Access, Progress, and Fairness: Rethinking Exclusivity in Copyright

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Nicholas Suzor · 15 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 297

Abstract

This Article provides a detailed critique of the incentives-access binary in copyright discourse. Mainstream copyright theory generally accepts that copyright is a balance between providing incentives to authors to invest in the production of cultural works and enhancing the dissemination of those works to the public. This Article argues that dominant copyright theory obscures the possibility of developing a model of copyright that is able to support authors without necessarily limiting access to creative works. The abundance that the Internet allows suggests that increasing access to cultural works to enhance learning, sharing, and creative play should be a fundamental goal of copyright policy.

This Article examines models of supporting and coordinating cultural production without exclusivity, including crowdfunding, tips, levies, restitution, and service-based models. In their current forms, each of these models fails to provide a cohesive and convincing vision of the two main functions of copyright: instrumentality (how cultural production can be funded) and fairness (how authors can be adequately rewarded). This Article provides three avenues for future research to investigate the viability of alternate copyright models: (1) a better theory of fairness in copyright rewards; (2) more empirical study of commons models of cultural production; and (3) a critical examination of the noneconomic harm-limiting function that exclusivity in copyright provides.