Copyright as a Platform for Artistic and Creative Freedom

18 Pages Posted: 9 May 2016 Last revised: 6 Jul 2016

See all articles by Matthew Barblan

Matthew Barblan

Assocation of American Publishers (AAP)

Date Written: May 6, 2016


A growing conventional wisdom argues that copyright restricts artists’ ability to fulfill their creative potential and to express themselves freely in their art. But this conventional wisdom misunderstands the role that copyright plays in fostering and enabling artistic freedom. To understand the relationship between copyright and artistic freedom, it helps to consider the broader context in which copyright enables artists and creators to thrive. While copyright restricts artistic freedom in the narrow sense that it places limitations on artists’ ability to incorporate anything they want into their art without permission, this restriction is only one side of the equation; on the other side, copyright plays a critical role in fostering artistic and creative independence.

By securing to artists a property right in the fruits of their productive labors, copyright empowers artists to pursue success in whichever markets and through whichever business models work best for their creative visions. As a result, artists of all shapes and sizes — both mainstream and niche, and with a wide variety of social and cultural viewpoints — are free to develop and market their art in a rich, diverse, commercial marketplace. Copyright’s economic freedom supports a professional class of creators. These creators don’t just make art, they make a living making art, enjoying the freedom to dedicate their time to their craft in ways that are impossible for most hobbyists. Copyright’s economic freedom also gives creators the artistic freedom to dream big — it helps them secure financing for their more ambitious projects, it empowers them to develop and sustain related projects over time, and it enables them to capture the efficiencies of the division of labor. By supporting artists and their work, copyright serves as a powerful platform for artistic and creative freedom.

Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, artistic freedom, creative freedom, property, creative industries, economic freedom, artists, creators

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Barblan, Matthew, Copyright as a Platform for Artistic and Creative Freedom (May 6, 2016). George Mason Law Review, V. 23, No. 4, pp. 793-809, 2016, George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 16-25, Available at SSRN:

Matthew Barblan (Contact Author)

Assocation of American Publishers (AAP)

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