On Copyright's Authorship Policy

Intellectual Property and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


Tim Wu


University of Chicago Legal Forum, pg. 335, 2008


This paper looks at how copyright law supports competition.

Policy Relevance

Some copyright litigation could be avoided by returning the rights to copyrighted works to authors.

Main Points

  • Copyright cases in which a plaintiff sues to stop defendant creators from using a tiny portion of a song in a “remix” have been heavily criticized.
    • In some cases, the plaintiffs who own the copyrights are not the authors or creators of the copyrighted works, rather, they are distributors.
    • The actual authors of the songs might favor the use of their work in remixes.

  • Distributors benefit from owning copyrights because they need to be able to sell copies of created work in order to fund its production on a large scale.

  • The first copyright law in England gave copyrights only to the distributors, the publishers. This lead to monopolies in publishing.

  • Giving copyrights to authors can help avoid monopolies, because the authors can choose who to transfer their copyright to.

  • Today, some problems with the distribution of copyrighted works could be avoided by allowing copyrights to return to the authors.

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