Readers' Copyright

30 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2011 Last revised: 2 Jul 2011

See all articles by Jessica Litman

Jessica Litman

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: March 2, 2011


This essay is part of a project intended to help reclaim copyright for readers, listeners, and viewers. A system of copyright protection makes little sense unless it is designed to encourage the use and enjoyment of the works it induces authors to create and publishers to disseminate. I argue that a clear-eyed examination of copyright's history reveals that solicitude for readers and members of the audience is, in fact, deeply encoded in copyright's DNA. Recently, readers' interests have faded in apparent importance in the copyright scheme in ways that have unbalanced the copyright system, and undermined public support for copyright law. In response to growing criticism of copyright, some of copyright law's most ardent supporters have insisted that users have no rights, should have no rights, and have never had rights in the copyright scheme. That approach, I suggest, is making the problem worse, not better. Copyright seems out of whack because it has forgotten its most important constituents. In this essay, I take a series of very small baby steps in the direction of recognizing rights and liberties within the copyright system for readers, listeners, viewers and other members of the copyright audience.

Keywords: Copyright, Fair Use

Suggested Citation

Litman, Jessica, Readers' Copyright (March 2, 2011). Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, Vol. 58, p. 325, 2011, U of Michigan Law & Econ, Empirical Legal Studies Center Paper No. 11-003, U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 231, Available at SSRN:

Jessica Litman (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States


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