Core Copyright

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Acknowledging Copyright’s Complexity

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Core Copyright’s mission is to simplify U.S. copyright law and policy in a reliable, unbiased, and knowledgeable way so that anyone who is affected by the law can understand what it means. While we take our mission seriously, we realize how difficult it will be to fulfill it consistently because of how complicated copyright law is.

I am aware there exists a recurring (and we think, reasonable) argument among some copyright scholars that contends one big reason copyright law has become so problematic is because it never was intended to be widely applicable to citizens. Instead, the argument continues, copyright was developed to govern commercial transactions that involve creative and fixed works; historically, it never (and never was supposed to) govern how individuals relate with or use those same creative and fixed works.

I generally attribute this argument to Jessica Litman, whom I have heard make this argument in speeches and in several of her writings, including her book Digital Copyright. More recently, Jacqui Lipton, a law professor at Case Western, captured the essence of Litman’s argument in rhetorical question she posed in a recent post on

Is there any point in having a law that potentially affects things we do everyday that no one understands?

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Written by K Matthew Dames

12/15/2009 at 09:00