A Copyright Primer

How did copyright rights seemingly take over many aspects of our life?

By Erik J. Heels

First published 2/17/2004; LawLawLaw Newsletter; Clock Tower Law Group

The Copyright Act is a mess. Perhaps not as big of a mess as the Tax Code, but give it time. Copyrighted works are everywhere, from your computer software to the music you hear on the radio to the baseball game that you agree not to retransmit or rebroadcast without the express written consent of Major League Baseball. While I don’t think we can draw any conclusions about what copyright rights ought to look like today based on what the Founding Fathers thought two centuries ago (because, in part, the Founding Fathers had very different ideas about many issues, including slavery and the right of women to vote), I think it is interesting to see where copyright rights originated in the United States (the Constitution) and how they have evolved over the last two centuries. It will also be interesting to see if the ever-expanding copyright rights are ever going to peak and, if so, when. An article entitled “The Purpose of Copyright,” by Lydia Pallas Loren (Associate Professor of Law, Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College) addresses misconceptions many people (including lawyers) have about copyright (http://www.open-spaces.com/article-v2n1-loren.php).

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