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Imaginary Bottles, Jessica Litman Aug 2019

Imaginary Bottles, Jessica Litman

Articles

This essay, written for a symposium commemorating John Perry Barlow, who died on February 7, 2018, revisits Barlow's 1994 essay for WIRED magazine, "The Economy of Ideas: A Framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age (everything you know about intellectual property is wrong)." Barlow observed that networked digital technology posed massive and fundamental challenges for the markets for what Barlow termed “the work we do with our minds” and for the intellectual property laws designed to shape those markets. He predicted that those challenges would melt extant intellectual property systems into a smoking heap within a decade, and …


What We Don't See When We See Copyright As Property, Jessica Litman Nov 2018

What We Don't See When We See Copyright As Property, Jessica Litman

Articles

For all of the rhetoric about the central place of authors in the copyright scheme, our copyright laws in fact give them little power and less money. Intermediaries own the copyrights, and are able to structure licenses so as to maximise their own revenue while shrinking their pay-outs to authors. Copyright scholars have tended to treat this point superficially, because – as lawyers – we take for granted that copyrights are property; property rights are freely alienable; and the grantee of a property right stands in the shoes of the original holder. I compare the 1710 Statute of Anne, which …


Silent Similarity, Jessica D. Litman Apr 2015

Silent Similarity, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

From 1909 to 1930, U.S. courts grappled with claims by authors of prose works claiming that works in a new art form—silent movies—had infringed their copyrights. These cases laid the groundwork for much of modern copyright law, from their broad expansion of the reproduction right, to their puzzled grappling with the question how to compare works in dissimilar media, to their confusion over what sort of evidence should be relevant to show copyrightability, copying and infringement. Some of those cases—in particular, Nichols v. Universal Pictures—are canonical today. They are not, however, well-understood. In particular, the problem at the heart of …


Campbell At 21/Sony At 31, Jessica D. Litman Jan 2015

Campbell At 21/Sony At 31, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

When copyright lawyers gather to discuss fair use, the most common refrain is its alarming expansion. Their distress about fair use’s enlarged footprint seems completely untethered from any appreciation of the remarkable increase in exclusive copyright rights. In the nearly forty years since Congress enacted the 1976 copyright act, the rights of copyright owners have expanded markedly. Copyright owners’ demands for further expansion continue unabated. Meanwhile, they raise strident objections to proposals to add new privileges and exceptions to the statute to shelter non-infringing uses that might be implicated by their expanded rights. Copyright owners have used the resulting uncertainty …


Readers' Copyright, Jessica D. Litman Jan 2011

Readers' Copyright, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

My goal in this project is to reclaim copyright for readers (and listeners, viewers, and other members of the audience). I think, and will try to persuade you, that the gradual and relatively recent disappearance of readers’ interests from the core of copyright’s perceived goals has unbalanced the copyright system. It may have prompted, at least in part, the scholarly critique of copyright that has fueled copyright lawyers’ impression that “so many in academia side with the pirates.” It may also be responsible for much of the deterioration in public support for copyright. I argue here that copyright seems out …


Real Copyright Reform, Jessica D. Litman Jan 2010

Real Copyright Reform, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

A copyright system is designed to produce an ecology that nurtures the creation, dissemination, and enjoyment of works of authorship. When it works well, it encourages creators to generate new works, assists intermediaries in disseminating them widely, and supports readers, listeners, and viewers in enjoying them. If the system poses difficult entry barriers to creators, imposes demanding impediments on intermediaries, or inflicts burdensome conditions and hurdles on readers, then the system fails to achieve at least some of its purposes. The current U.S. copyright statute is flawed in all three respects. In this Article, I explore how the current copyright …


The Copyright Revision Act Of 2026, Jessica D. Litman Jan 2009

The Copyright Revision Act Of 2026, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

As someone who teaches and writes about copyright law, I end up straddling two different worlds. On the one hand, I really do need to understand and be able to teach the details of the copyright statute and the case law construing it. My students need to know the difference between a public performance right under Section 106(4) and a public performance right by digital audio transmission under Section 106(6); they need to know the difference between the statutory licenses available under Section 114 and the statutory licenses available under Section 115.' So, I need to have all of those …


Lawful Personal Use, Jessica D. Litman Jan 2007

Lawful Personal Use, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

Despite having sued more than 20,000 of its customers,2 the recording industry wants the world to know that it has no complaint with personal use. Copyright lawyers of all stripes agree that copyright includes a free zone in which individuals may make personal use of copyrighted works without legal liability.3 Unlike other nations, though, the United States hasn't drawn the borders of its lawful personal use zone by statute.4 Determining the circumstances under which personal use of copyrighted works will be deemed lawful is essentially a matter of inference and analogy, and differently striped copyright lawyers will differ vehemently on …


The Public Domain, Jessica D. Litman Jan 1990

The Public Domain, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

This article examines the public domain by looking at the gulf between what authors really do and the way the law perceives them. Part I outlines the basics of copyright as a species of property and introduces the public domain's place within the copyright scheme. Copyright grants authors" ' rights modeled on real property in order to encourage authorship by providing authors with markets in which they can seek compensation for their creations. Because parcels of authorship are intangible, however, the law faces *problems in determining the ownership and boundaries of its property grants. In particular, the concept of "originality," …


Copyright Legislation And Technological Change, Jessica D. Litman Jan 1989

Copyright Legislation And Technological Change, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

Throughout its history, copyright law has had difficulty accommodating technological change. Although the substance of copyright legislation in this century has evolved from meetings among industry representatives whose avowed purpose was to draft legislation that provided for the future,6 the resulting statutes have done so poorly. The language of copyright statutes has been phrased in fact-specific language that has grown obsolete as new modes and mediums of copyrightable expression have developed. Whatever copyright statute has been on the books has been routinely, and justifiably, criticized as outmoded.7 In this Article, I suggest that the nature of the legislative process we …


Copyright, Compromise And Legislative History, Jessica D. Litman Jan 1987

Copyright, Compromise And Legislative History, Jessica D. Litman

Articles

Copyright law gives authors a "property right." But what kind of property right? Indeed, a property right in what? The answers to these questions should be apparent from a perusal of title seventeen of the United States Code-the statute that confers the "property" right.' Courts, however, have apparently found title seventeen an unhelpful guide. For the most part, they look elsewhere for answers, relying primarily on prior courts' constructions of an earlier and very different statute on the same subject. 2