Wu, TimothyOn Copyright's Authorship Policy 2007
Columbia Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Working Paper Group, Paper Number 07-148 (23 pages)


Argues that authors are the agents of decentralisation in the copyright system, and one of the ways that copyright can adapt to cultural and technological change.

Incumbent disseminators will favour their mode of production over other (newer) models, possibly stagnating the market. “Copyright, like any law, always risks becoming a form of protection for the industries of the present at the expense of those in the future.” (p16). “The goal of copyright's authorship policy should be neutrality: a system that declines to favor any mode of production over others, on the premise that optimization in favor of one mode will deoptimize for others.” (p4).

“The best reason for vesting copyright in authors is that such vesting of rights can be used to seed new modes of production for creative works.” (p9). “A reason to have copyright owned by authors is as a potential check on the over-centralization of decision-making in copyright-related markets.” (p10).
Considers the development in England with the Statute of Anne - “For at least fifty years the incumbent publishers successfully enforced England’s copyright law, the 1710 Statute of Anne, to block their rivals. But by the late 18th century, the Statute of Anne was interpreted in an innovative way: to vest copyright in authors as opposed to publishers…The House of Lords’ ingenious idea in [Donaldson v Beckett 1 Eng. Rep. 837 (H.L. 1774)] was to use authors as a wedge to force open competition in book publishing. Their interpretation of the Statute of Anne made it hard for the publisher’s cartel to survive. While authors still had far less market power than publishers, they had at least the capacity to take their copyrights with them and market their works through competing publishers. The basic concept is that by giving the legal rights to the author, the author became an independent, vested economic entity that made competing modes of production possible.” (pp18-19).

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