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Professor, School of Law

Professor Emeritus



Professor Abrams began his teaching career as an Associate Professor of Law at University of Detroit (now University of Detroit Mercy) in 1977.  Based on his teaching, scholarship, and professional involvement he earned the rank of full Professor in 1986 serving the School until his passing in 2020. To broaden his teaching experience he served as a Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law (1984-1985) and Visiting Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School during fall 1990.  Prior to joining Detroit Mercy he worked at the Abrams, Mix & London law firm and served as an Assistant Public Defender, Cook County, Illinois.  Professor Abrams received bar admissions to the State of Illinois (1966), State of Michigan (1979) and the United States Supreme Court (1970).


Phyllis Crocker, Dean, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in her nomination letter notes “Professor Abrams distinguished himself as an engaged teacher, accomplished scholar, and committed participant in law school and university committees and professional organizations.”  He was determined to be a good teacher. 


During his years of service within the School of Law, Professor Abrams taught sixteen different courses from the first-year Contracts to upper level courses in Commercial Law (Secure Transactions, Sales, Negotiable Instruments) and in Estates and Trusts (Future Interests).”  Intellectual Property, Copyright, Trademarks and Trade Identity, Entertainment Law, Law and the Visual Arts, Internet Law, and Computer Law were additional courses taught. 


He taught large classes of sixty to small seminars of five. His seminar subjects were Selected Problems in Copyright Law (Fair Use) and Selected Problems in Copyright Law (International Copyright Law).  “In seminars he created his own course materials and used textbooks in other courses – always supplementing when needed to discuss a particular ethical issue or introduce a recent US Supreme Course case or new statute.”


According to Dean Crocker “The best testament of his teaching is the number of graduates who consider him a mentor, who still were calling or emailing him with questions or updates on their careers.  He always responded.  On January 30, 2020 I attended his memorial service where, in the course of ten minutes, five graduates shared this kind of story with me.”


Professor Abrams distinguished himself in the subject of intellectual property, especially copyright.  The nomination letter noted Professor Abrams “was the author of The Law of Copyright, a regularly updated treatise that is one of the most influential in the field.  The treatise has been cited in dozens of judicial opinions and in more than 750 secondary sources.  In addition to revising and updating the treatise annually, Professor Abrams regularly wrote [articles] on copyright law.”  Three of the most influential articles are “The Historic Foundation of American Copyright Law: Exploding the Myth of Common Law Copyright” published in the Wayne Law Review in 1983; “Who’s Sorry Now? Termination Rights and the Derivative Works Exception” published in University of Detroit Law Review in 1985; and “Copyright’s First Compulsory License” published in Santa Clara Computer & High Tech Law Journal in 2020.


The curriculum vitae provides further information on the books, journal articles, chapters in books, book reviews, and Amicus Briefs written by Professor Abrams.  Some of these include journal articles “Putting Erie on the Right Track” in University of Pittsburgh Law Review; “Authors’ Rights in Light of New Technology” American Journal of Comparative Law; and “Copyright, Misappropriation and Preemption: Constitutional and Statutory Limits of State Law Protection” in Supreme Court Review


Chapters in books include “Standards of Qualification for the Protection of Literacy and Artistic Property,” “Legal Rights in Musical Compositions,” and “Current Developments in Copyright Law: The Subject Matter Issues.” Amicus Briefs filed are: Feltner v. Columbia Picture Television, Inc. which addressed “the availability of a jury trial in an action for statutory damages under the Copyright Act.”  Williams v. Gaye case “whether Blurred Lines written, recorded and produced by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke infringed Got To Give It Up, written and recorded by the late Marvin Gaye.”


Service to an individual’s department, university, and professional organizations are a responsibility of a faculty member of the School of Law.  Service means both committee assignments and presentations. As written by the School of Law Dean, “he served on almost every [school] committee including Petitions, Library, Faculty Hiring, Faculty Development, and Academic Standards.  Although it is rare for a law professor to serve on a University committee, he served on the Conflict of Interest Review Committee,” was a Law School Representative to the University Faculty Development Team, and an ad hoc Committee on IP policies.


Professor Abrams notes many presentations in his vitae.  As would be expected, since his major field of expertise was copyright, all the presentations listed involved an aspect of copyright.  Examples of his presentations of interest are Eldred, Golan and the Soul of Copyright; Preemption Under Section 301 of the Copyright Act: the Extra Element Fallacy; Notes on Petrella and Aereo; Current Practices in the Music Industry; The First Sale Doctrine after Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley &. Sons, Inc.; CREATe Copyright History Event; I’m Not a Businessman, I’m a Business, Man; and Intellectual Property Issues for Associations.


To fulfill his faculty responsibility for involvement in professional organizations, Professor Abrams served as Director of the American Society for Comparative Law, Inc.  (formerly American Association for the Comparative Study of Law) for twelve years (1991-2003).  He served on two editorial Boards, American Journal of Comparative Law from 1996 to present and the Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. from 1997 to present.  For the Copyright Society of the United States he was a Trustee (1982-1985, 1992-1994) and was on the Executive Committee (1984-1985).  For the Intellectual Property Law Institute he was a Director from 1987 to present, Vice President (2004-2012), and President (2013 to present). 


Professor Abrams was a participant in the Association of American Law Schools section on Intellectual Property Law as Council Member and Secretary and the section on Law and the Arts as Council Member, Chair-Elect, and Chair.  He was also a member of the American Bar Association section on Intellectual Property and section on Entertainment and Sports Law.  With Lawyers for the Creative Environment he served as a member of panel of attorneys providing pro bono legal services for artists and arts organizations.  With the State Bar of Michigan, Professor Abrams was a Council Member for Arts, Communications, Entertainment and Sports Section and Council Member for the Intellectual Property Law Section.


Professor Abrams earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan (1963) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1966.  While working on the law degree he served on the Moot Court Executive Committee, the National Moot Court Team, and an elected position on the university-wide student government.  He received the Karl Llewellyn Trophy for the outstanding performance in the Second Year Moot Court and the Edward M. Hinton Prize for the outstanding performance in the Third Year Moot Court.


The final paragraph of the nomination letter it was written “Professor Abrams was a dedicated teacher, an accomplished scholar and good community member.  In 1984 and 1992 he received the James T. Barnes, Sr. Award, voted on by faculty and students, which recognizes one professor for their outstanding teaching, scholarship and public service.”


Professor Abrams nomination for Professor Emeritus was approved and conferred posthumously by Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi, President of University of Detroit Mercy on August 17, 2020.

University of Detroit Mercy

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