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  • Writer's pictureLewis Sorokin

Watching the BIRDIE: Applying Copyright to Golf Courses

A new bill in Congress would amend the Copyright Act to protect golf courses as architectural works under copyright law. It’s called the BIRDIE Act. Seems reasonable enough, but why a carve-out excluding mini golf courses? Are tiny windmills and spiral ramps not worthy of the same protection under copyright law as artfully-designed bunkers and lakes?


On a more serious note, the backronym "Bolstering Intellectual Rights against Digital Infringement Enhancement" leans directly into the pressing issue of protecting IP rights from overreaching technology, yet the bill does nothing of the sort. The closest impact on digital technology I can infer from this bill is to make it tougher for Garmin and others to add golf course maps to their smartphone apps and smart watches. Perhaps that opens up new business opportunities for golf courses, but is this the most pressing intellectual property issue of the day?


Clearly not. In this moment, when billion dollar business models are based on the wholesale disregard of copyright law, Congress could do much more to truly bolster IP rights and protect rightsholders. Instead, thanks to this bill, our legislature will be spending time deciding whether to protect golf courses under statute. As this bill progresses in Congress, we’ll be watching the BIRDIE.



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