Economies of Desire: Fair Use and Marketplace Assumptions

35 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2009


At the moment that “incentives” for creation meet “preferences” for the same, the economic account of copyright loses its explanatory power. This piece explores the ways in which the desire to create can be excessive, beyond rationality, and free from the need for economic incentive. Psychological and sociological concepts can do more to explain creative impulses than classical economics. As a result, a copyright law that treats creative activity as a product of economic incentives can miss the mark and harm what it aims to promote. The idea of abundance - even overabundance - in creativity can help define the proper scope of copyright law, especially in fair use. I explore these ideas by examining how creators think about what they do. As it turns out, commercially and critically successful creators resemble creators who avoid the general marketplace and create unauthorized derivative works (fanworks). The role of love, desire, and other passions in creation has lessons for the proper aims of copyright, the meaning of fair use, and conceptions of exploitation in markets.

Keywords: copyright, creativity, incentives

JEL Classification: A14, K20

Suggested Citation

Tushnet, Rebecca, Economies of Desire: Fair Use and Marketplace Assumptions. William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 51, No. 513, 2009, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 1498542, Available at SSRN:

Rebecca Tushnet (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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