Pam Samuelson's Project

Professor Pamela Samuelson has an audacious project to re-imagine copyright law. She herself calls copyright reform "a fools errand" before eloquently justifying her project. The first results of her struggle are now online and worth reading. In trying to outline the fundamental aspects of an intellectual copyright regime and filling it in with the current copyright law, she gives a wonderful description of the Copyright Act in under 250 words.

1. subject matter: works of authorship
2. eligibility criteria for specific people and works:
a. who is eligible: the author (but special rule for works made for hire)
b. qualitative or other standards: original; fixed in a tangible medium; not a useful article
c. procedures: rights attach automatically as a matter of law from first fixation in a tangible medium; deposit is required but not as condition of protection; notice and registration are advisable for effective protection; registration necessary for US authors to bring infringement suits
3. exclusive rights: reproduce the work in copies; make derivative works; distribute copies to the public; publicly perform the work; publicly display the work; importation; attribution and integrity rights for works of visual art
4. duration: life of the author plus 70 years; 95 years from first publication
5. limitations and/or exceptions to those exclusive rights, including fair use, first sale, certain educational uses, and backup copying of computer programs, among others
6. infringement standard: infringement occurs when someone violates one of exclusive rights, and the activities do not fall within one of the exceptions or limitations to copyright; usual test applied for non-literal infringements is whether there is substantial similarity in protected expression that the alleged infringer appropriated from the copyright owner
7. remedies: preliminary and permanent injunctive relief; money damages; destruction of infringing copies; attorney fees; costs; criminal sanctions

Samuelson, Pamela, "Preliminary Thoughts on Copyright Reform" Utah Law Review, 2007 Available at SSRN: (footnotes ommitted).


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