It is easy to throw around the term “copyright.”  It is not difficult to agree that a songwriter can hold copyright in her latest tune.  We know that a photographer’s careful selection and arrangement can yield copyright protection.  But does a visual artist copyright carefully composed and cultivated flower beds?  Might ratings be considered creative opinions and, thus, copyrightable?  Who is the author of an avatar – the gamers or the game company?  These issues turn on the tenets of copyright law, including authorship, fixation, and originality.  Thus, varying interpretations of the statutory phrase “work of authorship” yield varying results.  An examination of our evolving sense of the “collective author” might resolve some of these questions.  Perhaps the processes of another tradition would inform our inquiries.  Moreover, in the age of digital creativity and “re-mix,” we must certainly examine the use of prior works and the applicability of the fair use doctrine.

The Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law endeavors to facilitate such an exploration of copyright doctrine and norms in its upcoming Symposium, entitled “Copyright & Creativity: Perspectives on Originality, Authorship, and Expression.”  Our panels will address the intersection of copyright and arguably creative works.  Should copyright law afford such works categorical protection?  Should copyright doctrines change in order to promote creativity?  We want to encourage the critical examination of fundamental copyright concepts and assumptions.

Professor Michael Carroll of American University Washington College of Law will discuss the creative process and access to pre-existing works.  Professor Margaret Chon of Seattle University School of Law will present “The Romantic (Collective) Author.”  Professor James Grimmelmann of New York Law School will explain his article “Three Theories of Ratings.”  Professor Roberta Kwall of DePaul University College of Law will present her piece “The Lessons of Living Gardens and Jewish Process Theology for Authorship and Moral Rights.”  Professor Edward Lee of Chicago-Kent College of Law will analyze digital originality.  Professor Tyler Ochoa of Santa Clara Law will consider who owns an avatar in light of incentives, authorship, and the rationale for copyright.  Professor Anthony Reese of University of California, Irvine School of Law will consider the statutory phrase “work of authorship.”  Professor John Tehranian of Southwestern Law School will examine fair use and the myth of aesthetic neutrality.

We hope that you join us at the Symposium, which is free and open to the general public, on Friday, January 27, 2012, 9am-3pm, in Nashville, TN.  Please email me at for further information.

- Kelly Donley


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