Copyright's Technological Interdependencies

58 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2014 Last revised: 12 Jul 2019

See all articles by Clark D. Asay

Clark D. Asay

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: September 5, 2014


Copyright was initially conceptualized as a means to free creative parties from dependency on public and private patrons such as monarchs, churches, and well-to-do private citizens. By achieving independence for creative parties, the theory ran, copyright led to greater production of a more diverse set of creative works.

But this lingering conception of copyright is both inaccurate and harmful. It is inaccurate because, in today’s world, creative parties are increasingly dependent upon “Technological Patronage” from the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, and others. Thus, rather than being alternatives or adversaries, copyright and Technological Patrons are increasingly interdependent in facilitating both creative and innovative activity. It is harmful because, by overemphasizing copyright’s role in spurring creative activity, the traditional view of copyright tends to polarize debates about how best to address key copyright questions.

Instead, copyright is more accurately understood as an interdependent part of a broader creative system that facilitates both creative and innovative activities. This Article reviews several examples of this interdependence. It also highlights this interdependence by examining how technology companies are solving some of copyright law’s most pressing issues.

Overall, this interdependent view of copyright provides a better framework for assessing the role of copyright, its technological complements, and proposed solutions to issues that relate to both creative and innovative activities. This Article also suggests that copyright and patent laws would be well served by doctrinal adjustments that better reflect these interdependencies. Indeed, the Constitutional provision authorizing intellectual property laws arguably supports such efforts.

Keywords: copyright, innovation, technology, IP, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Asay, Clark D., Copyright's Technological Interdependencies (September 5, 2014). 18 Stanford Technology Law Review 189 (2015). Available at SSRN:

Clark D. Asay (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

540 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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