The Specter of Copyism v. Blockheaded Authors: How User-Generated Content Affects Copyright Policy

21 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2008 Last revised: 21 Nov 2014

Tom W. Bell

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

Technological advances, because they have radically lowered the costs of creating and distributing expressive works, have shaken the foundations of copyright policy. Once, those who held copyrights in sound recordings, movies, television shows, magazines, and the like could safely assume that the public would do little more than passively consume. Now, though, the masses have seized (peacefully acquired, really) the means of reproducing copyright works, making infringement cheap, easy, and, notwithstanding the law's dictates, widespread. Copyright holders thus understandably fear that their customers have begun to treat expressive works like common property, free for all to use. That, the specter of copyism, does risk upsetting copyright policy, leading to a market failure in the production of expressive works. Even as we recognize that threat, however, we should also appreciate that technological advances have greatly reduced the costs of creating and distributing new works of authorship. Thanks to that deflation, we can increasingly count on authors who care little about the lucre of copyright - blockheads, as Samuel Johnson called them - to supply us with original expressive works. This paper describes the economic push and pull between distributed infringement and distributed authorship - between copyism and blockhead-created content, we might say - and how copyright policy should mediate those forces.

Keywords: copyright, user-generated content

JEL Classification: D42, D62, H41, K39, L12, L82, O34

Suggested Citation

Bell, Tom W., The Specter of Copyism v. Blockheaded Authors: How User-Generated Content Affects Copyright Policy (2008). 10 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law 841 (2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1089589

Tom W. Bell (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2503 (Phone)
714-628-2576 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tomwbell.com

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