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Freedom to Copy: Copyright, Creation and Context

Olufunmilayo Arewa

University of California, Irvine School of Law

February 19, 2007

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 07-06
UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2007

Although much separates them musically, George Harrison and Michael Bolton share a common legal fate. Both have been held liable in copyright infringement cases in which a court articulated theories of liability based on subconscious infringement. This Article discusses how decisions in the Bolton, Harrison, and other copyright infringement cases reflect a common failing. Such decisions highlight the incomplete nature of the theories of creativity and creation processes in copyright doctrine.

After discussing current approaches to questions of creation, this Article suggests ways in which copyright theory can better incorporate a contextualized understanding of creativity and creation processes. Creativity in copyright is frequently characterized as not involving copying, which is typically thought to be antithetical to both originality and creativity. This stigmatization of copying, however, means that copyright theory cannot adequately account for the reality of not infrequent similarities between works that are a result of copying both ideas and expression in the creation of new works. This missing theoretical link has significant implications for copyright in practice. The lack of legal analysis of the full range of creativity and processes of creation is also a major reason why copyright theory often has such difficulty delineating what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate copying of existing works.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 83

Keywords: Creativity, Literary Criticism, Musicology, Copyright, Substantial Similarity, Borrowing, Copying, Intertextuality, Formulaic Works, Narratives, Sociocultural Factors

JEL Classification: K11

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Date posted: February 21, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Arewa, Olufunmilayo, Freedom to Copy: Copyright, Creation and Context (February 19, 2007). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 07-06; UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=964054

Contact Information

Olufunmilayo Arewa (Contact Author)
University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )
401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
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