Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, March 11, 2011

Smith looks to career in international copyright law

Addison Smith

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After graduating, Addison Smith became a performance test engineer at Epic.

As a project assistant, Smith worked with professor Susan Yackee on a statistical analysis of proposed federal regulations to determine how much change between draft-final rules and final rules can be attributed to lobbying activity by interest groups. The data are from the Office of Management and Budget and the Unified Agenda.

In summer 2011 Smith interned in a Thai law firm in Bangkok. "I did field research on sales of counterfeit goods, collecting evidence for future trademark enforcement actions," Smith says. "I hope to transplant some of the methods and techniques I learned from Thailand to China, where enforcement is less developed but is expected to catch up rapidly over the coming years."

Addison Smith has found a way to bring together his diverse interests: a dual degree in international public affairs and law with a career goal of working in international copyright law.

Smith first pursued an undergraduate major in computer information systems but took time off to work full time. He returned to college several years later and ended up graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2009 with a major in East Asian studies, Chinese language and history, with the intent of going on to law school.

He decided to consider including public affairs in his career plans after learning about Robert M. La Follette in a history class. "Fightin' Bob did what he thought was right, even when his idea was unpopular and even when his stance might have lost him an election," Smith says.

When Smith looked at law schools, the legacy of Wisconsin's Progressive governor and member of Congress, coupled with a scholarship from the La Follette School, settled him on staying in Madison. He is almost two years into the four-year dual degree program.

After his first year at La Follette, Smith spent two weeks in China at Nanjing University's China Studies Summer School, his second trip to China. He and his classmates explored the relationships between rural and urban China. They spent five days in the field talking to locals. "Some of the programs were clearly designed to impress foreigners," Smith says. "For example, one town held a pageant that glorified the village's contributions to China's culture and economy. The propaganda was very interesting to see."

For his career, Smith hopes to combine his knowledge of China with his legal skills and work on international copyright issues related to piracy, a developing field, given China's booming economy. "U.S. companies have to have Chinese business partners who hold the necessary licenses," Smith says. "China is much more likely to crack down on illegal copies of videos and computer software if Chinese nationals are demanding reform, as opposed to Americans."

Smith expects to see China's economy transition from manufacturing to one rooted in information, which will make the protection of knowledge more important, especially in relation to other countries.

At La Follette, Smith has appreciated the program's flexibility, which has let him pursue his interest in game theory and its application to political science. "Game theory helps us design solutions to problems," Smith says, "just like policy analysis does. Game theory and policy analysis studies both attempt to model how people will respond to policies, but they vary in what type of behavior they assume. Game theory is based on strategic behavior."

In the long term, Smith may run for political office, where he could take on complex domestic issues like campaign finance reform, he says. "I'd like to be in a position to be encouraging politicians and the public to put sound public policy ahead of party ideology and ideology in general."

Last modified on Saturday, November 15, 2014