Three Theories of Copyright in Ratings

14 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 851 (2012)

NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No.. 12/13 #44

38 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012

Date Written: May 19, 2012


Are ratings copyrightable? The answer depends on what ratings are. As a history of copyright in ratings shows, some courts treat them as unoriginal facts, some treat them as creative opinions, and some treat them as troubling self-fulfilling prophecies. The push and pull among these three theories explains why ratings are such a difficult boundary case for copyright, both doctrinally and theoretically. The fact-opinion tension creates a perverse incentive for raters: the less useful a rating, the more copyrightable it looks. Self-fulfilling ratings are the most troubling of all: copyright’s usual balance between incentives and access becomes indeterminate when ratings shape reality, rather than vice versa. All three theories are necessary for a complete understanding of ratings.

Keywords: copyright, ratings, rankings, fact/opinion

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James and Grimmelmann, James, Three Theories of Copyright in Ratings (May 19, 2012). 14 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 851 (2012), NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No.. 12/13 #44, Available at SSRN:

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)

Cornell Tech ( email )

2 West Loop Road
New York, NY 10044
United States

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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