Memes and Copyright

102 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2005

See all articles by Thomas F. Cotter

Thomas F. Cotter

University of Minnesota Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 4, 2005


Memes are hypothetical units of cultural transmission discussed and debated in the writings of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and other contemporary scientists and philosophers. This paper uses the meme concept to address several aspects of copyright law. In particular, the paper presents the copyright system as forming part of the environment within which these units of information replicate and evolve. Changes in the copyright system affect not only the quantity of memes that are created and published, but also their diffusion, diversity, and quality, and the ways in which these units compete against one another for human attention spans. These evolutionary changes are unpredictable in their particulars, but it may be possible on occasion to predict some rough trends and to foresee potential tradeoffs along the various dimensions of quantity, quality, diversity, and diffusion.

Keywords: Copyright, culture, evolution

JEL Classification: Z10

Suggested Citation

Cotter, Thomas F., Memes and Copyright (March 4, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas F. Cotter (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

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