At La Verne Law, students can learn about statutes that attempt to regulate video game sex and violence, study classic, iconic cases involving Atari, Nintendo, Sony, Sega and Universal, and discuss patent and copyright infringement in the multi-billion-dollar video game industry.
They can also take a primer on math, physics, and finance for lawyers.
If those sound like atypical law school classes, there’s reason for that. Not only was La Verne Law Professor Ashley S. Lipson the first to teach those courses, he wrote the first casebooks.
Lipson was putting together the syllabus for his Computer Game Law course in 2002 when he realized there were no casebooks on the subject. He decided to write one, partnering with Robert D. Brain of Loyola Law School.
“In such a diverse and rapidly-developing field, there needed to be a reliable source of precedents and existing statutes to which students, lawyers, and programmers could turn,” said Lipson, who has taught at La Verne Law since 1998.
The book, Computer and Video Game Law: Cases, Statutes, Forms, Problems and Materials, covers nearly every aspect of video and computer game law, including product history and development, intellectual property protection, commercial exploitation, and product regulation.
The book contains real-world case examples that illustrate industry-specific legal concerns such as character copyright infringement, game cartridge regulations, even end user injuries.
A key focus is industry regulation, particularly the statutes that attempt to regulate video game sex and violence (which Lipson sarcastically refers to as “sexolence.”) Lipson, who has written several articles on both topics, explores the history of statutes regulating arcades and software, as well as the industry’s self- regulation.
Lipson enjoys programming in his spare time and has written nine books and more than 70 published articles. He admits that his first loves were math and physics. That’s part of the reason why he is so passionate about his course called Mathematics, Physics, and Finance for Lawyers. He also sees a need for it.
“Most law school applicants are totally deficient with respect to mathematics, physics and numbers in general,” Lipson said. “As a matter of fact, a lot of law students will jokingly say, ‘If I could do math and physics, why would I be in law school?’ The truth of the matter is that the practice of the law involves numbers very, very heavily.”
“While mathematicians and physicists spend their lives simplifying complicated matters, lawmakers and jurists spend their lives complicating simple matters,” Lipson said. It’s crucial that lawyers understand numbers.
“I did a tremendous amount of research to try to cover all the ways that numbers are used to deceive and cheat people, especially in the court,” he said. “Most would be surprised by the degree of subtle and not-so-subtle deception that we’re exposed to daily.”
Lipson is also the author, creator, and programmer of the Objection! computer series, a teaching device used by law schools, governmental agencies, and judges across the country. The series offers players unique simulations in courtroom settings; witnesses are asked questions just as if they were in a real trial. The Objection! series is the first of its kind ever to be accredited for mandatory continuing legal education.
His latest efforts include new games designed to improve the law student’s expertise and test taking skills with respect to doctrinal courses. It is, according to Lipson, important that La Verne Law lead the way in cutting-edge technology, not only substantively, but also in the manner in which material is delivered to the student. While Lipson intends to continue writing, his current focus has turned to programming.
Lipson is also completing a unique new game (titled “Grand Theft Country“) designed solely to deliver editorial comment. “For us, editorials are read, heard or viewed,” said Lipson. “For tomorrow’s generation, they may be played.”