Electrifying Copyright Norms and Making Cyberspace More Like a Book

106 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2003

See all articles by Ann Bartow

Ann Bartow

Franklin Pierce Center for IP at UNH Law


The first half of this Article charts the evolving but eminently ascertainable social norms of the use of analog copyrighted works by individuals, and characterizes these norms as "what is" in real space and "what ought to be" in cyberspace. The Author argues that while "what is" in the analog world may be imperfect, uncertain and unsatisfactory at times, it represents a discernible practical equilibrium upon which copyright holders' ability to control and extract income from their works is balanced against the rights of fair users. Authors, content distributors and users all make decisions within a familiar longstanding copyright framework, within which lots of small scale unauthorized copying occurs, but content creation and distribution is still adequately incentivized. Nevertheless, "what is" in terms of real space copyright use norms is not making the transition to cyberspace, and will not, absent legislative intervention. Instead, copyright owners are using the attributes of digitalization to realize their own normative view of "what ought to be," absolute control over copyrighted works that are embodied in electronic formats.

Using the specific example of non-profit libraries, the second half of this Article explains how society will suffer if analog copyright use norms are not electrified and "what is" becomes dramatically altered in the digital domain: Individuals will lose traditional levels of access to informational works and be deprived of familiar ways and means of using copyrighted works. In consequence, their respect for copyrights is likely to erode as the distributive goals of the copyright system are correspondingly unfulfilled.

Keywords: copyright law, digital works, electronic works, libraries, fair use, social norms, copyrighted works, consumers

JEL Classification: K0, K1, K2, K3, K4

Suggested Citation

Bartow, Ann, Electrifying Copyright Norms and Making Cyberspace More Like a Book. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=368180 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.368180

Ann Bartow (Contact Author)

Franklin Pierce Center for IP at UNH Law ( email )

Two White Street
Concord, NH 03301
United States

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