Copyright and the Architecture of Digital Delivery

18 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2014 Last revised: 16 Jul 2016

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: September 25, 2014


Copyright law is largely a response to new media: from the printing press through radio, photocopiers, and digital computers, changes in copyright reflect the increased public availability of information reproduction technologies. But while the exclusive rights conferred by copyright are shaped by the technologies they respond to, the opposite is also true: technology is shaped in response to the requirements of copyright, altering or innovating designs to either avoid or accommodate the demands of the law. Nowhere has this dynamic interaction been more apparent than in the 2001 copyright decision against Napster and in the succeeding impact of that case. The Napster case and its progeny reveal a pattern of creative “inventing around” previous definitions of formal copyright boundaries. Such interactive re-imagining of technical and legal standards continues in current legal controversies regarding digital delivery systems such as streaming media, digital lockers, and “cloud” services, extending the pattern present in Napster and its progeny into current copyright policy.

Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, Aereo, Napster, Grokster, design, streaming media, cloud, patent, inventing around, music, MP3

JEL Classification: L82, L86, O31, O32, O33, O34

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., Copyright and the Architecture of Digital Delivery (September 25, 2014). 19 First Monday (2014); UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-57. Available at SSRN:

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

4500 Berkeley Place
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-9325 (Phone)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics