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Freedom of Speech and Injunctions in Intellectual Property Cases


Mark A. Lemley


Stanford Law School

Eugene Volokh


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

April 1, 1998

Duke Law Journal, Vol. 48, p. 147, 1998

Abstract:     
Preliminary injunctions against libel, obscenity, and other kinds of speech are generally considered unconstitutional prior restraints. Never mind that a libel may inflict truly irreparable harm on you: The most you can hope for is damages, or perhaps a permanent injunction after final adjudication -- not preliminary relief.

And yet in copyright and other intellectual property cases, preliminary injunctions are routine. We argue that the prior restraint doctrine has something to say about that, too. Though copyright law (like libel and obscenity law), is a constitutionally permissible speech restriction, the "First Amendment Due Process" rule against prior restraints applies even to such permissible restrictions.

We argue that preliminary injunctions in copyright cases are generally unconstitutional; the one exception is cases where there's no controversy over substantial similarity of expression or fair use (for instance, where the question turns only on whether defendant had the requisite license). We also argue the same about right of publicity cases, trademark cases, and trade secret cases, except possibly cases (such as many trademark cases) that involve commercial advertising. We believe this conclusion is dictated by the Court's prior restraint doctrine, and also makes good First Amendment policy sense.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 110

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Date posted: May 10, 1998 ; Last revised: February 6, 2011

Suggested Citation

Lemley, Mark A. and Volokh, Eugene, Freedom of Speech and Injunctions in Intellectual Property Cases (April 1, 1998). Duke Law Journal, Vol. 48, p. 147, 1998. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=85608 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.85608

Contact Information

Mark A. Lemley
Stanford Law School ( email )
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
Eugene Volokh (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-206-3926 (Phone)
310-206-6489 (Fax)
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