After Copyright: Pwning NFTs in a Clout Economy

Brian L. Frye

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Copyright is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We created copyright because we wanted to encourage the creation and distribution of works of authorship, not because we wanted to enable copyright owners to control the use of the works they own. We stuck with copyright because it was the best tool we had, despite its flaws. Was copyright ever efficient? No. But marginal improvements matter.

Technology has changed the copyright calculus. Distribution of works of authorship gradually got cheaper and cheaper. And then the Internet made it free. But creation remained costly, even though technology helped make it easier. For better or worse, copyright was still our best way of encouraging authors to create new works, by enabling them to claim some of the economic value of those works.

Of course, copyright was always a compromise, with many flaws. First, it’s overbroad. While many authors rely on copyright, many others don’t—but copyright protects their works anyway, even if they don’t want it. Second, it’s overlong. Copyright protects works far longer than necessary to encourage their production, and keeps forgotten works out of print. Third, it’s inequitable. By design, copyright only benefits commercially successful authors. And finally, it’s inefficient. Most of the benefits of copyright go to publishers rather than to authors.

There’s gotta be a better way. And maybe there is.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalLaw Faculty Scholarly Articles
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


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