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Full-Text Articles in Law

Silent Similarity, Jessica D. Litman Apr 2015

Silent Similarity, Jessica D. Litman


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


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 …

The Public Domain, Jessica D. Litman Jan 1990

The Public Domain, Jessica D. Litman


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," …