Copyright and Hypernarrative

31 Law & Literature (Forthcoming)

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2018-25

18 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2018 Last revised: 4 Apr 2018

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: February 20, 2018


A substantial body of scholarship has accumulated demonstrating that copyright’s current structure entails legacy assumptions regarding authorship and originality. It has become commonplace to acknowledge that copyright doctrine incorporates notions of a “romantic author” who produces original texts from the force of his own genius. Equally routine is the recognition that such constructs foster a poor fit with communication technologies that reveal the role of the reader in creating textual meaning. Copyright law has neither kept pace with the development of new media nor with our changed understanding of authorship.

In this paper, I hope to open a new thread in this conversation, questioning whether copyright’s legacy assumptions also incorporate classical expectations regarding narrative. As new forms of expression have evolved, so have theories of narrative. Computer games and other interactive texts have generated new theories regarding the interaction between reader, content, and technical system. Using recent copyright decisions as a window into the underlying structure of the law, I argue that copyright entails a view of narrative that has not kept pace with our understanding of the text. The gap between copyright’s embedded assumptions and narrative theory exposes both where copyright has been and where it should be going.

Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, cybertext, new media, derivative work, narrative, narratology, diegesis, fabula, discourse

JEL Classification: H41, O31, O32, O33, O34

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., Copyright and Hypernarrative (February 20, 2018). 31 Law & Literature (Forthcoming), UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2018-25, 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)

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