from Arizona about the law. And at one time, I even published some of their regular newsletters. But we all tended to have our particular sphere of interest and we left each other alone to some extent.
Graham Greenleaf from Australia, from University of New South Wales, Sydney, also came very strongly into picture. Graham was the founder of AustLII, and a huge figure in the development of legal databases and legal information access. He was also conducting research and was regularly over in the United Kingdom. So you’ve got figureheads like Graham Greenleaf, Jon Bing, Gerald Dworkin, Christopher Millard, Ian Walden, Jeremy Phillips and of course Harry who began to come together. And you gradually build up an understanding of what they are doing, the work they are doing and papers begin to emerge, books get exchanged, work gets done, research comes along. The European Commission got involved with the Legal Advisory Board. Legal measures were coming from the European Union. The British Government were legislating on data protection, computer crime and other areas. So you began to have ingredients for the subject to emerge.
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