The Author's Place in the Future of Copyright

Intellectual Property and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


Jane Ginsburg


Willamette Law Review, Vol. 45, pg. 381, Spring 2009


This article considers how copyright law and authors will need to adapt to the Internet.

Policy Relevance

Contracts and technology can help ensure that authors will continue to be paid for their work, helping ensure that works will continue to be supplied to readers.

Main Points

  • Modern copyright law is based on the idea that the creator of an original work holds the right to its distribution, allowing them to gain financial benefit from their work.  Two modern issues threaten the continuation of this system:

    • The advent of new technologies, including the Internet, that allow for easy duplication and distribution of copyrighted works.
    • The creator’s, writer or elsewise, lack of bargaining power leaves them open to exploitation by publishers who then control the copyright and the benefits derived from it.
  • However, the same technology that threatens the power of the copyright may also be used to put the power back into the hands of the creator.  The Internet has created a new avenue by which authors can distribute their work without a publisher.
  • Internet distribution directly from the author is currently hampered by the difficulty of preventing illegal copying once the work is in the open.  Consumers dislike, and often illegally circumvent, protections put in place preventing duplication of copyrighted material.
  • The future of copyright for professional authors will depend on the development of consumer-friendly payment and protection mechanisms.
  • Aside from financial benefits, a copyright also grants the holder control over the copyrighted material.  This allows the holder to prevent not only duplication but future creation as well.
  • The ability to control the future of a copyrighted work is also threatened by Internet publications where the distinction between for-profit (illegal) and not-for-profit (legal) manipulation of a copyrighted work is difficult to distinguish.

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