exact quote re copyright from a SCOTUS judge
February 27, 2004 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a quote by (I believe) a SCOTUS judge, who said that the purpose of copyright law is to protect the public domain first, and allow exploitation of creative works second.

I lost some of my notes on copyright, and extensive googling has turned up very little. I think Lessig might've referenced it in an interview/post somewhere on the net, but I'm having a hard time locating it. I turn to you, oh great Mefites.
posted by Jairus to Law & Government (8 answers total)
It might not be what you're looking for, but there is an even higher authority when it comes to the purpose of copyright in America, namely the Constitution itself: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. Article 1, Section 8.

Note that profit is not the purpose of copyright.
posted by NortonDC at 6:55 PM on February 27, 2004

Several Supreme Court cases focus on the benefit to the public of the copyright laws. See, e.g.Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S. 123, 127 (1932) (Hughes, C.J.) ("The sole interest of the United States and the primary object in conferring the monopoly lie in the general benefits derived by the public from the labors of authors."). Note, however, that the benefit contemplated by the copyright laws is distinguishable from that under the patent laws. Copyright is, or at least was, thought to encourage authors to create because they knew their work would be protected. However, patent law seeks to ensure that in addition to protecting the work of creators, knowledge already in the public domain remains there. See Aronson v. Quick Point Pencil Co., 440 U.S. 257, 262 (1979) ("[T]he stringent requirements for patent protection seek to ensure that ideas in the public domain remain there for the use of the public"). That's why patents must ostensibly be approved by the Patent Office, while copyrights do not.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:27 PM on February 27, 2004

Note that profit is not the purpose of copyright.

This is the point I'm trying to illustrate, but I seem to have lost the evidence to back it up.
posted by Jairus at 7:34 PM on February 27, 2004

You're probably thinking of Bryer:
The monopoly privileges that the Copyright Clause confers are neither unlimited nor primarily designed to provide a special private benefit. Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U. S. 417, 429 (1984); cf. Graham v. John Deere Co. of Kansas City, 383 U. S. 1, 5 (1966).
Link to PDF
posted by willnot at 9:12 PM on February 27, 2004

The Breyer dissent in Eldred would also be my first thought.
posted by anathema at 9:59 PM on February 27, 2004

Note that profit is not the purpose of copyright.

[OT] Not profit per se, but copyright is very much an economic right more than anything. Economic incentive to foster creation, which is very true in some contexts and arguable in others.
posted by anathema at 10:04 PM on February 27, 2004

Nah, don't sweat the new stuff, try Brandeis (can you tell I'm still in the beginning of the semester?)
Then the creation or recognition by courts of a new private right may work serious injury to the general public, unless the boundaries of the right are definitely established and wisely guarded. In order to reconcile the new private right with the public interest, it may be necessary to prescribe limitations and rules for its enjoyment; and also to provide administrative machinery for enforcing the rules.
International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 262-63 (1918) (Brandeis, J., dissenting.)
posted by PrinceValium at 1:08 AM on February 28, 2004

Sounds like a paraphrase from Judge Posner in a speech he made in November 2002. Unfortunately, the link to that speech from the Eldred site leads to a "not-found" error, though there are a couple of quotes here, including this one:
Intellectual property is both the input and output of the intellectual-property industry. The public domain--we don't think much of it. We don't think of it as a major source of societal wealth.
If you have a subscription to the National Journal or access to Lexis-Nexis you might be able to find a copy; this blog post from 2002 states that it was available through either of those sources back then. I don't have access to either to check.
posted by bragadocchio at 8:16 PM on February 28, 2004

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