Copyright and Politics Don't Mix

Intellectual Property and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


Lawrence Lessig


New York Times, October 20, 2008


This paper looks at how copyright has been used in election campaigns.

Policy Relevance

Politicians and political campaigns should be allowed to use short excerpts and quotes in their campaign.

Main Points

  • Sometimes, newspapers and news organizations have asked politicians to stop using quotes or short clips taken from their news content, saying that this violates copyright law.

  • When a political campaign makes use of short excerpts from the news as a part of its own ad or article, this is a fair use and should be allowed.

  • It is not appropriate for news organizations to try to stop political campaigns from using excerpts and quotes during an election. There is no reason to think that such uses cause any economic harm.

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