Pamela Samuelson

Book Review: Is Copyright Reform Possible?

Author(s): Pamela Samuelson
Year: 2012

Abstract: Copyright law has taken quite a beating in the legal literature in the past decade or so. Complaints have been legion that copyright industry groups and corporate copyright owners have sought and too often obtained extremely strong and overly long copyright protections that interfere with downstream creative endeavors as well as with legitimate consumer expectations. Two recent contributions to this literature are William Patry’s How to Fix Copyright and Jason Mazzone’s Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law.

Although Patry and Mazzone agree on the need for reforms to counteract or deter overreaching by copyright owners, they make substantially different recommendations about how copyright ills should be cured. Patry is mainly concerned with articulating principles that should be used to recraft copyright law, whereas Mazzone mainly wants to sanction those who claim copyright in public domain materials and those who attempt to thwart the exercise of fair and other lawful uses of copyrighted works.

Each book makes powerful arguments and offers important insights, which are discussed in Parts I and II of this Review. Admirable though these books’ contributions are, their agendas for reform are incomplete. Part III considers substantive reform proposals beyond those recommended in Patry’s and Mazzone’s respective books, as well as several modes and venues through which copyright reform can happen. It observes that some reforms are already happening through private ordering and the evolution of social norms, although the scale of these reforms remains modest. The most promising way to work toward more comprehensive copyright reform would be for an entity such as the American Law Institute (ALI) to develop a project to articulate principles for a well-balanced and public-spirited copyright regime, as ALI has done for numerous other legal regimes.

Keywords: Copyright, Intellectual Property Law