Copyright for Literate Robots

25 Pages Posted: 17 May 2015 Last revised: 15 Mar 2016

Date Written: May 15, 2015


Almost by accident, copyright has concluded that copyright law is for humans only: reading performed by computers doesn't count as infringement. Conceptually, this makes sense: copyright's ideal of romantic readership involves humans writing for other humans. But in an age when more and more manipulation of copyrighted works is carried out by automated processes, this split between human reading (infringement) and robotic reading (exempt) has odd consequences and creates its own tendencies toward a copyright system in which humans occupy a surprisingly peripheral place. This essay describes the shifts in fair use law that brought us here and reflects on the role of robots in copyright's cosmology.

Keywords: copyright, robots, artificial intelligence

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James and Grimmelmann, James, Copyright for Literate Robots (May 15, 2015). 101 Iowa Law Review 657 (2016), U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-16, 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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