Copyright and the Rule of Reason

Christopher Sprigman
2009 Journal on Telecommunications and High Technology Law  
COPYRIGHT AND THE RULE OF REASON 319 higher than competitive price. We hope that this lure will stimulate investment in creative works. Of course, stimulating the production of more creative works is not the only thing required to "promote progress." We must also worry about access to the new works we have incentivized authors to produce-artistic and literary works are valuable because they create our culture, but they do so only if they are widely accessible. Technological developments,
more » ... ng, most importantly, the rise of digital platforms and the Internet, have lowered dramatically the cost of distributing many creative works, thereby lowering the cost of access. But too-strong copyright law is a threat to the increased access that technology would otherwise permit: by raising the price of commercially-valuable new works, copyright threatens to restrict access. This is true in the simple sense of pricing people out of access to works that they would be able to afford in a competitive market. But there is another, very important element to access-i.e., the ability of creators to use pre-existing works as building blocks for new works. Copyright law interferes with this process, and raises the cost of creating new works. For these reasons, copyright law must seek a balance between private incentives to create new works, and public access to the works created. To pursue balance, copyright law cannot simply provide rightsholders with complete control over their works, and it never has. So, for example, although copyright owners have the right to control the initial distribution of their work, under copyright law's first sale doctrine, owners of copyrighted works are and long have been unable to restrict the price or terms at which their works are re-sold. 8 Similarly, copyright owners' rights have long been limited by a general (albeit narrowlyfocused) exemption from liability for uses deemed "fair." 9 And of course copyright rights have always been subject to time limits-the Constitution's "limited Times" proviso proscribes perpetual copyright, 10 and a term that ends, thereby eventually sending works into the public domain where they will forever remain as "free as the air to common use", 11 is an important way in which American law has balanced private copyright's reformalization -i.e., for the reintroduction into the copyright law of a set of copyright formalities such as registration, notice, and renewal -as a means for focusing copyright on the commercially valuable works for which property rights are salient. See
dblp:journals/jthtl/Sprigman09 fatcat:5lslwdwzpzbihihl6qatv6tdhq