21 Pages Posted: 25 May 2008 Last revised: 30 Sep 2008


This essay juxtaposes three contexts in which lawyers grapple with originality: copyright law, precedent-based legal reasoning, and law review publishing. I compare the dynamics of originality in each of these contexts. I focus on the literary genre of rewriting and its encounter with copyright law. I examine the interaction of rewriting and originality in one particular instance of judicial precedent-following. Finally, I reflect on the relation between preemption and citation in legal scholarship. In each of these contexts, originality and unoriginality form two sides of a double-edged sword: a paradox that derives from the application of lawyerly habits of mind to the unstable concept of originality.

Keywords: originality, copyright, rewriting, literature, appropriation, precedent, The Wind Done Gone, law reviews, preemption

Suggested Citation

Gersen, Jeannie Suk, Originality. Harvard Law Review, Vol. 115, p. 1988, 2002, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1136322

Jeannie Suk Gersen (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://hls.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/10869/SukGersen

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics